9 things to know before getting a Maine Coon
Maine Coons are known as the gentle giants of domesticated cat breeds. Gorgeous, huge, and absolutely adorable, these cats make for fantastic pets. That is, as long as you know how to look after them. This breed is also surrounded by a lot of less-than-accurate myths and half-truths that often turn people away. So, here we’ll cover the 9 things to know before getting a Maine Coon.
3 facts and myths about the Maine Coon cat
Maine Coons are one of the most famous cat breeds. Consequently, they are also a breed surrounded by various misconceptions. This, together with their size, is a big reason why they are not as popular as they used to be. So, if you’re wondering about maybe getting a Maine Coon, here are 3 interesting tidbits about the breed before we get into the more practical tips.
1. Maine Coons are the largest breed of domesticated cat
Two domesticated cat breeds are competing for the tag of “largest domesticated cat” – the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat. And even though there is some controversy here and some extraordinarily large Norwegian Forest cats, this prize really ought to go to the Maine Coon.
The average height of a Maine Coon cat is somewhere between 10 and 16 inches (25 to 41 cm) whereas their Norwegian rivals will typically go as high as 9 to 12 inches (22 to 31 cm). In terms of weight, most adult Maine Coons will be as heavy as 8 to 18 pounds (4 to 8 kg). Norwegian Forest Cats, on the other hand, tend to stay below 16 pounds (7 kg).
Granted, there are always exceptions to the rules, especially when looking at not full purebred cats. All in all, both breeds are significantly larger than your average house cat and necessitate special measures and considerations. However, if you want to get a truly large cat, the Maine Coon is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you’re hesitant about getting such a large animal in your home, neither breed is going to be what you want.
2. These cats aren’t “wild”
Both Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats have a reputation for being wild and only partly domesticated. While this can be seen as somewhat true for the latter breed, it’s definitely not the case for the Maine Coon. Maine Coons are pretty giant in size, they have big lynx-like ears, and they also sport a fluffy lion-like “mane”. All this makes them look feral, however, these cats are actually perfectly domesticated.
In fact, the contrary is true – Maine Coons are much more timid, gentle, and good-natured than people expect. These felines love to be around their people, they feel great in large families, and they even don’t mind guests. Of course, the cat needs to be properly socialized for the latter to be true, but that’s always the case with both cats and dogs. The point is that, all things being equal, a Maine Coon is actually much more tolerant and well-mannered than most house cats.
Does the Maine Coon’s large size have anything to do with their easy-going personality?
Maybe, we can’t really know for certain. It is true for dogs that the larger breeds are generally calmer and better-tempered than most of their smaller counterparts. In dogs, we call that Napoleon Complex . Does the same complex exist with cats, however?
Not really, at least not in the same way. It’s widely believed that smaller dogs are more “aggressive” and “yappy” because of poor training and not because of anything inherent to their breeds. The issue is that big dog owners are mindful of their pets' misbehavior because it can be dangerous. Whereas small dog owners simply chuckle at how cute their small dog is when it’s angry and they don’t try to deal with the issue, thus leading to the Napoleon complex.
The same doesn’t really apply to cats, however. Cat owners are pretty much equally unhappy with a misbehaving cat regardless of its size. So, whatever differences in the character between breeds there are, it’s unlikely that they are due to size. It could be that larger animals just feel safer in their surroundings because they know they are big enough to handle most threats but that’s just a theory.
Whatever the case, we do know that the Maine Coons are anything but “wild”. These cats are great family pets and are incredibly warm and affectionate when they get plenty of love and care from their owners.
3. We don’t really know where they came from
Obviously, we know that Maine Coon cats are native to the US state of Maine on the North-East coast of the country. However, where were they from before the first European settlers came to the new land?
The leading hypothesis seems to be that the Europeans brought these cats with them as a solution to the rat infestation problems on their ships. This is a solid theory as we know ships of all types, and especially trade and passenger ships used to take cats as rat hunters. This was key for protecting the grains and foods people took with them and it also fits perfectly as the Maine Coon’s role as a farm rat hunter.
These cats’ large size makes them especially great at this task. And that’s also what they were used in the US for the last few centuries before people started looking after cats as pets. Yet, the Maine Coon’s large size also calls this theory into question – if these cats were brought from Europe, then where are their European equivalents?
The Norwegian Forest Cat is the only other domesticated cat large enough but there doesn’t seem to be any direct relation between the two breeds. Another question is that of why only the state of Maine has these cats? Did no other European settlers bring such large cats?
A second theory is that the European settlers did bring cats with them but those were more “normal” European farm cats – not larger than any other standard cat breed. However, it was once the settlers landed on mainland US that their domesticated cats started breeding and mixing with some native forest cats, particularly ones native to the North-Eastern US and the state of Maine.
This second theory would explain both the large size and feral look of the Maine Coon, as well as the lack of a large European equivalent of the breed. However, yet another question arises – where are those native forest cats the European cats mixed with. Are all of them now just Maine Coons? Didn’t any forest cats avoid mixing with the European cats? We may never know.
Still, what we do know is that Maine Coons are native to Maine and that’s plenty to go on. These cats have served as farm rat hunters for centuries and this is a big reason why they feel so good around humans. Whatever they’ve come from originally is a curious question but it doesn’t matter much about these cats’ behavior and characteristics.
3 things to consider before getting a Maine Coon cat
Maine Coons are fascinating animals but you still need to be prepared if you are to take one home. If you’re contemplating adopting or buying a Maine Coon, you may have a few points of interest and concerns. So, here are the 3 key things you’ll need to be aware of and prepare for before getting a Maine Coon.
4. Maine Coons are great with kids of all ages
You’d think that such a huge animal is a risk for families with small kids but that’s not the case. Of course, proper socialization, training, and supervision are a must, as is the case with any other pet, especially cats and dogs. However, Maine Coons really aren’t any worse than most other cats where children are concerned – on the contrary.
The reason for this lies in the Maine Coon’s calm personality and social nature. It is possible for a Maine Coon to act badly against a child that’s been newly introduced to the household as is the case for all animals. However, as long as you make sure that your cat has no reason for jealousy, everything should go much more smoothly than it would with other cats. It’s all in how you introduce the Maine Coon to the child.
So, how should you introduce a cat to a baby?
There are many cats – particularly of calmer and more social breeds like the Maine Coon – who don’t need any preparation for the introduction to a baby. Still, there are exceptions where your cat may take offense to the baby’s presence and you need to prepare for that eventuality. There are many things you can do but here’s a quick list:
- Make most of the interior design changes of your home months in advance. Cats are smart and they really don’t like
change to their habitat. So, if you leave most of the interior changes for the last possible moment, your cat will put
two and two together and she’ll figure out that the baby is the reason for the turmoil in her life.
Such interior changes include closing one room off to be your kid’s room, moving/replacing furniture, repainting walls or changing wallpapers, and so on. So, the solution is to make those changes at least a couple of months in advance, including locking the baby room. This way, your cat will be much calmer when the baby arrives.
- Get the cat used to the baby’s smell before the baby’s even home. How do you do that? Simple – while the baby and its
mom are still at the hospital, the dad should take some of the used baby clothes and towels home. Then, just leave
them lying around for the cat to inspect.
That way, the cat will get familiar with your child before she’s ever met him. An even more advanced tactic is to get the cat to like the baby’s smell. You can give her a treat after she’s sniffed the baby’s clothes or you can let her use them as a blanket.
- Play your cat some baby crying sounds. The first few months of having a baby are very stressful for everyone involved,
including your cat. She probably won’t help with the diaper changes at 3 am but she’ll still be bothered by all the
crying and unnecessary (from her point of view) commotion.
So, if you don’t want your cat to freak out when the baby starts crying, you can get her used to it by playing some recordings before bringing the child home. As with the baby’s smell, you can even associate the noise with a pleasant sensation for the cat such as pets or treats.
- Make sure the cat gets plenty of attention even after the child’s home. Jealousy is a powerful emotion in cats as well as in people. If you suddenly start giving your cat less love and fewer pets because you’re preoccupied with your child, it’s normal for the cat to start resenting her new “competitor”. So, whatever you do, don’t forget to show your cat how much you still love her.
- Always keep your baby under supervision when it and the cat are in the same room. This isn’t just for the baby’s
safety but for the cat’s as well. Kids don’t understand that pets are wholly separate beings and persons until the
4th or 5th year of their life. This is what’s called the
“Theory of Mind” in psychology.
So, a small child can easily view your cat as just a fluffy toy to play with. Needless to say, your cat may not appreciate that dynamic even if she’s already accepted the baby. That’s why it’s important to always keep the duo under supervision until the child is old enough that you can explain how to and how not to play with the cat.
All those tips being said, it’s still key to note that Maine Coons are more tolerant of kids than other cat breeds. So, as long as you do everything right and introduce the baby and the cat adequately, you should have no issues whatsoever.
5. Maine Coons will generally get along with other pets too
Pretty much all we said about Maine Coons and babies apply to them and other pets as well. There are plenty of tips for introducing cats with dogs or with other cats online but the gist of it always comes down to:
- Give both animals plenty of personal space in the first few days. Make sure that the first animal gets the part of your home they are most comfortable with and don’t isolate them from their preferred places in your home. Let the two animals get to know each other through a door first – this way they can still hear and smell each other.
- Associate the two animals’ cohabitation with pleasant sensations. This means feeding them next to the separating door, giving them treats, letting them play with each other’s toys, etc.
- Only let them meet face to face when they’ve grown used to each other’s presence in the home.
- Don’t overreact to the two pets’ occasional light arguments such as hissing or paw waving. Let them work things out on their own whenever possible.
Again – do those things properly, and a well-socialized Maine Coon should get along well with any cat or dog. Just don’t get a hamster or this giant rat hunter will suddenly remember its farm days.
6. You’ll need to get your home and yourself ready for this big feline
Even if you’re perfectly fine with the Maine Coon’s big size, you should make sure your home is ready for such a cat too. This means reinforcing some surfaces the cat may like walking or sleeping on (shelves, stands, etc.), creating large enough spaces for the cat (a big cat bed, large pillows and blankets, etc.), and so on.
If you have such cat items left over from a previous feline you’ll soon realize that they are just not big enough for a Maine Coon. Most cat scratching posts are a great example as they’ll look like toys next to such a cat.
How to look after a Maine Coon – 3 maintenance and behavioral tips
So, you’ve got a Maine Coon or you’ve decided that this is the pet for you. How should you best look after such an animal, however? If you’ve never owned a cat before or if you’ve had a dog, some of the aspects of raising a feline may feel foreign to you. Can Maine Coons be “trained”? How to deal with your animal when they misbehave? Can you “talk” to a cat? And how much grooming do they really need, aren’t cats self-sufficient in that regard? Let’s go over the basics below.
7. Maine Coons are a long-haired breed – get ready for some grooming
These cats are described as a medium-to-long-haired breed. That’s because unlike other long-haired cats like the Persian, the Maine Coon’s coat isn’t consistently long. In other words, some sections of the coat are longer and others are more medium in length. This is a big part of why Maine Coons can look wild with their lion-like mane.
Either way, a Maine Coon will need a good deal of grooming as does any other long-haired cat breed. This includes:
- Daily brushing to avoid matting as well as loose hair on your furniture
- Eye and ear check-ups and cleaning
- Nail-clipping if you’re up to it
Of those three, brushing is an absolute must as long-haired cats’ hair can get matted very easily.
8. These cats are pretty healthy but you should still watch out for some potential problems
The average lifespan of this breed is around 13 to 14 years. This is shorter than the average 16 to 18 of house cats but that’s not because the Maine Coon is a sickly breed. Instead, it’s simply a function of size – larger cats, like larger dogs, have shorter lifespans.
As far as the breed’s health is concerned, however, Maine Coons have just a few issues you’ll have to watch out for. These include:
9. Maine Coons are mild-natured, smart, and affectionate but that doesn’t mean you should boss them around
We complimented the Maine Coon’s good-natured personality so much that you may think they are basically lap cats. And while you can certainly find and raise Maine Coons to be as mellow as possible, they are still felines. So, especially if you’re used to looking after dogs, this means adopting a new approach toward your new pet.
Like all cats, Maine Coons love their personal space and they love to be the ones that initiate the affection between you. Maine Coons are very smart and social, and they can easily be taught various patterns and things. However, as felines, they learn and behave best when they are tricked into thinking that everything is their idea.
So, is the Maine Coon a good pet for you? Almost certainly and regardless of what your family/household situation is too. These cats may look scary big and intimidating but they are as cute, loving, and peaceful as any other feline. In fact, Maine Coons are gentler and more affectionate than many other domesticated cat breeds that people nevertheless feel intuitively safer with because they are smaller.
Granted, the large size of the Maine Coon is a significant consideration. Especially if you’re going to be a first-time cat owner, you may want to start with a smaller feline. Cats are quite different from dogs and raising them properly can be counterintuitive for some people. It’s not uncommon for some folks’ first cat to grow up ill-behaved and with poor manners because it takes some know-how to raise a cat right.
So, if your first cat is twice larger and heavier than most others and you accidentally raise such a giant to be ill-mannered, that can be a problem. Still, as long as you love your Maine Coon and you take good care of her, such a cat will be an awesome companion for any family.