Last updated: May 4, 2017
Do you love soft, silky things? Do you love soft, silky purry things?
Have you ever dreamed of having a pet whose fur you could knit into a sweater? No, I don’t mean an Angora Goat or a Llama, but a Maine Coon cat.
As the name suggests, the breed originated from Maine in the USA, and it’s speculated that it may have been descended from Norwegian Forest Cats brought by the Vikings years and years before Columbus! It has also been suggested that they were sent over on a ship to America by Marie-Antoinette, who hoped to escape to America to avoid the guillotine.
The cats made it, but sadly the queen didn’t! There is even a really out-there legend that they were a cross between a cat and a raccoon because of their stripey ringed tails, hence the really strange name, but this is biologically impossible, (tempting though it is to believe) since they are two different species and their DNA is incompatible.
They have been recognized as a breed since as far back as 1861, but have been around for a lot longer than that. They almost died out in the 1950s, but due to the work of a few dedicated breeders, they clawed their way back to popularity again and are now one of the most popular breeds in the US. There have been a few other myths about how the cats got to America, but they came, saw and conquered, and now they are the state cat of Maine There are not too many cats who can claim that kind of honor!
Maine Coon Personality
Generally, Maine Coon cats are great big goofballs, completely the opposite of the stereotypical image that cats have as being aloof and uncaring. These big guys are often called “the dogs of the cat world,” both because of their size and friendly nature. They’re quite able to adapt to any situation or place, so fitting into a cattery is not going to be too much of a problem for them since they fit in just about anywhere.
Well, when I say “anywhere” I don’t mean they’ll shoehorn their way into a cardboard box, (unless it’s a very big one) but their personality is like, “well, hi there, buddy! I’m a big Maine Coon, how the hell are ya?” He loves to follow you around to make sure you know he’s there and “help” you with whatever you’re doing, and if you accidentally leave him out of things, he’s very philosophical.
Although he’s a very affectionate creature he’s not clingy, so if you happen to forget him for a minute he’ll be thinking “well, hey, that’s OK, dude. You just forgot me for a minute but you’re only a human. I’ll wait.” Maine Coons are not cuddlers, but they love to be near you and play with toys, games, and puzzles. They will happily chase balls for ages and play fetch. Dogs of the cat world indeed! In fact, if anyone has ever played with a three-year-old toddler they’ll be able to handle a Maine Coon cat.
Coonies are particularly fond of children and get on well with other pets. Male Coonies are especially crazy, and they behave like kittens long after they’ve grown into great big tigers! In fact, Maine Coons don’t really grow up until they’re between three and five years old. One of their best qualities is their fierce loyalty to their family, and although initially wary of strangers, they usually come round in the end. If you find a Coonie who REALLY doesn’t want to extend the paw of friendship it’s probably because he’s had a bad experience with people. It’s simply it’s not in his nature to be anything but incredibly affectionate.
They don’t talk a lot, but when they do it’s usually a cute little purr-meow or trill. That’s not to say that they never meow, just that they’re quieter than most cats. They don’t do much climbing either, preferring to stay on the ground. I expect if you were one of the largest cats around you’d feel the same!
The Maine Coon is one of the only cat breeds who actually LIKE water, and doesn’t run a mile from it like normal cats. They’ll gladly play in it and even take a bath in it without hesitation because their thick coat has a certain degree of water resistance so that it doesn’t become waterlogged. Because it’s very long, it does do a lot of shedding, (but you can make use of it if you can knit!) Surprisingly for a long-coated cat, the fur doesn’t get too matted, and can mostly be taken care of by a gentle brushing a couple of times a week.
Generally speaking, the males are more outgoing and playful than the females. Girls take a bit longer to come out of their shells than boys, who are much more boisterous at first, but they’re still pretty playful. Well – they ARE boys! They are never aggressive – in fact quite the opposite – but neither are they cats to mess with, so if you’re bringing a new guy into his space, do it gradually. Remember that, unless it’s another Maine Coon, he could probably knock it flat with one swipe of his mighty paw!
Maine Coon Hunting
I think my big tabby with the tufted ears has a bit of Maine Coon because he is an excellent hunter of mice, rats, pigeons, lizards and big spiders. Maine Coons are renowned for their hunting skills, which is why they were prized as farm cats and especially as ships’ cats since ships were usually plagued with rats in olden times. It’s a very brave – or foolhardy – rat or mouse who pokes his nose out of his nest when a Maine Coon is around! They are prolific mousers and will bring you presents – dead or alive – on a very regular basis.
Of course, in a suburban environment, gifts of mice, rats, lizards and any other bits of assorted wildlife are not always welcome, but you can always keep your beautiful big baby as an indoor cat as long as you give him plenty of exercise. Of course, the best form of exercise is play, play, and more play, and with a Maine Coon, you won’t have any problem with that!
Maine Coon Training
Can you really train a cat? Well, yes, actually. Surprised you there, didn’t I? Maine Coon cats are very intelligent and very eager to please. They can open doors by hooking their paws around the handles, and even pick up objects with them. Added to that they have a very amiable and playful personality which makes them love to perform tricks. They pick ideas up very quickly and you can impress your friends with your clever cat’s skills in no more than a few days. In fact, the Coonie can even be trained to play the piano. I kid you not! So how can you make the impossible possible?
Quite simple, really. With a clicker. Clicker training relies on the animal’s natural tendency to explore and find prey. As well as that, Coonies just love to show how clever they are! A clicker is a hand-held device that makes a clicking noise when pushed down with the thumb and let go. Give the Coonie something to aim for, like a stick or a pencil, then wait for his nose to touch it. When it has done so, press the clicker, then give a little treat like a little bit of chopped chicken. Do this for a few times more till the cat realizes that desired behavior = click = treat.
After fixing this idea in his head you can start to train him in earnest to do the thing you really want him to do, like high-fiving or playing the piano. (NOT Chopin – Three Blind Mice!) Don’t make the training sessions too long – stop while he’s still bright and alert and before he loses interest. The first session should consist of no more than five clicks. That’s a lot – even for a big Maine Coon!
You can also do it without the clicker by sitting in front of the big boy (or girl) practicing the behavior you want and giving him a treat. You have to be patient, as you would be with a baby. Repetition is the key word here. Give him a break – it takes a while to sink in, so be slow and steady. As with most things, it’s better to start young, because kittens find it hard NOT to learn, although adult cats are perfectly able to figure it out, albeit a little bit more slowly.
Maine Coon Energy Levels
Coonies are moderately active cats with bursts of hyperactivity. They need to be kept well exercised and stimulated otherwise they’ll become bored then they become EVIL!!! Although Coonies are not great jumpers or climbers they are athletic enough to get up on a table or a shelf and start knocking over those precious china ornaments you inherited from your grandmother! Like most other cats they like to chase imaginary prey round your house at 2am and ambush you occasionally, but those are the joys of having a cat. You’ll discover that these crazy cats, especially the males, have an irrepressible sense of humor!
Maine Coon Excessive Meowing
Excessive meowing and howling (hypervocalization) of Coonies seems to be mainly a function of old age. As they get older, cats sometimes begin to become blind and/or deaf, and this makes them distressed and disoriented. And just like humans, cats can suffer from dementia. This leads to a feeling of isolation and loneliness, and just like us, they express their distress with their voices. They can’t say, “I can’t see – help me!” So they meow, or even howl. As usual, if anything at all changes with your cat, or you feel he may be suffering from something, your first port of call should be your vet. Any number of diseases can be painful, so it’s best to rule them out.
All cats like routine and hate change, so if there is a sudden alteration in their circumstances, like moving house or a new baby or pet, it can be very upsetting for them and cause changes in their behavior. Cats of all kind can vocalize due to frustration or boredom, or just to get attention, but you should never hit them or shout at them. They’re just doing what comes naturally.
Maine Coons may be big tough boys and girls, but they are cats like any other, and no matter what is wrong with them, the best medicine is always plenty of love, and it’s not too difficult with these gorgeous guys!