Playful Maine Coons Delight Owners: Large, Furry
Cats are a Breed Apart

By Dan Schlossberg

Maine Coons are a strange breed of cat. They are big, with enormously
thick tails and personalities to match. They are also the most canine-like of
the feline species.

They are natives of Maine and look the part, with more than enough fur --
some sticking out of their oversized ears -- to keep warm in the state's
snowy winters. With the exception of their voices, which minimize the
traditional feline meow to favor a mixture of chirps and trills, everything
about them is big.

Although full-grown females usually weight about 12-15 pounds, adult
Maine Coons can weigh over 25 pounds. Their long bushy tails suggest
household brushes and their thick layers of water-resistant fur seem ideal
for the harsh winters of Northern New England. The always-alert cats have
big ears and big eyes that respond to any noise or movement. They love to
play, especially with anything bright, shiny, or mouse-shaped, and love to
be close to their human owners.

The Coon is a Rare Breed: a Cat that Loves Water

Unlike virtually all "normal" cats, Maine Coons love water. They are known
for turning their waterbowls into public baths, splashing around or even
washing their toys (hence the similarity to raccoons, who are known for
washing their food before eating it).

Maine Coons don't drink like other domestic pets; they dip their paws in
their bowls, stir the water around, and eventually quench their thirst by
licking their feet.

Although it may take them five years to reach their full size, these unusual
cats remain kittens-at-heart forever. Like babies, Maine Coons like
unlimited attention. Humans can nuzzle with them without worry of
receiving bites or scratches in return.

The breed is so popular that it has inspired associations of admirers as
well as books. The Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association,
founded in 1968, produces a quarterly magazine appropriately called The
Scratch Sheet. The most popular Maine Coon book, now in its third
edition, is That Yankee Cat, the Maine Coon by Marilis Hornidge (Tilbury
House). It is loaded with illustrations, anecdotes, and tips on care and

Another group, the Maine Coon Cat Club, started up in 1973 and secured
provisional recognition of the breed by the Cat Fanciers Association.
According to the CFA, the Maine Coon, which became the official Maine
state cat in 1985, is now the second most popular cat breed in the United

Maine Coons come in a variety of colors; a black-and-white Maine Coon
named Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines was the subject of an 1861
article by F.R. Pierce, one of its owners. That story was the first recorded
mention of Maine Coons in literature, although the breed received plenty of
press coverage after a Maine Coon named Cosey won Best in Show at the
the first North American cat show, held at New York's Madison Square
Garden, in 1895.

Even the Guinness Book of World Records has recognized the breed: a
35-pound Maine Coon that measured 48 inches long from tip of nose to
end of tail was called "the world's longest cat" in 2006. That cat's name
was so long that it had a nickname: Leo. Officially, the animal was known
as Verismo Leonetti Reserve Red. For anyone who wants to know, Leo
was breast-fed and both parents were also oversized.

Breed's Origin Still Shrouded in Mystery

There's still some controversy over the origin of the breed. Most cat
historians consider them the product of matches between domestic
short-hairs and longhairs imported from Europe. Some cat lovers even
credit Marie Antoinette for sending her six pet felines to Wiscasset, Maine
during the French Revolution.

They obviously fared better than she did.

Earlier in their history, only brown tabbies were called Maine Coons while
their relatives of other colors were called Maine Shags. That separation
disappeared into the dustbin of cat history, replaced by the
all-encompassing title we know today.

Although Maine Coons retained their popularity in New England, cat lovers
in other regions preferred Persians for much of the 20th century. That
sentiment started to swing the other way after the formation of associations
to promote the bushy-tailed breed.

Lively Maine Coons Thrive in New Jersey

Liz and Lola, a pair of precocious five-year-old females living in Northern
New Jersey, are not sisters. But they act otherwise -- competing for the
affection of their owners, sharing food and water bowls, and sleeping in
side-by-side cat beds just big enough to accommodate them. They have
occasional fights, complete with hissing, but also groom each other rather

Until recently, they begged only for their own dry food -- and cat treats --
but that was before somebody offered Liz a taste of chicken. Now she
rushes to occupy any empty chair at the kitchen table and examines any
piece of food with a pair of desirous eyes. Keys, napkins, forks, and other
shiny objects are also fair game for a swift paw-swipe.

Maine Coons Come in All Sizes and Colors

Liz, whose actual given name is Liz Smith, has calico coloring, with a white
chest and white paws, while the rolly-polly Lola looks amazingly like Bert
Lahr, the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz. The former, in true Maine
Coon fashion, doesn't meow much but definitely has a voice that ranges
from soft meows to outright yowls. Lola, on the other hand, carries on
regular conversations, vocally demanding to be petted and also purring
with delight when her owner obliges. She constantly wants more food
(explaining her girth) and isn't afraid to say so.

Lola also has learned that 6:30 is wakeup-for-work time. The problem is
that she hasn't yet figured out why that works for five days a week but is
bad on the other two days. She also depends upon the sun to tell time, so
she's not reliable on cloudy, overcast, or stormy mornings.

These Cats have Definite but Different Personalities

Both cats have definite personalities. Liz is a jumper;
she loves to land on the window sill and stare at the
outside world. She seems to be watching "Bird TV" --
not surprising for a cat who also loves regular TV. She
has a habit of jumping on the blue living-room chair,
propping her front paws on the armrest, and staring at
the flat-screen television. She even has likes and
dislikes, with the action-show 24 at the low end of her
spectrum (she hates the constant shooting, screaming,
and general mayhem).

Lola is a jumper too: she likes to jump on anyone
trying to read, eat, drink, or watch TV and then start
climbing so that her massive and furry form is smack
against the nose, mouth, and eyes of the human victim.

Their owners insist that Liz and Lola are delightful --
and fine ambassadors for the Maine Coon breed.

Read more at Suite101: Playful Maine Coons Delight
Owners: Large, Furry Cats are a Breed Apart |