Last updated: May 4, 2017
We’ve talked about what big fluffy goofballs Coonies are, how they have too many toes, weigh a ton, and sometimes get nasty Coonie medical problems. Coonies are also distinguished by their large oval eyes and feral expression. In fact, I would describe it as somewhere between grumpy and fierce, which is at odds with their friendly, sociable nature.
Maine Coons are often described as men’s cats, because their sheer size makes it almost impossible to “play nicely!” They have a habit of butting their heads against you quite hard, which turns their antics real rough-and-tumble horseplay! Since the males are more boisterous and playful than the females and much bigger (as much as three times the size of the average moggy!) they can do some real damage! But there’s more to your big fur baby than that. Read on and be amazed!
Maine Coon Ears
If you look at all cat breeds you will see that no other cats have ears quite like the Maine Coon, because the Coonies have unique and adorable ears. It’s one of the things that makes them the lovely cats they are. They are big, broad, and tufted like a lynx, covered in fur to withstand the cold of the climate in which they evolved. There are legends that, because of the long tufts at the end, it is a cross breed between a bobcat and a domestic cat. This is, of course, a biological impossibility, as well as the one about the cat and the raccoon, but it does add to the Coonie’s appeal.
There are many theories about how the Coonies got to North America, and one of them says that they may have originated from the Norwegian Forest cats who came over with the Vikings, since their appearance is very similar. These big tough warriors valued them as hard working mousers on their longships. When they got to America they mated with short-haired native cats to form a unique breed. In fact, they are the only show cat breed to have originated in North America. They have evolved to cope with winter, from their beautiful furry tufted ears to their broad snowshoe-like paws (with or without extra toes!) which sport big wads of fur ideal for keeping their tootsies warm! Their most distinctive and useful characteristic is their many-layered, thick, waterproof coat, (which is also very low-maintenance, by the way!) Their tails are long and extremely bushy, and they can wrap them around their shoulders while sleeping just like a furry scarf. Like most cats living in colder climes, their fur grows longer and thicker in winter, so you can see that this feline will never need a warm overcoat or a pair of galoshes!
Maine Coon Colors
Maine Coons kittens take quite a while to reach maturity, and during that time their fluffy kitten coats will change gradually to their adult color. This can be a bit confusing for cats’ owners, since constant color changes can be a bit alarming! As the kittens grow, the outer layers of fur begin to appear. These are known as guard hairs, and are tougher and heavier than the downy fluff of kittenhood. These stronger hairs protect the cat from the elements, being warm and waterproof.
So you want a pretty color of Coonie? It seems there’s one for almost every day of the year! They come in just about every color of the rainbow and then some – in fact, there are about seventy-five different color combinations. You can choose from any single color like red, blue, white or black, a tortoiseshell, which is a combination of blue and black, a tabby (the most beautiful in my humble opinion) which can be the classic or mackerel pattern in blue-silver, red-silver, brown-silver or cream-silver. All cats of any breed carry the tabby gene, and Coonies are no exception.
Five distinct types
First, the classic tabby, which has swirls of two colors all over its body.
Second, the mackerel tabby, which is striped just like a mackerel fish – or a tiger! The darker stripes look just like ribs.
Third, there is the spotted tabby. These cats are spotty all over their bodies and the spots can be big, small, oval, round or even rosettes, just like a leopard! Sometimes they look like mackerel stripes broken into pieces. At any rate, they are drop dead gorgeous!
Fourth, the ticked or Abyssinian tabby. This is a strange one. Looking at this pattern, you wouldn’t believe this was a tabby at all, since the fur appears to be an almost solid color without the usual swirls, stripes or spirals, but the distinctive “M” mark still appears on the face, and the body is covered in agouti hairs. Agouti hairs? What in heaven’s name are those?” I hear you scream in bewilderment. Agouti hairs are not just any old hairs – oh, no! Peer closely into your tabby’s fur. Unlike cats of a solid color, the tabby’s hairs are individually striped like a pedestrian crossing. There is a light band, then a darker one, then a light one.
Fifth, there is the patched tabby, which is a combination of all the above. Any pattern can have patches of white (except white itself of course!) and this is called a parti-color coat. Most Coonies have green or gold eyes, but blue or two-colored eyes are common in cats with white and parti-color shaded coats. Sometimes Maine Coons can have patterns on the top of their bodies and a single color on top, or it can be completely the other way around! Is there no end to this breed’s variety?
Maine Coons in the Guinness Book of World Records
There is more than one way to measure a cat. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, there are two. (Bet you didn’t know that!) One measurement is the length, which is measured from nose to tail, and the other is the height, which is measured from the top of the shoulder to the paw. They are usually two different cats, since different breeds have different attributes. These records are very strictly controlled to make sure there’s no cheating, so the procedure is quite painstaking, involving measuring by a vet, witness statements and lots and lots of paperwork!
At the moment the longest measurement for a Maine Coon cat is 48.5 inches (123 centimeters) long! That’s over four feet! He was, in fact, the longest cat since records began. His name was Stewie and he unfortunately, died of cancer at the relatively young age of eight. Maine Coons don’t hold the record for the tallest cats but they’re certainly among the biggest. At the moment the record is held by Ludo, who is 45 inches (115.5 centimeters) long, weighs in at 24.5 lbs (11 kilograms.) Since Maine Coons are late to mature and don’t stop growing till they are between three and five years old, there is every reason to believe that this gentle giant, once he reaches full size, will be the record holder for many years to come!
Many Toed Cat
Since many Coonies are polydactyls, the Guinness Book of World Records has a special record for the most toes on a cat. Jake, who is a ginger Maine Coon from Canada, has twenty eight fully functioning toes complete with all bones, claws, pads and any other bits I’ve forgotten! In other words, they’re not just extraneous bits of tissue, but the real, lethal things. Twenty eight claws! Makes you shiver just thinking about it!
How to Tell if You Have a Purebred Maine Coon
The only way to really know for sure is if your cat came from a breeder who has a pedigree. When a breeder sells you a cat you’ll get paperwork to prove it. A sad fact of life is that pedigreed cats can also end up in shelters without any proof of their origin, so if you absolutely must have a pedigree then go to a breeder. In a tiny percentage of cases a kitten may end up in a shelter but it’s very unlikely, since these are valuable cats.
Even if a cat or kitten looks like a Maine Coon, it’s not a certainty that he is. He may be part Maine Coon or just look like one. It will probably be forever a mystery – but does it really matter? They’ll love you anyway!
Maine Coon Cats in Literature
Maine Coons have inspired many pieces of poetry. The famous writer Ernest Hemmingway was very fond of his Coonies! Here is a short extract from a poem that I found:
In a wooden cottage
Beside the sea
The voice of Hemmingway is calling me
Come and join the six toed cats
Gathering in my comfy lap
They’ll be taking their evening nap
This is all I have of this
So I guess it’s time to quit
(Written by Sarah Kendrick)
Here are just a few quick words before we finish. So you’re thinking of getting a cat? So you’re thinking about getting a Maine Coon cat? “But I don’t want to go to a breeder! They are SO expensive!” You cry. If you’re not going to breed from your cat, why not try a shelter or a rescue agency? There are ones which specialize in Maine Coons and you’d be doing each other a big favor because if there’s one thing a Maine Coon has in spades, it’s love! You’ll get a goofy gentle giant and he’ll get a loving home. Here endeth the lesson!