What to Know About a Maine Coon Cat

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 22, 2022
7 min read

The Maine Coon cat is a sturdy, long-haired cat breed native to North America, specifically to Maine. Maine Coon cats are a natural breed that developed large, tufted ears and a thick coat to help them survive harsh northern winters. Their big, tufted paws also help them walk easily on snow despite the Maine Coon cat’s large size and weight. Although Maine Coon cats usually don’t make good lap cats, they're sociable and have affectionate and relaxed personalities. Their easy-going nature makes the Maine Coon cat a great pet for families with children or other pets.

If you’re thinking about adding a Maine Coon cat to your family, it’s important to consider their physical characteristics and personality. If you're looking for a large yet gentle cat, the Maine Coon may be the right breed for you.

Physical Characteristics of Maine Coon Cats

Maine Coon cats are a large breed with a rectangular body structure. Male Maine Coon cat sizes range from 13 to 18 pounds, whereas female sizes tend to be smaller, between 9 and 13 pounds. You can expect Maine Coon cats to reach this size at full maturity, when they're around 3 to 5 years old.

Maine Coon cats are a natural breed that evolved over time, so their characteristics are particularly suited for the harsh winters of their native environment. Maine Coon cats have long, glossy, water-resistant coats that are great for warmth. Their coat has a shaggy appearance as their fur is longer on their ruff, stomach, and britches than it is on their back and face. 

Maine Coon cats are available in about 75 different colors and patterns. Usually, you'll see Maine Coon cats in classic brown colors or mackerel tabby patterns, which is a striped variety. Maine Coon cats may also have solid-colored coats, such as white, black, blue, and red. In addition, all variations of a Maine Coon’s coat may have white markings.

Other physical Maine Coon characteristics include their large, tufted paws and ears, long, bushy tails, and large, expressive eyes. Their eye colors are usually gold or green, but blue and odd eyes are also possible in some Main Coon cats.

Studies show that the Maine Coon cat lifespan is typically around 12.5 years or more.

Maine Coon Cat Personality

Despite their intimidating size, Maine Coon cats have friendly personalities. They're sociable cats, but they won’t demand constant attention. Instead of being lap cats, most Maine Coon cats prefer to be somewhere close to their owners. They enjoy following their owners from room to room and will often investigate or try to participate in their owner’s activities.

Maine Coon cats have kittenish personalities throughout their lives. They're affectionate, intelligent, and trainable. Because of this, many people consider Maine Coon cat personalities to be similar to that of dogs.

The Maine Coon is a low-maintenance cat. Unlike other longhair breeds, Maine Coon cats don’t have dense coats. Their coats are smooth, silky, almost oily, and can be self-maintained. Because of this, you only need to comb your Main Coon's hair once a week.

A Maine Coon cat’s diet, tooth, and nail care generally don't differ from standard cat care. Like all cats, you should provide Maine Coons with water and nutritious food throughout the day. The amount of food your cat needs depends on your cat’s age and specific health concerns, such as feline obesity.

To keep your cat’s teeth healthy, you should brush your Maine Coon’s teeth with vet-approved toothpaste. Their nails can be trimmed, but they should never be declawed.

Maine Coon cats are suitable as indoor and outdoor cats. But you may want to keep Maine Coons exclusively indoors due to safety concerns, such as theft or injury. The Cat Fanciers’ Association specifically recommends that owners keep Maine Coon cats indoors and provide a suitable environment for them. This includes litter trays and scratching posts. Indoor cats also benefit from places to climb, windows to look out of, and toys to play with to keep them active and entertained. 

Beyond providing a stimulating indoor environment, Maine Coon cats don’t have any particular exercise needs. Like most cats, Maine Coon’s enjoy sleeping and brief bursts of activity.

Vaccinations and deworming are important for keeping cats healthy. Regardless of their indoor or outdoor pet status, all cats need vaccinations and deworming to help protect them against diseases. To make sure your Maine Coon cat is in the best condition, remember to visit the vet at least once a year for a routine check-up.

The Maine Coon cat is a native breed that developed naturally over time. Despite this, there are still some genetic health issues to watch out for.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy 

Around 30% of Maine Coon cats carry a gene that increases their risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a heart disease. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes muscle walls in the heart to thicken, which eventually leads to heart failure or other complications.

It may be difficult to detect this health issue as cats with heart disease generally show no symptoms or pain until the heart fails. But vets can detect this disease through specialized diagnostic equipment. Vets may also notice unusual heart rhythms and heart murmurs in Maine Coon cats as a sign of heart disease.

Treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually involves oral medication. In the case of severe heart failure, euthanasia may be the best option for the cat. Some cats may live for years on medication, whereas others may unexpectedly pass away.

Genetic tests and screenings are available to prevent hypertrophic cardiomyopathy health issues in Maine Coon cats. Detecting the gene early prevents breeding and thus passing the mutation to other cats.

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is rare in cats but may be more prevalent in breeds such as Maine Coons. Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited physical disorder that causes the ball and socket in their hip joints to be misaligned and loose. Over time, this can lead to discomfort in walking and other health issues, such as osteoarthritis. Obesity can worsen this condition due to the pressure of added weight.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia include limping, avoiding physical activity, and constant licking of the hip area. Vets can diagnose hip dysplasia through x-rays of the affected joint.

Treatment for hip dysplasia includes anti-inflammatory medication and supplements designed to strengthen connective tissues. For severe cases of hip dysplasia, surgery may be the best choice.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy 

Maine Coon cats may also have spinal muscular atrophy. This is a genetic disease that affects the cat’s posture and gait due to spinal problems. Symptoms include:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abnormal posture
  • Physical instability

This health issue in Maine Coon cats usually shows up when they're around 3 to 4 months old and can progressively become worse. Spinal muscular atrophy doesn’t need treatment as it isn’t fatal or painful for the cat. But it does interfere with their everyday life and movement. This means that Main Coon cats with spinal muscular atrophy should stay indoors.

Vets can genetically test and screen Main Coon cats for spinal muscular atrophy. This can prevent future breeding and passing down the genetic health issue.

Maine Coon cats make great pets for families with children and other pets, including dogs. But, as with all pets, you should take special care around  introducing cats to infants and small children.

Maine Coon owners don’t need to worry about noise levels, as Maine Coons are quiet cats that rarely meow. Instead, they usually chirp or trill in a small voice.

However, if you have cat allergies, the Maine Coon may not be the best breed for you as they aren’t hypoallergenic.

The Maine Coon cat is one of the oldest native breeds in North America. Because of this, there are many conflicting origin stories. The most likely of these stories claim that Maine Coon cats were the result of breeding between American shorthair cats and overseas longhair cats. Some theories suggest that Vikings brought these longhair cats over on ships. The longhair cats then bred with the native shorthair population, resulting in the Maine Coon cat.

Maine Coon cats have a history of being barn cats in their native state of Maine. Farmers frequently showed these cats in local competitions in the late 1860s. Maine Coon cats would go on to enjoy further competitive success in the 1890s in Boston and New York. But Maine Coon cats had a fall in popularity during the 20th century, and rumors of extinction began in the 1950s.

Breeders persevered with the Maine Coon cat until the breed eventually reached championship status with the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1976. After this gain in status and a string of show victories, the Maine Coon became increasingly popular. 

The Maine Coon remains a popular breed of cat today and has been the official State Cat of Maine since 1985.