No one likes being unwell. Humans, cats, dogs and even spiders (probably), all get sick from time to time. The only issue is that some illnesses are worse than others. Just like humans, different breeds of cats are susceptible to certain hereditary disorders. Your Maine Coon is no exception.
So, as well as identifying health issues exclusive to Maine Coons, we’ve covered non-genetic viruses, diseases, infections and other health issues that can affect any cat. Specifically to Maine Coons, they are susceptible to genetic and hereditary disorders, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), hip dysplasia, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and polycystic kidney disease (PKD).
Disclaimer: We have purposely omitted information or advice regarding treatment. ALWAYS seek professional veterinarian assistance if you notice ANY of the symptoms below. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
There are various preventive screening measures available to breeders. These will determine if a litter has inherited one of the below disorders, or to identify whether the parent cats are carriers of anything.
Any responsible Maine Coon breeder worth their salt should be testing all their cats and sharing the results with potential buyers.
It is very important that when buying any pedigree animal, such as a Maine Coon, that you only do so from an established, reputable breeder. There are many websites and “clubs” which specifically approve/endorse certain breeders.
At the very least, ensure that the breeder has a thorough and stringent screening process with the results to prove it.
Also known as HCM, this genetic condition is most common in Maine Coons. It affects the heart and can restrict your cat’s blood flow. HCM usually becomes more apparent in older cats, but it’s still good to be aware of the symptoms, as it could present itself in cats as young as three.
Look out for restricted breathing and short breaths, loss of appetite and lack of energy. This disease can be fatal so get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible if these symptoms are noticed.
This is a hereditary condition which effects the ball and socket joints. The hip does not form properly from birth, meaning the joint doesn’t work as it should.
This often causes pain and will present itself as rear lameness. Your cat may appear as though it has weak hind legs and may struggle to walk properly using their back legs. Symptoms generally show early, during the first few months of your cat’s life.
SMA is the loss of motor neurons in the cat’s lower spinal cord, affecting their hind legs and posture. Thankfully, it causes no pain or discomfort to Maine Coons and they can still live a happy, fulfilling life.
As with Hip Dysplasia, SMA will cause the cat to walk with an unsteady gait, so look out for this during their first few months.
PKD causes small cysts to grow on a cat’s kidneys. Later in life, these cysts will grow and can cause significant problems for their kidney functions.
The cysts will be visible by ultrasound from birth but symptoms may not be present until the Maine Coon is much older. It’s advisable to get your cat checked at an early age to detect PKD. If this is not possible, look out for weight loss, lack of energy, vomiting and excessive drinking.
If you notice any of these symptoms, or have any concerns regarding your Maine Coon’s health and well-being, contact your veterinarian for a health check up.
More commonly known as FVR, this virus is essentially the Feline Herpesvirus. It causes half of all respiratory diseases in cats.
It is highly infectious and spreads quickly, so is common in places where cats are overcrowded. It is transmitted via saliva, and eye and nasal secretions.
Symptoms include: coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis and loss of appetite.
FIV is closely related to its human counterpart – HIV. If infected, a cat is known as a “carrier”. They can go on to lead long and happy lives – but should be kept indoors and isolated from other cats.
Symptoms include: diarrhoea, a runny nose and sneezing, inflammations of the eye and recurring skin infections.
FPV affects the infected cat’s blood cells, primarily those in the intestinal tract, bone marrow and skin. Essentially, the virus kills off the cat’s defensive cells.
It is spread through contact with an infected animal’s bodily fluids, faeces and fleas.
Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Along with FVR (mentioned above), FCV is responsible for half of all respiratory diseases in cats. It attacks the nasal passages, lungs, mouth and intestines.
Symptoms are similar to that of FVR, plus tongue ulcers and pneumonia.
The Feline Coronavirus leads to the more severe Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), which attacks white blood cells.
Similar to FVR, it is common in places where cats are overcrowded, such as catteries. Mortality rate is high.
This virus can be transmitted via the air and by contact with an infected cat’s faeces. It can also be transmitted via humans by proxy, if they are physically handling infected cats.
Diabetes is common in cats who are overweight. Ensuring your cat is at a healthy weight will help to stay free of diabetes and other weight-related health problems.
If your cat is carrying a few extra pounds, your veterinarian can advise on a new diet plan to help them shift the excess weight.
Symptoms to look out for are lethargy, excessive drinking, increased appetite and increased urination.
Cancer can come in many different forms, attacking various parts of the body.
Lymphoma is the most common cancer within the feline community. It is a cancer which affects the white blood cells, called lymphocytes.
Sometimes Lymphoma will show no symptoms, but sudden weight loss, lethargy and decreased appetite over time are the main ones to look for.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer in cats. It affects cat’s exposed skin from sun rays. Keeping your cat inside and out of the sun’s harmful UV rays is a good preventative measure.
While grooming, check your cat regularly for growths, tumors and sores, as they can be an indicator of SCC.
Parasites, such as fleas, ticks and ringworm, can cause your Maine Coon a lot of discomfort if left untreated. They can also be contagious to other species, meaning you could find yourself rather unwell too.
Fleas bite the cat’s skin and cause unpleasant itching for your cat. Look out for excessive grooming and itching. It can also cause allergic dermatitis, so the prevention is key.
They’re often hard to detect due to their small size but can be eliminated quite easily without causing distress to your cat.
Ticks will latch onto your cats skin and suck the blood up into their body. Once it’s full of blood, it will naturally fall off.
Although cats are generally highly immune to the diseases passed on by ticks, you still need to be aware of the symptoms.
Monitor their eating, if they have a lack of appetite or are losing weight, have a check through your cats fur. Be sure to brush them regularly as this will help you locate and remove the ticks efficiently.
Although the name may suggest it, ringworm is not an actual worm. It affects the cat’s hair, nails and skin and presents itself by causing hair loss in circular shapes over your cats body, with a reddish ring in the middle..
It’s possible for your cat to show no symptoms of ringworm, but the most common are flaking skin or dandruff.
It’s highly contagious between animals and humans so should be treated as soon as it’s spotted. Your vet will use a UV light to be able to diagnose ringworm. So regular check ups are a must.
Mites will be found in your cats ear, feeding off the wax and dirt which can can cause discomfort and bleeding for your cat.
If your cat is itching their ears more than usual or shaking its head, mites may be the cause.
They live off the ear wax in the ear so using ear drops to remove the wax is a great preventative. If you have any other pets, it’s a good idea to treat them too.
Thankfully, there are preventative measures that can be easily administered at home.
Most pet stores will offer an array of preventative medicines, and these can be given to your cat with minimal fuss.
If you do find your cat itching, losing fur or appears generally irritated, try these ‘do it yourself’ medications as your first port of call. If symptoms don’t clear up within a few days, a trip to the vet will be needed.
Cats play, eat and hunt using their mouths, so it’s not uncommon for them to come across infection or dental problems.
Periodontal disease is the number dental disease in cats but is easily treated. It’s caused from a buildup of plaque and tartar under the gums, leading to inflammation, discomfort and even tooth loss.
Along with regular vet check ups, a good dental hygiene regime put in place from an early age will help your cat in the long term, keeping plaque and tartar buildup at bay.
Healthy eyes and good vision is super important for your furry feline friend. As natural hunters, keen eyesight is a much needed tool, especially at night, in which a cat’s vision is vastly superior to that of a human.
There are a number of different problems that can affect your cat’s eyes. The most common being viruses, ulcers, allergies, cataracts, melanosis and glaucoma.
Fights with other cats in your household or outside might mean scratches, lacerations or punctures that, if left untreated, can lead to major infection.
Symptoms of an issue with the eyes include: watery eyes, discharge, swelling/inflammation, bleeding, excessive blinking, squinting, or if your cat is constantly pawing at its eye.
Other than ear mites, there are few potential health problems often associated with your cat’s ears.
The most common being bacterial/fungal infections of the outer, inner or middle ear, polyps, mange and allergies.
Symptoms include: discharge, swelling/inflammation, waxy buildup, foul smell coming from ears and
Also, if your cat is constantly scratching its ears or appears to have a loss of balance or is disorientated, these are also common signs of issues.
Due to their long, dense fur, Maine Coons can be prone to matted hair if not properly groomed. This can lead to pain and skin irritation.
Ensure you spend time grooming your cat, this may need to be done every other day, and depends on how sufficient you cat is at self grooming.
Cats with long fur can be prone to dermatitis, itching of the skin causing them to excessively scratch, bite and potentially pull out hair.
This can be resolved by discussion with your vet, they can offer an allergy vaccination and may suggest buying an anti-itch spray, incase the symptoms arise again.
FLUTD (Feline Lower Tract Urinary Disease) as it’s commonly known, is the general term for a range of issues that affect a cat’s bladder and urethra.
These types of infections are typically “idiopathic”, which means there is no obvious cause.
Symptoms include: difficult or painful urination, blood in the urine, frequent urination, and the inability to pass urine properly
A FLUTD is a medical emergency for any cat. If you notice any of the symptoms above, you should contact your veterinarian ASAP.
Fractures can cause a lot of discomfort for your cat, and in some instances, can be fatal. Your cat may not be vocal about their fracture, making it difficult to tell when they have broken a bone.
For cats, the most common way for them to break a bone is from being hit by a car. Other ways include falls, or attacks from other cats or animals.
Look out for your cat walking with a limp, or holding their leg up and not putting weight on it. Get in contact with your vet straight away so that they can assess the internal damage and work out their treatment plan.
All species are prone to ill health through their lives, but as long as you are familiar with possible symptoms, these different illnesses can be stopped in their tracks, and be treated.
Preventative measures and keeping up to date with vet check ups are a must, giving your cat a healthy and happy life.
I did some searching on YouTube and found this instructive video on helping you identify specific Maine Coon health issues;