Maine Coon Cats – Pet Road Test
Breed: Maine Coon
Cost: from $800
Lifespan: 13 years +
Recommended for: Families, enthusiasts
The Maine Coon is one of the oldest breeds in North America, and one of the newest cat breeds on show in Australia. Its ancestry is obscure, but it is thought to have originated in the state of Maine. In fact, in October 1985 it was declared the official Maine State Cat.
Local legend has it that the breed developed from matings between domestic cats and raccoons, hence the ‘Coon’ part of the name. However such matings are biologically impossible. Some people believe that these cats are descendants of six cats sent to Wiscasset, Maine, by Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. Most breeders today think that the Maine Coon is the result of crossings between domestic shorthairs and longhairs (perhaps Angoras) introduced to America in the late 1700s by New England seamen or Vikings.
The Maine Coon is one of the largest domestic breeds. Males commonly weigh 6-8kg (13-18lb) and females 4-6kg (9-13lb). They have square muzzles, high cheekbones, round eyes, large tufted ears and strong muscular legs. The long, flowing coat is heavy and shaggy, with an obvious ruff around the neck and a plumed, bushy tail. The classic Maine Coon colour is the tabby pattern, but any colour or pattern is acceptable except for the pointed Siamese pattern. This has resulted in the breeding of a wide range of colours and patterns including selfs, bicolours, tortis, tabbies, tabby-tortis (also called torbis), and shadeds.
Maine Coon cats are friendly and gentle, but not too demanding. They could not really be described as ‘lap cats’, although some individuals may enjoy sitting on laps. They get on well with children, dogs and other pets. They are very playful, and have a life-long kittenish disposition. They have a soft, high-pitched, chirping voice.
American sources say that Maine Coons are renowned hunters. They are good mousers and are large enough to catch hares. There are concerns that introducing such large, strong cats into Australia could put our native wildlife at risk, especially if the cats have bad temperaments. Burke’s Backyard vet, Rob Zammit, reports that so far, the Maine Coons he has seen are gentle creatures, which don’t seem very interested in hunting.
Health and lifespan
As the breed is new to Australia, we are still learning about Maine Coons. However, in America they are renowned as very tough cats possessing a good dose of hybrid vigour. Inherited problems such as cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia are seen in some lines. Maine Coons live for 13 years plus.
Maine Coon cats cost about $7 a week to feed. Maine Coon breeder Fiona Cooper recommends feeding good quality dried cat food to keep the cats in optimum condition. She also gives them a little raw meat and grated cheese. Fresh water must be provided at all times.
The coat, while long and flowing, is different to that of the Persian which quickly matts if neglected. The Maine Coon’s coat is soft-textured and glossy. It is easy to maintain, and only requires brushing and combing for 5-10 minutes once a week to keep it in top condition.
Around four kittens per litter would be the norm. Anyone wanting a kitten may have to wait a year or two, as there are currently only four Maine Coon breeders in Australia.
Pets cost around $800, but show quality cats are more expensive.
Maine Coons make good housecats as they are neat and easily house-trained. They are people-orientated and fit in well with other pets and family life. However, the long, shaggy coat does shed hair profusely coming into summer and queens (breeding females) will drop some coat as they come into season and lactate. A home with a good yard or garden to exercise in is ideal.
The Maine Coon is a very popular breed in the US as a companion animal and retains a reputation as a good mouser in the country areas.
There are only four Maine Coon breeders in Australia at present:
Cool Coons Cattery
Glossodia, NSW (where our segment was filmed)
Phone: (02) 4576 5404
Croydon Park, NSW
Phone: (02) 9744 3242
Phone (02) 6541 2818
Heather and Steven Rome
Gerda Stapel and Cheryl Marshall