The Maine Coon cat originated in, you guessed it, Maine!
They are a natural or land race breed which means they have naturally adapted to their place of origin.
Their bodies are naturally adapted to the cold weather of the Northeastern US where they originated.
They have a long, rich heritage dating from the 1820’s.
Many theories exist to their origins. Some feel they may have been brought by Vikings, others feel they were sent from France at the request of Marie Antoinette, who had plans to escape France and come to the USA.
For many years it was felt that a Maine Coon cat was a cross with a raccoon – although genetically impossible – because of the black stripes and fluffy tail similar to a raccoon.
Over the years, through natural processes the Maine Coon has interbred with other species, most notably the Persian and the Norwegian forest cat. Without proper documentation it can be difficult to tell if it’s a purebred Maine Coon.
In short, it is very difficult to tell, however genetic testing is available to assess whether you have a purebred or a mix that is 100% reliable.
There are no allowable outcross or mixed breeds.
The only definite purebred documentation is a pedigree for a breeder from one of these organizations.
A pedigree will list the ancestry of the cat and its characteristics that prove it to be a purebred.
Maine Coon Cats are a large breed with males often reaching 18 – 20 pounds.
They are slow to mature and will continue growing until they are four years old.
Maine Coons are friendly outgoing cats and known for their hunting prowess – mouse’s beware.
Maine Coons are very playful and enjoy chasing toys and climbing structures. They are considered wonderful family pets and are very affectionate.
A prominent ruff along the neck like a lion, robust bone structure, rectangular body shape, square head, and a long, bushy tail make them look like the kings of the cat world.
Maine Coon cats have some very distinguished physical features.
Size is probably the most important telltale feature in distinguishing purity.
In a survey done by Cat Fancy Magazine, 40% of readers stated there cat was a mixed breed.
The survey did not look at individual crosses. Obviously mixed breeds are very common in the US. Cats that are not neutered tend to breed naturally.
This leads to an assortment of mixed breed cats. Sometimes breeders will breed two separate breeds, for example, a Maine Coon and a Persian, to either develop a new breed or to have a marketable cross.
It can be difficult to tell what percentage Maine Coon your cat may be.
Many mixes will have all or most of the characteristics of a purebred. Maine Coon mixes are very common.
If your cat has ¾ of the above physical features he is most likely has some Maine Coon or is even a purebred.
The Maine Coon and the Persian cat are a popular mix. In fact, they have a shared history.
Maine Coon cats were one of the most popular breeds in America in the late 1800’s. In the early 1900’s Persians started being brought to America and became all the rage.
So much so that in the 1950’s there was thought to be very few if any Maine Coons left.
They rebounded in the 1960’s.
Persian cat fans originally sought to cross Persians with Maine Coons to develop a bigger cat. Both typically have solid bodies and a long coat.
The face for the Persian is very different than that of the Maine Coon.
A Persian has a flat, “smashed in” face that is round in shape with smaller ears and eyes.
The Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat are very similar and felt to be closely related. Some experts believe they are descended from the same line.
Captain Charles Coon brought over long-haired cats from England in his shipping business.
The Long Hairs escaped ship to breed with the local domestic cats. Another belief is that both breeds may have been brought with the Vikings.
Both are large breeds with thick, long fur. However, the Norwegian fur is more even, no ruff around the neck, and silkier than the Maine Coon.
The head shape is also different with the Coons having a squarer head with high cheek bones.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is felt to be more serious looking, has almond-shaped eyes, triangular face, and a flatter nose.
Maine Coons are believed to be more social and friendly than the Norwegian. A Coon will play and play where a Norwegian prefers to lay around. A Norwegian is described as more independent.
There are many advantages of mixes.
The main advantage is probably health.
Hybrid vigor is a term that insinuates a mixed breed does not succumb to the traditional health problems of a purebred.
Hybrid vigor is when two different breeds cross to have mixed breed offspring.
The Maine Coon is predisposed to hip dysplasia, feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and spinal muscular atrophy. The Norwegian Forest cat has similar weaknesses and in addition is prone to glycogen storage disease IV.
Some breeders feel that a Maine Coon and Norwegian mix avoid many of these health defects.
Hybrid vigor is a controversial term among veterinarians.
They state if the parents are deficient in some areas then the offspring may be deficient as well.
Genetic testing is widely available to determine the percentage of purebred cat you have.
Genetic testing also allows you and your vet to look into the traits that may make your cat prone to certain health conditions.
Genetic testing is becoming widely available.
Many veterinarians can send off tissue samples to a lab for analysis.
Much like the popular human ancestry sites, UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory has a cat ancestry test.
Their test examines which global geographic location your cat’s ancestors came from including Western Europe, Egypt, East Mediterranean, Iran/Iraq, Arabian Sea, India, South Asia, and East Asia. Tests run from $40 – $120 depending on which test you order.
Whether you have a Maine Coon cat purebred or a mix, you are likely to have a wonderful animal that is an enjoyable part of your household.
Maine Coon 101 | Read This Before Getting One