The Maine Coon is one of the world’s older natural cat breeds. It is also one of the largest domestic cat breeds with males that can reach a weight of 20 lbs. They may be big and really good hunters, but they’re also friendly, gentle-mannered and highly intelligent – this is what led them to deserve the nickname of “gentle giants”. They’re also called “snowshoe cats” for they often have white paws.
In short, female Maine Coons should be bred only after they are 2 years old, and males maybe a little earlier, at 18 months or older. Although you can, both genders are not ideally bred after they are 6 years old. Specifically for Maine Coons, the parents should be screened for disorders, such as PKD.
The combination of robust physical features and gentle personality has won the hearts of many cat lovers, and those who own one may be thinking of breeding him or her. Although they are today a most popular breed in the States, they risked extinction back in 1950. We don’t want that to happen again so let’s try to learn what we need to breed our beloved Maine Coon.
If you’re thinking about breeding your Maine Coon, there are some things you should know before even starting searching for the perfect mate.
1. You don’t need to let your cat have a litter before they can be neutered. This is just a myth: cats neutered before they come into heat live just as long as any other cat – probably even longer since they won’t try to escape to meet the mate of their dreams.
2. If you’re thinking of breeding your Maine Coon to gain some profit, don’t do it. You aren’t going to earn any money. In fact, you must be aware that you are going to face some costs.
3. Make sure your Maine Coon doesn’t carry any genetic disorder before breeding him or her, otherwise they’d risk passing the disease to their litter.
Maine Coons are subject to two main genetic disorders: (1) hip dysplasia, a developmental abnormality of the hip joint that can be identified by x-rays of the hips at 8-12 months of age (before the cat is first used for breeding); and (2) hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disorder for which the muscle becomes abnormally thick and decreases the effectiveness of the heart – this can be diagnosed by echocardiography. Polycystic Kidney Disease is also an issue.
As a slow-growing breed, Maine Coons mature very slowly. In particular, females hit sexual maturity at around 1 year old, while males are a bit slower even though they’re potentially able to breed as early as 5 months of age. Despite this, you should wait a bit longer before breeding your female Maine Coon or use your male Maine Coon as a stud.
A female should be between 18-24 months old, or she has to have had at least two estrus cycles (heats) – under no circumstances should a female kitten under 8 months of age be intentionally bred.
The male you choose should also be more than 18 months old.
Ideally, the female cat should not be bred more than twice a year – if the litter is particularly big, her reproductive rest should be even longer.
The male cat should be given a few weeks’ rests in between mating.
Main Coons grow slowly: they reach full size later on that other cat breeds. It’s extremely important that your female Maine Coon doesn’t get pregnant before she is fully grown: since her natural instinct would be to use all her physical reserves to care for her young, her growth might be stunted.
Breeding at an old age should be avoided: a general rule is that cats which are 5-6 years old should not be bred. For an older cat, it would be more difficult getting pregnant and, if they’re maiden, there could be health complications. Also, when the mother is too old, the chances of giving birth to unhealthy kittens would increase.
Giving birth at an older age can be dangerous for both the mother and the litter. She would still have the natural instinct of taking care of her kittens, but she could also have a hard time feeding them.
As most of the mammals therian female, female cats are subject to the estrous cycle which starts after sexual maturity and continues until death.
The estrous cycle consists of four phases: proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. Estrus is the phase when the female is sexually receptive (in heat).
Before being Gentle Giants, Maine Coons are cats, so, like every other cat breeds, their heat cycle begins at maturity and doesn’t stop until she’s bred.
Cats are also polyestrous, which means that they come into heat several times a year. The estrus cycle recurs every 15-20 days, so cats – and Maine Coons – can become pregnant at any time during the year. Indoor cats, affected by artificial lighting, can go through heat cycles throughout the year. If she doesn’t mate, the female cat is usually in heat for about a week.
Cats are reflex ovulators: they only ovulate once they’re bred. If your female Maine Coon fails to become pregnant, she’ll start a new heat cycle after about a week. If she miscarries, her body will rest for about two months before resuming the estrus cycle again.
The mating process can take several days. The male and female are placed in the same room, and they are allowed to become familiar. Be sure of providing some route of escape for the male cat after mating, since the female is likely to react aggressively – don’t worry about this reaction, for it would be normal for her.
Once they’re in the same room, if the female has progressed from proestrus to estrus, she will let the male touch her. The mate itself barely takes half a minute. The Maine Coon female can be mated up to three times in a day, for the first three days of estrus – this can give your Maine Coon a higher chance to become pregnant.
How to tell if your Maine Coon is in heat?
The most accurate method to tell whether or not your female Maine Coon is in heat is a measure of her hormone levels. If this method is not available and you don’t want to spend money on that, you can learn how to notice changes in her behavior that can be indicative signs that she’s in heat. A rush in hormones during the heat cycle, in fact, cause the cat to have exaggerated behaviors that stop once she is no longer in heat.
Vocalizing: crying, yowling, and meowing are often heard from a cat in heat. These vocalizations are to get attention and let other cats know that they’re in heat.
Attention-seeking behavior: a cat can also seek out attention and affection from her owner or other people. When a cat is in heat, she will often single her hind end, and her tail will be held up high into the air.
She may also rub her face on her owner or furniture excessively to spread her scent.
Begging to go outside: when she’s in heat, a female cat would beg to go outside by scratching at the door and even spraying urine.
The cat gestation period can vary from as short as 61 days to as long as 72 days. Your cat often won’t show any physical symptoms of pregnancy until she is a few weeks into term.
There are some physical signs that you should be able to spot after two or three weeks:
After 15-18 days of cat pregnancy, you may notice that her nipple become enlarged and red;
Your pregnant Maine Coon may go through a stage of vomiting.
Your queen’s tummy would start to swell, but avoid touching it so you won’t risk hurting the mother or her unborn kittens;
Your pregnant cat will gradually gain between 1-2 kg (depending on the number of kittens she’s carrying).
In any case, you should take her to the vet for pregnancy confirmation.
Once your Maine Coon queen is pregnant, she will require the best diet with a kitten formula mixed in. Avoid supplements since a good diet takes care of any deficiency.
One week before the due date, it’s better to isolate your pregnant cat from the rest of the pets and give her a safe, clean and comfortable place to give birth to her litter.
A female Maine Coon doesn’t generally have a large litter. The average is 4 kittens, and rarely will they have a litter size greater than 6 kittens. The best to determine the litter size of your Maine Coon is by taking her to the vet.
Maine Coon cats are one of the most popular cat breeds in the US – these gentle giants have been adored for centuries and they quickly find a forever place in their owner’s heart. Being a Maine Coon breeder can be a rewarding experience, but there’s a lot to learn before you’re ready to take the responsibility of caring for your Maine Coon queen and her litters. With this article, I hope I helped with that.