First time I laid eyes on a Maine Coon was on the evening news.
The station was running a segment about an upcoming cat show, and there was a special guest doing the promo. He was a long-haired, light orange tabby cat. At least, the newscasters said he was a cat. I almost did not believe it, since this huge 20 pound specimen absolutely dwarfed any type of cat I had ever seen.
A veterinarian said his name was Knight, and he was a male Maine Coon. Maine Coons are the largest breed of domestic cat and a native of Maine, in New England, he said. He rambled on, about where we could see Knight in competition at this weekend’s accredited cat show.
I had checked out by that point. I had already friends requested Knight’s owner on Facebook, and followed his Instagram. That night, I Googled all I could about Maine Coons, and it was by then I knew I would probably own one in the future.
I was smitten for sure, on an emotional level, and then wondered why. What was so special about these cats that had “got me” and millions of others out there? Let’s examine the differences between Maine Coons and regular cats.
A Down-to-Earth Super-meow-dal
Modern Maine Coons come from an impressive cat show history. Not very many cats can claim such a thing.
A winner in the very first US cat show held in New York City in 1895 at Madison Square Garden was – you guessed it – a Maine Coon. Cosey (RIP) was a brown female Maine Coon, who took home the “Best Long-Haired Cat in Show” award.
She legitimized the Maine Coon as a show cat, and ever since then, you can find awesome examples of the breed at accredited cat shows in your local area.
The fact that I fell for the breed is not that strange, if you look at the context. People over a hundred years ago were already fawning over them at cat shows.
And today, Maine Coons are something like the third most popular breed of cat in the USA, according to the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA). And you can find them in happy families as pets, show cats, and even working as therapy cats.
Inspiring Presence and World Records
Even if you don’t know anything about Maine Coons and their lineage, you will notice how different they look compared to say, Fluffy, from down the street.
Let’s start with size and weight. The Maine Coon I saw on the news, Knight, was a good sized adult male, at 20 pounds and a little more than 40 inches in length. An average male will weigh between 18 – 22 pound, with females coming in at 10 – 15 pounds. From nose to tail, they will be between 3 – 4 feet in length.
The figures here are approximately 150 – 200% of regular cats, and almost comparable to dogs! Stats like that are the reason why Maine Coons are official record holders in the Guiness Book of World Records! Samson, from New York, is currently the largest cat in the USA, and Barivel, from Italy is the world record holder as the longest cat in the world.
Both are Maine Coons.
Your regular cat simply does not have those accolades.
That Maine Coon Coat
An abundance of physical features differentiate Maine Coons from regular cats, besides the size.
The coat of a Maine Coon is a great place to start. The double layered coat is long and luxurious, made up of an undercoat and the regular coat. The coat is strategically longer around the neck and chest, the belly and flanks, and the back of the legs. These features are protection, and developed for a life outside in the harsh New England snowy climate.
Overall, the coat looks majestic, if a bit shaggy and wild looking, but supremely functional in Maine weather.
A Maine Coon’s tail is a signature characteristic. It’s extra bushy and thick, so it doesn’t sink in snow. It can also be wrapped around their neck and head like a scarf or eye mask. The tail is reminiscent of a raccoon’s, and that’s why a Maine Coon is called what it is!
None of these are on a regular domestic shorthair, and now when I see a normal cat, it highlights how unique Maine Coons are.
Extraordinary Ears and Whiskers
The head of a Maine Coon is where there are three distinct features not found on domestic shorthairs.
First, the ears of a Maine Coon have tufts of fur protruding, that act as ear muffs for cold weather. They keep the inner ear protected against rain or snow.
Second, at the very top of the ears you’ll find fur that sticks straight up – dubbed “lynx tips” because these are found very prominently in lynxes. The exact reason for the tips is unknown and theories about them assisting with hearing or attracting a better mate abound.
Whatever the reason, Mother Nature certainly equipped Maine Coons with the right tools for survival in their environment. That functionality is beautiful in itself.
Third, there are the whiskers, the longest of any cat breed! Whiskers as we know, are highly sensitive instruments for detecting the environment and obstacles – this is particularly useful in the dark. Maine Coons also use them to hunt and explore. These long whiskers are not only around their muzzle, but also grow above their eyes.
(Fun fact: some Maine Coon’s whiskers are so sensitive that they actually interfere with eating. “Whisker fatigue” occurs when their whiskers are overstimulated from rubbing against the edge or rim of the food bowl as they eat. When this happens, your cat will simply stop eating. To address this, there are specially designed flat-and-wide food bowls to accommodate sensitive whiskers.)
Personality Like No Other Cat
The personality of a Maine Coon sets this breed apart too. First off, the breed has a reputation for being mellow and easy-going. In the initial TV spot I watched, the news anchors were moving Knight around on a table, petting him all over, and kind of man-handling him. That, in combination with TV studio lights, sounds, commotion, and he was still really chilled out.
This is totally true. Many people and myself attribute a large part of their temperament to being so large. There’s not much they can’t handle, being the size of a small dog. It instills a quiet confidence in them, and if there’s something they don’t like, they will just leave and go to another room. No drama.
And if you ever have friends or family over, your Maine Coon will love basking in their attention. You’ll hardly find a shy or squirrely Maine Coon, as they really do like human companionship.
Maine Coons also surprise by exhibiting behavior that people do not associate with cats.
They are infatuated with water. Have a Maine Coon in the house? Well, you’d better close the toilet lid, and close the bathroom door when taking a bath. These cats are drawn to water and are so curious about it, that it’s funny.
Typical Maine Coon behavior includes things like playing with the tap on your sink, then using their paws to reach the dropping water. They might reach their paws into glasses or cups. They may drink from the toilet, even.
To amuse them properly, owners need a circulating water fountain, with a waterfall feature. This basic thing is essential in making sure they drink enough water and can indulge in their water fetish.
Maine Coons are also the most dog-like of cats. How? You can walk a Maine Coon, for one. Their intelligence and love for routine means they can be trained to take a harness and leash. This is, of course, easier said than done for some Maine Coons. But others are real adventure cats and will love it. Just check social media!
These are just the main things that differentiate a Maine Coon from a normal cat. Basically, this breed has accolades and scores points on the unique scale with ease. I hope this inspired you to look into your very own Maine Coon!