One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the Maine Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A number of attractive legends surround its origin. A wide-spread (though biologically impossible) belief is that it originated from matings between semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth, bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) led to the adoption of the name 'Maine Coon.' (Originally, only brown tabbies were called 'Maine Coon Cats;' cats of other colors were referred to as 'Maine Shags.') More likely is that the Maine sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings).
Everything about the Maine Coon points to its adaptation to a harsh climate. Its glossy coat, heavy and water-resistant, is like that of no other breed, and must be felt to be appreciated. It is longer on the ruff, stomach and britches to protect against wet and snow, and shorter on the back and neck to guard against tangling in the underbrush. The coat falls smoothly, and is almost maintenance-free: a weekly combing is all that is usually required to keep it in top condition. The long, bushy tail which the cat wraps around himself when he curls up to sleep can protect him from cold winters. His ears are more heavily furred (both inside and on the tips) than many breeds for protection from the cold, and have a large range of movement. Big, round, tufted feet serve as 'snow shoes.' Their large eyes and ears are also survival traits, serving as they do increase sight and hearing. The relatively long, square muzzle facilitates grasping prey and lapping water from streams and puddles.
Although the Yankee myth of 30-pound cats is just that, a myth (unless the cat is grossly overweight!), these are indeed tall, muscular, big-boned cats; males commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds, with females normally weighing about 9 to 12 pounds. Add to that two or three inches of winter coat, and people will swear that they're looking at one big cat.
Maine Coons develop slowly, and don't achieve their full size until they are three to five years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish throughout their lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured goofs. Even their voices set them apart from other cats; they have a distinctive, chirping trill which they use for everything from courting to cajoling their people into playing with them. (Maine Coons love to play, and many will joyfully retrieve small items.) They rarely meow, and when they do, that soft, tiny voice doesn't fit their size!
While Maine Coons are highly people-oriented cats, they are not overly-dependent. They do not constantly pester you for attention, but prefer to "hang out" with their owners, investigating whatever activity you're involved in and "helping" when they can. They are not, as a general rule, known as "lap cats" but as with any personality trait there are a few Maine Coons that prefer laps. Most Maine Coons will stay close by, probably occupying the chair next to yours instead. Maines will follow you from room to room and wait outside a closed door for you to emerge. A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but hardly ever your baby.
Maine Coons are relaxed and easy-going in just about everything they do. The males tend to be the clowns while the females retain more dignity, but both remain playful throughout their lives. They generally get along well with kids and dogs, as well as other cats. They are not as vertically-oriented as some other breeds, prefering to chase objects on the ground and grasping them in their large paws -- no doubt instincts developed as professional mousers. Many Maine Coons will play "fetch" with their owners.
The important features of the Maine Coon are the head and body shape, and the texture and 'shag' of the coat. The head is slightly longer than it is wide, presenting a gently concave profile with high cheekbones and ears that are large, wide at the base, moderately pointed, and well tufted inside. They are set well up on the head, approximately an ear's width apart. Lynx-like tufting on the top of the ears is desirable. The neck should be medium-long, the torso long, and the chest broad. The tail should be at least as long as the torso. One of their most distinctive features is their eyes, which are large, round, expressive, and set a a slightly oblique angle. Overall, the Maine Coon should present the appearance of a well-balanced, rectangular cat.
WARNING: Once you get your first Maine Coon, there is a big chance you will get the "Maine Coon Virus".
And once you have it....
We started with one Maine Coon, now we have five.
But look at them.... Wouldn't you want one of them?