The Coon Cat
One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine (the Maine Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A native American longhaired cat the Maine Coon was recognized as a specific breed in Maine where they were held in high regard for their mousing talents. Through nature's own breeding program, this breed has developed into a sturdy cat ideally suited to the harsh winters and varied seasons of the region.
A number of legends surround its origin. A wide-spread, though biologically impossible belief is that it originated from matings between semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth, bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common colouring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) led to the adoption of the name Maine Coon. Originally, only brown tabbies were called Maine Coon Cats; cats of other colours were referred to as Maine Shags.
Another popular theory is that the Maine sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine., when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings). Interestingly, the breed closest to the Maine Coon is the Norwegian Forest Cat which, although geographically distant, evolved in much the same climate, and lends credence to the theory that some of the cats responsible for developing the Maine Coon were brought over by the Vikings.
First recorded in cat literature in 1861 with a mention of a black and white cat named "Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines". Maine Coons were popular competitors at early cat shows in Boston and New York. A brown tabby female named "Cosie" won Best Cat at the 1895 Madison Square Garden Show.
Maine Coons develop slowly, and don't achieve their full size until they are three to five years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish throughout their lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured cats. Even their voices set them apart from other cats; they have a distinctive, chirping trill which they use for everything from courting to cajoling their people into playing with them. Maine Coons love to play, and many will joyfully retrieve small items. They rarely miaow, and when they do, that soft, tiny voice doesn't fit their size.
While Maine Coons are highly people-oriented cats, they are not overly-dependent. They do not constantly pester you for attention, but prefer to "hang out" with their owners, investigating whatever activity you're involved in and "helping" when they can. They are not, as a general rule, known as "lap cats" but as with any personality trait there are a few Maine Coons that prefer laps. Most Maine Coons will stay close by, probably occupying the chair next to yours instead. Maines will follow you from room to room and wait outside a closed door for you to emerge. An office cat may require a bit of extra office cleaning, but is well worth the joy in a workplace.
A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but hardly ever your baby.
Maine Coons are relaxed and easy-going in just about everything they do. The males tend to be the clowns while the females retain more dignity, but both remain playful throughout their lives. The Maine Coon Cat is well known for its loving nature, kindly disposition and great intelligence. Maines are especially good with children, dogs and other cats and have always been a popular and sought after companion.
They are not as vertically-oriented as some other breeds, prefering to chase objects on the ground and grasping them in their large paws - no doubt instincts developed as professional mousers.
Although brown tabby remains the most popular pattern today, Miane Coons can wear coats of any colour except for solid chocolate, lavendar or pointed patterns.