By Dr. Becker
Maine Coon cats are one of the most popular cat breeds in the US, which is fitting since they're also one of the oldest natural breeds in America. Maine Coons are said to be native to the state of Maine (where they're also the official state cat), but how they originated remains a mystery.
One theory holds that this large, hearty cat developed from matings between a wild cat and a raccoon, but this is a myth. Another theory suggests the first Maine Coon belonged to Marie Antoinette, who sent him (along with five other pet cats) to America during the French Revolution, when she was planning to escape from France.1
The third, and most plausible, theory is that Maine Coons originated from matings between short-haired domestic cats and longhairs that were introduced to America by New England seamen or Vikings (who often kept cats on their ships to control mice).2
No matter how they came to be, Maine Coons have been adored for centuries and they quickly find a forever place in their owner's heart. These cats are sometimes called "dogs of the cat world" because they're loyal, playful, and, unlike many other cat breeds, prefer to stay close to the ground and often enjoy water.3 What else is interesting about these "gentle giants"?4
10 Fascinating Facts About Maine Coons
1. Biggest Domestic Cat — Maine Coons are the largest domestic cat breed. They're big boned and muscular, with males weighing up to 18 pounds. Maine Coons can be up to 40 inches in length and come in 75 different color combinations. They're also called the American Longhair.
2. The Only Show Cat Breed Originating in the US — As mentioned, the Maine Coon is thought to be the result of breeding between domestic shorthair cats and longhair cats that hitched a ride to America on European settlers' ships. Only the strongest and fittest could survive the harsh New England winters, and to this day Maine Coons are known as hearty working cats with excellent hunting skills.
3. They're Ready for Winter — As Maine Coons adapted to life on the east coast, they have long, shaggy multi-layered fur and large paws that help them walk on the snow. They also have furry ears (some with tufts) and bushy tails, which they can actually wrap around their body for extra warmth.
4. "Dogs of the Cat World" — Maine Coons tend to be highly social and like human interaction. They're known for being friendly, loyal, and playful, and they typically get along well with children and other pets. They can even play fetch and be walked on a leash!
5. They Chirp and Trill — Maine Coons don't typically "meow;" they chirp and trill (a mixture of a meow and a purr). Cats may chirp when they spot prey and a trill is often an expression of happiness.
6. They Like Water — Most Maine Coons enjoy the water. They have water-resistant fur and can be quite efficient swimmers.
7. Coon's Cats — Another theory for how Maine Coons got their name is that they are descendants of seafaring cats belonging to British Captain Charles Coon, who sailed off of New England in the 1800s. The cats were said to be called "Coon's cats."
8. Related to Norwegian Forest Cats? — Yet another theory about Maine Coons' origins states that they came to America with the Vikings, which is why they resemble Norwegian Forest Cats.
9. They're Not Related to Raccoons — As mentioned, there's a myth that Maine Coons are related to raccoons, but this is not true.
10. Winner of the First American Cat Show — he first American cat show was held in New York City in 1895. The winner was a brown tabby Maine Coon cat named Cosey, who belonged to Mrs. E. N. Barker.
Hear a Maine Coon Cat Croon!
Did you know that Maine Coon cats can sing too? Check out Max in the video above to see a Maine Coon cat in all his glory! If you're thinking of adding a Maine Coon cat to your family, be warned – they're expensive. The average price for is $1,000.
Another option? Apply to one of the many Maine Coon rescue organizations for your new friend. They exist across the US, and adoption fees typically range from about $115 to $300 (or even less for a senior) and may be far less at animal control facilities. And don't be alarmed if your Maine Coon doesn't start out very large. Like the Manx, Maine Coons are slow growers and may not reach their full size until they are 3 to 5 years old.