Last updated: May 4, 2017
Maine coons are among the biggest, fluffiest, goofiest, most affectionate cats around. They are the beloved pets of goodness knows how many people around the world, but they have health problems like diabetes and cancer that they share with us, and health problems peculiar to cats. In this article, we’re going to help you to identify the symptoms and how to treat them, because you don’t want your big Coonie to suffer, and if the worst happens your broken heart will be the most painful thing of all!
Maine Coon Life Expectancy and Life Stages
If you’re as mad about your cat as I am you’ll want him to be around as long as possible to delight you. So how long should you expect these big fluff balls to live? As long as possible, I hear you say! Coonies live on average twelve to fifteen years, with the average around thirteen, because they are really tough and sturdy cats, having established themselves in the harsh unforgiving climate of the northeastern United States. This means that they are generally very healthy cats, but many owners still prefer to keep them indoors because of their mighty hunting instincts, among other things.
Coonies don’t really develop properly till they are between three and five years old. Kittenhood lasts from birth to about 6 months, and during this time they will learn to walk, eat solid food, and interact with their other siblings, mother, and owners. If you are a caring owner you’ll also have him vaccinated and neutered during this times. Neutering can be done from four months onward and makes for healthier, happier cats, and in the case of the males, far less stinky ones! Eau De Tomcat is decidedly not a fragrance you want hanging around your furniture! Pooh!
From 7 months till two years your cat is a junior cat, and he must have his booster vaccinations to keep up his immunity from pests and diseases. Any underlying future health problems like heart disease may begin to show up now.
From 3 – 6 years your Coonie is in his prime, the healthiest and fittest time of his life, but that doesn’t mean that he’s immune to any disease that comes his way. He can begin to suffer from dental problems, bladder infections, and parasites because Coonies are mighty predators and rodents carry all sorts of bloodthirsty creepy-crawlies. It’s still vital to have your pet checked every year and re-vaccinated for all those nasties like feline leukemia and rabies.
Between 7 and 10 years you have a mature cat, and it’s now that the problems of older cats begin to creep in. There are bigger chances of things like high blood pressure, cancer, overactive thyroid and kidney disease.You should be looking closely now for any signs that your Coonie is in any sort of distress, and if you pick up anything like excessive thirst, weight loss, sickness, and diarrhea or a scruffy or scabby coat, you should visit your go-to guy – the vet!
At this stage in a cat’s life, he can begin to put on weight, and this can lead to other problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke. It can’t be stressed enough that you should camp out on your vet’s doorstep if you see anything seriously amiss with your little (big?) friend.
A senior cat is between 11 – 14 years old, and by this stage in his life old age is definitely beginning to set in. Whatever started to be a problem in the earlier stages of his life now manifest themselves in a more serious way and can be joined by things like arthritis and senile dementia, but the good news is that there is a treatment for all of them. Don’t let your Coonie suffer!
15+ is considered to be a geriatric cat. If he were human he’d be around 80 – 90 years old and needs constant supervision to make sure he has a comfortable lifestyle. He will sleep a lot more and slow down a lot in general. This is when you should prepare for the end, sad though it will be.
Maine Coon Hair Loss and Skin Problems
One of the most striking features of the Maine Coon is his luxuriant, fluffy, soft-as-angels’-wings fur. It’s his crowning glory, it’s one of the things that makes him unique, and to lose it is tragic! So what causes it? If he’s an indoor/outdoor cat like mine, the problem could be fleas or another disgusting little bloodsucker like a tick or a parasites like Feline Scabies or Notedric mange both of which are caused by tiny mites. Because he’s so itchy, the Coonie can scratch so much that he wears holes in his fur coat and damages the skin underneath.
Other things can cause over-grooming are stress and hyperthyroidism. Stress can be caused by any number of things, such as moving house or the death of a member of the household. Grooming is a form of comfort, so your cat will console himself by licking and scratching excessively, thereby wearing holes in his fur. This can damage and break the skin underneath, letting in the nasty little germs which cause infection. Hyperthyroidism, mainly an affliction of old age, is a condition caused by overproduction of the hormone thyroxine.
As cats begin to live longer due to better veterinary care, this condition is seen more and more often. The glands become swollen and begin to produce more thyroxine than the cat’s body needs, it becomes very emaciated and it can develop conditions like heart disease. This can be treated with radioactive iodine and surgery. Allergies, especially food allergies, can be suffered by many cats and can irritate the cat’s skin so that he scratches and licks himself raw. Poor Coonie! If you suspect that he’s allergic, take that food out of his diet and see if it clears up. This may take a while, but it’s worth it for a happy cat!
Maine Coon Heart Problems
Maine Coon cats are generally healthy and robust cats, but they can suffer illnesses and setbacks like any other cats. Heart problems like Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is very prevalent in cats and Coonies are among the most susceptible, because of a genetic disorder which affects about 30% of them. The heart wall thickens and gives rise to many abnormalities in heart performance.
After a while, this results in heart failure which becomes progressively more serious and death ensues either because of a blood clot, or the inability of the heart to beat properly. Because blood is not being pumped well enough, fluid can accumulate in the lungs and hinder breathing. Unless the cats develop heart failure, their owners will very likely not pick up any symptoms to warn them of danger, but symptoms like shallow breathing, lethargy, coughing, losing weight, and paralysis in the hindquarters can develop. A vet’s examination, however, will pick up a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat. These are diagnosed by radiography, ultrasound or electrocardiogram. The treatment is oral medication, but the only way to stop the defect in its tracks is not to breed from affected cats so that the condition gradually dies out.
Maine Coon Kidney Disease
Poor Maine Coons! Here is another one of those nasty conditions that are out to get them! Polycystic Kidney Disease or PKD is an inherited condition which many kittens are born with. As the kittens grow into big cats, the cysts become bigger and grow in number. The kidneys gradually become invaded by the cysts to such an extent that there is very little functioning kidney tissue left. This results in enlarged kidneys and ultimately to renal failure. Because it’s a slow-growing disorder, an affected cat may be asymptomatic till it is mature.
If you suspect this, watch your Coonie for signs like loss of weight, lack of appetite, thirst, sickness and urinating frequently. Of course, as with any suspicious symptoms, you should go straight to your vet. He will likely prescribe medication and a specially formulated cat food which is low in phosphorus, a mineral which damaged kidneys cannot process. Hormone supplementation may also be given to help the Coonie’s body to make more red blood cells. It’s really distressing to see your big fluffball going through distress and pain, but you’re the boss, and you can make sure that he gets better! (And there’s no better medicine than love!)
Maine Coon Hip Dysplasia
Another one of the conditions to which Coonies are martyrs is hip dysplasia.
This is an inherited disorder which is caused by the hip joint being deformed and means that the ball and socket of the joint don’t make a good fit. After a while, the femur, which isn’t resting comfortably but bumping against the socket, damages it so badly that it can lead to osteoarthritis, which causes the bone to wear away. It’s not fatal, but it can make your poor Coonie very sore and miserable with a poor quality of life.
Fat cats can suffer more than most because extra weight puts more weight on the joint, so your vet will put him on a diet which will help him to maintain a healthy weight. Keeping him warm is very important too. Coldness can foster the development of arthritis, which will only add to your poor Coonie’s misery! Massaging is good for him and pleasurable to both of you since he gets relief from his pain and you get to run your hands through all that lovely silky fur!
The vet may ask you to train your Coonie to walk on a leash or a treadmill or just go up and down stairs frequently. He may also prescribe Vitamin C and glucosamine. So, although this is a painful condition, it’s not a killer, and you’ll be relieved to know that it can be fixed. That’s a great relief for those of us who love our yummy coonies!
Maine Coon Polydactylism
Most cats have eighteen toes, five on each front paw and four on each back paw, and that’s enough for any cat surely! However, polydactyl, or many-toed cats are very common among Maine Coons . It isn’t a disease, but a condition that’s endearingly prevalent in Coonies. Polydactyls are disqualified from cat shows because the extra toes are deemed to be flaws, but this is an absolute injustice in my opinion. Polydactyl cats are no different to any others, just as healthy and just as happy! The record for the biggest number of toes is a cat from Canada who has twenty-seven, but that’s extreme! Some cats can have as many as seven toes on a foot, and the extra digit can occur on any or all of them. Usually, they come in matching pairs but that’s only a rule of thumb (ha-ha!) They can grow three on one foot, none on another, two on another – you name it, some Coonie’s got it. And just think – more toes, more love!