The Maine Coon is a large domesticated cat breed. It has a distinctive physical appearance and valuable hunting skills. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America. The breed originated in the U.S. state of Maine, where it is the official state cat.
No records of the Maine Coon's exact origins and date of introduction to the United States exist, so several competing hypotheses have been suggested, the most credible suggestion being that it is closely related to the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Siberian. The breed was popular in cat shows in the late 19th century, but its existence became threatened when long-haired breeds from overseas were introduced in the early 20th century. The Maine Coon has since made a comeback and is now the third most popular pedigreed cat breed in the world.
The Maine Coon is a large and sociable cat, hence its nickname, "the gentle giant." It is characterized by a prominent ruff along its chest, robust bone structure, rectangular body shape, an uneven two-layered coat with longer guard hairs over a silky satin undercoat, and a long, bushy tail. Maine coons come in a variety of colors and patterns. You can find solid white, cream, red, blue, and black Maine coons, as well as tabby, bi-color, particolor, tortoiseshell, shaded, and calico Maine coons.
The size of a typical Maine coon comes in at 10–16 inches tall and up to an impressive 40 inches in length. These sturdily built felines usually weigh 8–18 pounds and have muscular bodies with wide chests and solid legs. The coat is soft and silky, although texture may vary with coat color. The length is shorter on the head and shoulders and longer on the stomach and flanks, with some cats having a leonine ruff around their neck. Minimal grooming is required for the breed compared to other long-haired breeds, as their coat is mostly self-maintaining owing to a light-density undercoat. The coat is subject to seasonal variation, with the fur being thicker in the winter and thinner during the summer.
Prized for its intelligence and playful, gentle personality, the Maine Coon is often cited as having "dog-like" characteristics. Professionals notice certain health problems recurring in the breed, including feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia, but reputable breeders use modern screening methods to minimize the frequency of these problems.
Maine Coons possess above-average intelligence, making them relatively easy to train. They are known for being loyal to their family and cautious—but not mean—around strangers, but are independent and not clingy. The Maine Coon is generally not known for being a "lap cat," but their gentle disposition makes the breed relaxed around dogs, other cats, and children. Many Maine Coons have a fascination with water and some speculate that this personality trait comes from their ancestors, who were aboard ships for much of their lives. Maine Coons are also well known for being very vocal cats. They are known for their frequent yowling or howling, trilling, chirping, and making other loud vocalizations.