The Maine Coon is a breed of medium-haired cat native of the state of Maine in the United States. This rustic-looking cat is characterized by its large size, its plumed tail, its square muzzle, its ears with plumes and its mid-length coat. He is one of the largest breeds of domestic cats to date.
The Maine Coon is possibly one of the oldest natural breeds in North America. Several legends describe the origins of the breed. Between cats and raccoons (colloquially coon in English short for racoon), which would explain their color (the most common is the brown tabby, that is to say brown tabby) and their very bushy tail. Of course, it is genetically impossible to achieve such a hybrid, but the breed keeps its name from this legend.
The second argues that the Maine Coon is a descendant of the six Angora cats sent by Marie Antoinette of Austria as she prepared her escape to escape the French Revolution. These angoras were reportedly brought to Captain Samuel Clough’s boat Sally from Wiscasset along with the Queen’s other personal effects. The Angoras would then have mingled with local farm cats to give birth to the Maine Coon.
Another theory suggests that the breed developed from a cross between local farm cats and other long-haired or semi-long haired cats first imported by the Vikings around the year 1000. Maine Coon would then descend from the Norwegian Forest Cat, which would explain their resemblance. This hypothesis is supported by the resemblance between Turkish van, Siberian, Norwegian and finally Maine Coon whose geographical origins correspond to the movements of the Vikings. This resemblance to Norwegian can also be explained by the fact that the winter climate of New England and that of Norway are identical and therefore would have led to the selection of the same physical specificities.
In the 19th century, Mrs. Pierce, one of the first owners of Maine Coons also hypothesized that these cats had arrived on the coasts of Maine by sea, not thanks to the Vikings, but rather by the wealthy families of Maine who owned then luxurious boats and traveled a lot. They would have brought back from their expeditions many exotic pets, especially to amuse the children. Ms. Pierce’s second hypothesis was that Angora cats were taken aboard merchant ships to hunt rats. Either way, they would have landed on the East Coast and mingled with local shorthair cats.
Another possibility is that they were imported by European immigrants and adapted to the living conditions and difficult climate of the region.
In 1860, the farmers of Maine, very proud of their cats, organized their own exhibitions to elect the champion. The first Maine Coon cited in the literature is a black and white male named Captain Jencks who belonged to Ms. Pierce. This dates back to 1861. A little later, in 1895, this large cat caused a sensation in Madison Square Garden during the first official exhibitions in the United States and it was also a female Maine Coon named Cosey who won the competition. . In 1897, a dozen Maine Coins were exhibiting in Boston. At the beginning of the 20th century, the popularity of the breed exceeded the East Coast and reached the West Coast of the United States, then gradually fell into oblivion since until 1950 the fashion was with the Persians and the Siamese, leaving many side the American giant. At the end of the 1940s, the Maine Coon breed was declared a bit quickly extinct. The breed’s popularity grew again when two breeders founded the Central Maine Coon Cat Club in 1953. Three years later, this club also wrote the first breed standard. The efforts pay off as in 1960 the breed regained its popularity.
The Maine Coon has been officially recognized since 1967 by the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) and the Canadian Cat Association (CCA). The Cat Fancier Association (CFA) was slow to recognize the breed which it refused on several occasions between 1969 and 1972. It was not until 1973 that the federation recognized the breed provisionally and 1976 for a definitive recognition. In the meantime, in 1972, the various existing standards were harmonized at national level.
The importation of the Maine Coon into France dates back to 1981, but the breed did not take off until the early 1990s and it was also around this time that Germany discovered it. The Federation Internationale Feline (FIFé) recognized the breed in 1983 and the Governing Council Of Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1986.
The Maine Coon’s body is long and rectangular with a broad chest and powerful musculature. The general silhouette must however remain balanced and without exaggeration. This feline is one of the largest cat breeds in the world. In 2006, the record for the longest cat in the world (121.9 cm) was held by a Maine Coon named Leo. This record was broken by another Maine Coon named Stewie. It weighs an average of 6 to 9 kg.
Males are larger (6 to 9 kg) than females (4 to 6 kg), or about twice the size of alley cats. To reach such a weight, their growth is slow and lasts several years (between three and five years).
The legs are strong, powerfully muscled and of medium length, accentuating the rectangular appearance of the figure. Between the front legs, the chest should be wide. The feet are large and round.
Polydactyly, however naturally present in some of the founding cats of the breed, is not recognized by the LOOF and the French standard specifies that a Maine Coon must have five fingers in the front and four in the back. A higher number of fingers is considered a serious and eliminatory defect in exposure. The American and Canadian associations accept this trait where it is even particularly sought after. It should also be noted a significant presence of tufts of hair between the fingers (inter-digital hairs), otherwise penalties are imposed.
The head is medium in size with prominent cheekbones. Seen in profile, the nose is slightly curved without being marked by a stop, on the other hand a small bump at the end of the nose is tolerated (“Bump”),too prominent, it is considered a defect. The muzzle is strong and square, which makes it a characteristic trait of the breed. If it is too short, too round or pointed, this is considered to be a penalizing defect in exposure. The eyes are large, oval and set at an angle well spaced from each other on the head. When a Maine Coon is paying attention, their eyes can appear rather round. The colors accepted are yellow, copper, green and gold in all shades and without necessarily having to do with the color of the dress. Wall eyes are accepted in Maine Coons white or with a certain amount of white.
The ears are large and broad at the base, carried high on the head. you should be able to count a base ear width between the two ears on an adult cat. They are only moderately pointed but tufts of hair at their ends (plumes) are highly sought after and desirable. Adult males exhibit a course characterized by an enlarged head that makes the ears appear smaller and lower.
Dress and fur :
The fur, of unequal length on the back and sides, is mid-length. It offers good natural protection. Hair of equal length all over the body is a defect. A ruff under the throat and panties are appreciated. The texture is silky and the undercoat is fine, but the fur should be as natural as possible. All traditional dresses (except the ticked tabby – according to feline federations and colourpoint – are accepted in all colors except chocolate, lilac, cinnamon (cinnamon) and fawn (fawn).
However, the most desirable coats are the brown blotched tabby and the brown mackerel tabby with or without white spots, these being particularly reminiscent of the wild aspect of the Maine Coon; then come the black silver tabby and the blue tabby or solid blue. In the uniform dresses we find more particularly black, blue or white Maine Coons.
Character traits are not described in the standards, they remain completely individual and depend on the history of each cat. According to the portrait in the Official Book of Feline Origins, the Maine Coon gets along well with everyone, even strangers and other animals, and can be gentle with children according to the LOOF portrait. He is attached to his family and to other animals, including dogs.
Like any cat of breed with significant inbreeding, some diseases can affect the Maine Coon, the main one being Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy HCM
This is a breed more predisposed than others to feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
In the Maine Coon, this disease is transmitted in most cases in an autosomal dominant mode, through a mutation of the MYBPC gene in the form HMC1, which is specific to the breed and which has been tested Specific DNA. The mobilization of Maine Coon breeders against this disease and their collaboration with cardiology laboratories will have enabled the implementation of this DNA test, the short-term objective of which is to eradicate this form of cardiomyopathy specific to Maine Coon and which represents 70% of known cases in the breed. However, it should be emphasized that this DNA test is not sufficient to confirm that a Maine Coon is free from cardiomyopathy and remains only a tool for the breeder: ultrasound follow-up with color Doppler and DTI remains absolutely essential in the monitoring of breeders.
Hip Dysplasia (HD)
Hip dysplasia can also affect the Maine Coon. This inherited disease is characterized by a malformation of the hip joints. Dyplasia causes painful damage to the joint that can lead to osteoarthritis.
We do not have many studies on this subject, but it seems that the breed is particularly affected, up to 20% for the American Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. The first case of dyplasia in cats was diagnosed in 1974 and it is not excluded that the over-selection of large size over the years has led to the appearance of more and more frequent cases of dysplasia, like this has been the case in recent decades in many large breeds of dogs. The malformation would develop in kittens from the age of six months and in 72% of cases it is bilateral. It would seem that it is hereditary with polygenic determinism and that it is also influenced by the environment of the cat (obesity and intense physical activity in particular).
Radiographic screening can be performed as early as the cat’s two years old. However, the exam is quite heavy since it is performed under general anesthesia with limbs attached in extension. This is the reason why many breeders are still reluctant to perform this test on their sires.
There is no treatment for this condition other than surgery to remove the malformed part of the femur. Drug treatment can be given to stop damage to cartilage or to temporarily relieve inflammation.
Other low-spectrum pathologies: SMA, PKD, PKdef.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), common in Persian cats, has long been wrongly associated with Maine Coon. This kidney disease, characterized by the development of fluid-filled cysts in the kidney tissue (and in the Persian and derived races also in the liver and pancreas), presents in the Maine Coon an as yet unclear mode of transmission, as well as a different appearance and progression. A retrospective study of 187 healthy Maine Coon cats documented a low incidence of these cysts (3.7%). The cysts were mainly simple and unilateral (6/7, 85.7%), small (3.6 mm in diameter)
and located at the cortico-medullary junction (4/6, 66.7%), therefore different in size, number and position of those observed in races derived from the Persian. In the same study, not only did the six Maine Coons with renal cysts test negative for the PKD1 mutation responsible for the disease in Persians, but genetic sequencing failed to demonstrate a genetic sequence common to these 6 cats. The presence of renal cysts, in the absence of other renal abnormalities, did not appear to have an impact on the quality of life of affected patients; those for whom follow-up was available were alive and reported healthy by their owner as adults. Although the exact nature and clinical significance of kidney cysts in Maine Coons have not yet been established, screening is still recommended as part of a reproductive program. Ultrasound remains the only valid test for the detection of renal cysts in this breed to this day.
The breed can also have spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). This disease, which remains extremely rare in Maine Coons, causes the neurons controlling the muscles to degenerate. It is transmitted genetically in an autosomal recessive fashion. Here too, there is a DNA screening test to detect mutations in the LIX1 gene, responsible for the disease.
Finally, PKdef – pyruvate kinase deficiency – (not to be confused with PKD which affects the kidney through the formation of renal cysts) is a
pathology of autosomal recessive genetic origin. It causes intermittent chronic regenerative hemolytic anemia. A DNA screening test exists and is recommended on breeding animals.