Maine Coon

The Maine Coon is a cat breed of domestic cat with a distinctive physical appearance. It is one of the oldest natural cat breeds in North America, specifically native to the state of Maine, where it is the official State Cat.

The cat breed was popular in cat shows in the late 1800s, but its existence became threatened when long-haired breeds from overseas were introduced in the early 20th century. The Maine Coon made a comeback and is one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.

The Maine Coon is noted for its large bone structure, its rectangular body shape, and a long, flowing coat. The breed can be seen in a variety of colors and are known for their intelligence and gentle personalities. Health problems, such as feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia, are seen in the breed, but screening methods can help to reduce the frequency of these problems, including ultrasounds and genetic testing for heart problems and x-raying to look for hip abnormalities.

Maine Coon Description

Maine Coons are one of the largest breeds of domestic cat. Males weigh anywhere between 15 and 25 lb (6.8 and 11 kg) with females weighing between 10 and 15 lb (4.5 and 6.8 kg). The height of adults can vary between 10 and 16 in (25 and 41 cm) and they can reach a length of up to 40 in (100 cm), including the tail, which can reach lengths of up to 14 in (36 cm) and is long, tapering, and heavily furred, almost resembling a raccoon's tail. The body is solid and muscular, which is necessary for supporting their own weight, and the chest is broad. Maine Coons possess a rectangular body shape and are slow to physically mature; their full potential size is normally not reached until they are around three or four years old.

In 2006, the Guinness World Records named a male purebred Maine Coon the "Longest Cat". Verismo Leonetti Reserve Red (better known as Leo) measures 48 in (120 cm) in length, from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, and weighs 35 lb (16 kg). Leo was the only kitten in his litter and was sired by a large dam Musicoons Tippy Tina of Verismo, and his sire was Musicoons The Cisco Kid of Verismo. Both parents were quite large, and given that Leo had all of his mother's milk, this may have been what allowed him to grow to such a great size.

The Maine Coon is a longhaired, or medium-haired, cat. The coat is soft and silky, although texture may vary with coat color. The length is shorter on the head, and shoulders and longer on the stomach and flanks with some cats having a lion-like ruff around their neck. Minimal grooming is required for the cat breed, compared to other long-haired breeds, as their coat is mostly self-maintaining due to a light-density undercoat. The coat is subject to seasonal variation, with the fur being thicker in the winter and thinner during the summer.

Maine Coons can have any colors that other cats have. Colors indicating hybridization, such as chocolate, lavender, the Siamese pointed patterns or the "ticked" patterns, are unaccepted by breed standards. The most common color seen in the breed is brown tabby. All eye colors are accepted under breed standards, with the exception of the occurrence of blue-colored or odd-eyes (i.e., two eyes of different colors) in cats possessing coat colors other than white.
Maine Coon with a summer coat

Maine Coons have several physical adaptations for survival in harsh winter climates. Their dense water-resistant fur is longer and shaggier on their underside and rear for extra protection when they are walking or sitting on top of wet surfaces of snow or ice. Their long and bushy raccoon-like tail is resistant to sinking in snow, and can be curled around their face and shoulders for warmth and protection from wind and blowing snow and it can be even curled around their backside like a insulated seat cushion when sitting down on a snow or ice surface. Large paws, and especially the extra-large paws of polydactyl Maine Coons, facilitate walking on snow and are often compared to snowshoes. Long tufts of fur growing between their toes help keep the toes warm and further aid walking on snow by giving the paws additional structure without significant extra weight. Heavily furred ears with extra long tufts of fur growing from inside help keep their ears warm.

Maine Coon Health

Maine Coons are generally a healthy and hardy cat breed and have evolved to survive the New England climate. The most severe threat is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common heart disease seen in cats, whether pure bred or not. In Maine Coons, it is thought to be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Middle-aged to older cats as well as males are thought to be predisposed to the disease. HCM is a progressive disease and can result in heart failure, paralysis of the hind legs due to clot embolization originating in the heart, and sudden death. A specific mutation that causes HCM is seen in Maine Coons for which testing services are offered. Of all the Maine Coons tested for the MyBPC mutation at the Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab at the College of Veterinary Medicine located at Washington State University, approximately one-third tested positive. However, several Maine Coon breeders have reported cats that have tested positive by this method and have lived to 10 years and older without HCM characteristics by ultrasound testing. Additionally, several Maine Coon breeders have reported deaths of younger cats (less than 5 years) by HCM - as diagnosed through necropsy - for cats who tested negative for the gene. Ultrasound of the heart is thought to be a more reliable method for weeding HCM out of the Maine Coon population.
A brown-patched tabby Maine Coon

Another potential health problem is spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), another genetically inherited disease which causes the loss of the neurons in the spinal cord that activate the skeletal muscles of the trunk and limbs. Symptoms are normally seen within 3–4 months of age and result in muscle atrophy, muscle weakness, and a shortened life span. A test is offered to detect the genes responsible for SMA.

Hip dysplasia, an abnormality of the hip joint which can cause crippling lameness and arthritis, can be seen in Maine Coons. In a research survey finalized by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) in 2007, comprising at least 100 evaluations for each breed studied between January 1974 and December 2008, Maine Coons ranked number 27 at 23.5% for 994 evaluations. The Maine Coon is the only cat breed listed in the survey. However, this problem is thought to have been mostly eliminated from the breed due to careful screening.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a slowly progressive disease that is possible among Maine Coons and was thought to plague only the Persian and Persian-related breeds. Symptoms typically occur around seven years of age and the effects are incurable. PKD generally leads to renal failure and is genetically inherited, so careful screening and testing are the only ways to prevent the disease from occurring

Many of the original Maine Coon cats that inhabited the New England area possessed a trait known as polydactylism (having one or more extra toes on the feet). While some sources claim that trait is thought to have occurred in approximately 40% of the Maine Coon population in Maine at one time, little evidence has been given to substantiate this claim. Polydactylism is rarely, if ever, seen in Maine Coons in the show ring since it is unacceptable by competition standards. The gene for polydactylism is a simple autosomal dominant gene, which has shown to pose no threat to the cat's health. The trait was almost eradicated from the breed due to the fact that it was an automatic disqualifier in show rings. Private organizations and breeders were created in order to keep polydactylism in Maine Coons from disappearing.

Maine Coons are known as the "gentle giants" and possess above-average intelligence, making them relatively easy to train. They are known for being loyal to their family and cautious—but not mean—around strangers, but are independent and not clingy. The Maine Coon is generally not known for being a "lap cat" but their gentle disposition makes the breed relaxed around dogs, other cats, and children. They are playful throughout their lives, with males tending to be more clownish and females generally possessing more dignity, yet both are equally affectionate. Many Maine Coons have a fascination with water and some theorize that this personality trait comes from their ancestors, who were aboard ships for much of their lives.

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