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Maine Coon Cats: Gentle Giants With a Mysterious Past

Maine coon cats are far from your typical cat. They differ in size and appearance and have a near-legendary story of origins. These rather large felines, despite, or perhaps because of, their disparities from the rest of the cat world, are an incredibly popular pet choice.

Physical Description

Maine coon cats are the largest domesticated cats on the planet. Adult males weigh 15 to 20 pounds, and females weigh 10 to 15 pounds. A height of 10 to 16 inches and length of 48 inches is not unheard of. The tail alone can reach a length of 14 inches. These animals are big-boned, muscular, have a rectangular body shape, and don massive quantities long, flowing fur.

Coat color can be anything any other domestic cat might have, though brown tabby is most common. They can be either long-haired or medium-haired, and coats thicken up during winter and thin in the summer. Hair is longer on the sides and belly but shorter around the head. Some Maine coons, however, sport a lion-like ring of fur around their necks. The fur is generally soft and smooth to the touch.

Main coon cats reach maturity at three to five years, far longer than the average one-year period of most other domesticated cats. They also live quite long- twelve and a half years on average. They are among the oldest locally adapted cat breeds on the North American continent.

Historical Origins

The origin of Maine coon cats is shrouded in mystery. Numerous speculations have developed over time, both folk and scientific. One yarn has the cats descending from six of Marie Antoinette’s prized Turkish felines after they escaped to Maine on a ship and bred with local, short-hair cats. A second theory has them appear after Captain Charles Coon’s “ship cats” made excursions into New England towns while Captain Coon was at port. Their similarity to the Norwegian forest cat has led some to posit a Viking-related origin. Their tufted ear tips inspired the bobcat crossbreeding theory, and some less genetically aware theorists suppose their bushy tails may derive from raccoons.

Whatever their exact origins, Maine coon cats have adapted well to their New England climate and are impressively skilled hunters. They are a common sight at cat shows, the state cat of Maine, and one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.

Health Issues

Every cat breed has its quirks, and the Maine coon cat is generally a healthy, hardy breed. Furthermore, modern screening methods can help you choose a particularly healthy individual for your pet. Nonetheless, there are three common afflictions from which these cats suffer:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: a heart-muscle problem that can eventually result in heart failure.
  • Hip dysplasia: a hip-socket abnormality that can ultimately cripple the cat.
  • Spinal muscular atrophy: a spinal-cord disorder that can shorten the cat’s lifespan.

What Makes Maine Coon Cats Great Pets?

Beyond what makes any cat a desirable pet, there are a number of factors particular to Maine coon cats that endear them to many as a highly prized pet:

  • Known as “gentle giants,” these cats have a personality that allows them to live well with people and other animals.
  • They are among the more intelligent cat breeds and can be taught many tricks.
  • Minimal grooming is required, for a long-haired breed, since their coat mostly takes care of itself.
  • They are independent, not always clinging to you or demanding to be on your lap.
  • They are playful and affectionate.

One last trait should be mentioned: they are very vocal. This may be interesting to some since they make odd noises and “talk back” to their owners. To others, however, it might be considered a drawback.

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