THE MAINE COON CAT

 

Breed Origin

There are many myths surrounding the Maine Coon cat, especially regarding its origins. The Maine Coon is America's original cat, that is, it is descended directly from the cats that were around during the time that New England was first settled. One myth is that the Maine Coon was derived from the mating of a raccoon and a wild feline. We know this is genetically impossible.

Another myth tells that these cats were descendant from Angora cats belonging to Marie Antoinette that were shipped to America for safekeeping during the French Revolution. Once they were here they mated with the native feline ferals to produce the Maine Coon breed.

Although no records are kept, the Maine Coon was well known in the east coast states by the end of the nineteenth century. Maine Coons were kept as mousers long before they became show cats, but were one of the earliest breeds seen at cat shows.

There are some things about the ancestors of the Maine Coons that are known to be true. Living conditions in New England were extremely harsh - cold weather arrived early and winters were severe with much snow. The cats adapted in order to survive these harsh winters - large sturdy frame, long shaggy coat for protection in the cold and very little undercoat to avoid matting. Big furry paws would function like snowshoes and furry ears to keep out the snow as well.

General Description

The Maine Coon is a rugged, muscular cat, one of the largest domestic breeds, with a broad chest and long back giving it a rectangular appearance. It is a mixture of elegance, wildness and gentleness. It is a medium hair cat with a shaggy coat, large ears and extremely long plume tail. Despite the coat being long and thick, it requires very little maintenance, and is water repellent so very little grooming is necessary. They are slow to mature - reaching full size between 3 to 5 years of age. Weights range between 4 to 6 kg for females and 8 to 10 kg for males. The Maine Coon has large tufted ears, high cheekbones, strong square muzzle, firm medium length legs with large tufted paws and long bushy tail. The ears should be set well apart on the top of the head with lynx tips and ear furnishings. The eyes are large and oval and set at a slight slant.

Temperament

The Maine Coon has a relaxed and easygoing temperament and they get on well with dogs and children. They are people oriented and often attach themselves to one "favourite" human. Generally they are not lap cats, but just like to hang out with their owners. They love to play in water with their front paws and most Maine Coon owners will spend time cleaning up endless puddles of water around the drinking water bowls. They have the most delightful quiet chirruping voice.

Maine Coons in South Africa

Maine Coons were first imported into South Africa in 1987. For fourteen years these cats provided the foundation of all South African breeding stock until it became obvious that the gene pool was becoming limited and breeders began to look elsewhere for new lines. Since 1995 many new lines have been imported - from USA, France, Netherlands, UK, Denmark, Austria, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Japan. These cats have strengthened the genetic pool and their offspring are doing well on the show bench.

Maine Coons were first exhibited in South Africa in 1987 and granted show status in 1993. In 1996 the Maine Coon Interest Group of South Africa was established to promote awareness of the breed, to encourage sound breeding programmes and to provide an information and communication forum for anyone interested in Maine Coons. The group is formally affiliated to the South African Cat Council (SACC) but members participate in both SACC and Cat Federation shows.

 

For more information, contact Vivian at shangrilacats@gmail.com