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Mainecoon -Myth and Reality.Article for magazine of the "Cats - info" Commonwealth of owners and fans of breed, translation - Slutskaya Etery

Maine-Coon… the largest household cat in the world, well known in USA (country of origin), in Europe and now becomes more and more popular in Russia.

If you came to cat show you always could see a huge line of visitors, and they look at something special – you should know – it is Maine-Coon they are watching!

Wild nature charm, nobility, stern glance of a real “forest” cat, huge size – all Maine-coon appearance is magical, he could bewitch you, he makes you freeze in silent delight, and makes visitors who have seen Maine-Coon come to cat shows again and again, standing and looking at him with never ending tender, he makes them to adore him, try to touch him, also if they are lucky and Maine-Coon owner could trust them this magical treasure they can hold him tight to feel soft fluffy coat… they went away and then turn back again. All of them feel something like fever “Maine-coon mania”, and then this feeling could grows into clear perception: Maine-Coon is the only one cat they need and they can’t live without him…

The popularity of Maine-Coon, paucity, high prices for kittens, professional information deficit, all of this makes Maine-Coon myths, legends and hearsays about their appearance, character, and surely, about their size and weight! Often this information (even if it unconfirmed) we can hear from the radio, see on TV, read in newspapers, and the most sadly that sometimes breeders of Maine-Coon extends that myths just for rush and high demand for kittens L

That is why we decided to start from things Maine-Coon will never be:

- Maine-Coon is NOT a child of raccoon and wild cat

- Maine-Coon is NOT a lynx subspecies

- Maine-Coon and Cane Cat is NOT the same

- Maine-Coon will never be weigh 25-30 kg.

- Maine-Coon has NO aggressive or angry character and his owners will have no chance to buy a predator.

- Maine-Coon is JUST A CAT and he could NOT guard your house instead of dog.

- Wild Maine-Coons will never be running through USA forests and fields

So now we have to return a verdict: Who is Maine-Coon? Where he came from? What character he has in reality?

Maine-Coon cat used to live in farms to fight with great amount of rodents.

This is the first cat who was introduced on USA Cat Show in the end of XIX century. And this is the time when official Maine-Coon story has begun. The earlier chronicles is a real mystery.

Maine-Coon appeared on American continent long-long ago, supposedly with first European settler’s ships. All the rest is a legend area J about”that cats” who interbreed with North American Lynx (the forcible argument is a ravishing lynx tips on their ears) or actually with a raccoon (to this version benefit was lead “Coon” from “raccoon” plus long fluffy tail and coat color that reminds raccoon color). Versions are extremely romantic and attractive, but groundless because of impossible inbreeding between different species.

One of those legends narrates about Maria-Antoinette’s role in Maine-Coon appearance. Captain Samuel was trying hard to prepare escape of disgraced Queen from France in 1793. The ship was full of things what Queen (well known luxury admirer) took on board: luxury furniture, expensive trifles and six adorable cats, mostly Persian and Angora. But the fate was differently… Queen escape was not success, she was executed and the captain was to run away because of pursuit. And this was the way Maria-Antoinette cat’s appearance in American continent. There they found a new home and was accepted to shorthair cats community.

Another legend, but a little bit less of romantic, narrates about one English captain called “Raccoon”, he was famous because of he adore cats and have never been to cruise without his purring retinue. It was a lot of expensive cats on board of his ship, mostly Persian and Angora. The captain moved to American shore and the kittens of his lovely cats called “kittens from a Raccoon”.

All this stories are legends, but we surely could say that Maine-Coon appearance on American continent was concerned with economical development of America. First settlers were very poor and they were attended with ordinary shorthair cats. But as long as their country becomes more attractive, well-off people started to settle there and brought with them expensive longhair cats.

And mainly that cat ancestors started to live in Eastern coast and surely the most viable and enduring individuals could survive.

Only cats with long strong paws could survive in cold and snowy winter. Their paws remind a snow-shoe, their ears were covered by coat brushes, and their coat was long to protect them from cold. But the true reassure of Maine-Coon is their tail. Supposedly this fluffy quilt all cats needed for not to congeal.

In those times the lovely amusements of farmers were fairs with different contests: contests of cowboys, dog or rooster battles and horse racing. But all this was not enough for the fantasy of cowboys. American citizens tried to grow up the biggest fruit, the biggest bull or… the biggest cat. During the 1850-1860 these kinds of contests were very popular and farmers made special cat show on “Skowhegan Fair” where Maine-Coon ancestors contended for the title “Maine State Champion Coon Cat”. It is possible, that mainly that fair gave a first stimulus for breeding – competitive farmers pressed towards to breed the largest cat.

As American continent territory was developed, Maine-Coon became a lovely farmer’s cat. The real American farm cat has to be very healthy, has to be able to find a food and also has to be quick-witted. The real (not mythological) size of Maine-Coon is: males – 6-10 kg., rare boys (mostly neutered) have a chance to become 10-13 kg., the females used to weigh 4-6 kg., rarely 7-8 kg.

Maine-Coon special fabulous character could be portrays very long… but:

Maine-Coon is very kind, steady and friendly, very curious and trustful like a child. This cat is a friend, a companion. On the other hand he could never leave you alone, he is always beside you, every time and everywhere. The majority of Maine-Coons don’t like to seat on your knees or hands, by the way, even if you have a great intention to put Maine-Coon with a great comfort on your knees – it’s not so simple thing to do, but he’ll prefer to seat near, he likes to watch TV with you, he will help you to prepare your dinner (by watching for ingredients you are using in soup), also they likes a PC, the lovely place to lay is a computer table, so you’ll have no place for keyboard J

They are very intelligent, they has their own inside tact, they can always appreciate their own and yours freedom, they will never impose you their games, but will be happy to take part if you really want to play.

Else one pleasant peculiarity of Maine-Coon is his voice! They practically can’t meow, they used to curring it souns like a tender rumbling. Especialy interesting sounds we can here when there are not only one Maine-Coon at home – when they talking together. You can close our eyes and imagine that you are in savannah at night.

...also maine-Coon have their typical habit – to rake water in the bowl when they are going to drink, they can dig around or directly in the water and it looks like they try to drive away something. Supposedly this habit is the consiquences of living in the farm, `cause there they have to drive away dry leaves or twigs from the water inthe rivers and brooks.

...they used to sleep in cold places, they don’t like a warm bedding and tight houses, so if they have no chance to sleep in open-air they will prefer not to sleep with you in your bed but to sleep in cool bathroom (preferably in sink) or on the windowsill.

Now in Russia we have a lot of Maine-Coons, on the large cat shows we used to have 20-30 Maine-Coons. Ofcourse it’s very far from USA or Europe results, where Maine-Coons are very popular.

Show fever takes it start from the beginning of XX century. Cat shows was every week in many cities goes through all American continent. In the same time CFA started to count first articles about Maine-Coon breeding. The selection was very careful. The preference of the breed was its multiplicity and all color division’s acceptance for the registration moment. It means that all longhair cats were in breeding.

Breeders has no aspiration to change something in this perfect cats, just to keep maine-Coon in his natural beauty, that’s why on the first stage they tried not to inbreed cats, and this is the reason of good health and psychological resistance of Maine-Coons. By the way psychological resistance of Maine-Coons is exciting! But it’s easy to explaine – breeders tried to find animals who were kind and attentive to people. This aspiration is understood if we remember Maine-Coon size J to keep at home or show agressive Maine-Coon is practically impossible. So maine-Coon is the only one breed what was choosen not only visually but in accordance with perfect temperament.

Maine-Coon like an independent breed exists about 150 years. But as time goes by there were a rises and falls. Maine-Coon sparkling show career crashed down in 1911, when they were added to simple household cats. Some following decades was the time of oblivion and decadence. In the end of 50-th maine-Coon breed was admitted as a lost breed, but this news were slightly overstated.

In the beginning of 1950 “Maine Central Cat Club” and this club started to indulge in Maine-Coon again. But only in 1975 Maine-Coon became a temporary breed, and then on 1st of May 1976 this status was changed to Champion Status.

On 1st of May 1976 is a new birthday of Maine-Coon. The popularity of this cat grows better with every year and now this is the second place in the rank of most popular cats in America. In Europe Maine-Coon received their Champion Status in 1994 and during this 12 years their popularity is growing up, in the countries of Europe there are about several thousand of Maine-Coon catteries!

What can we say about “new” Maine-Coons? What is the tendency of modern breeders work? What is the type we can see on cat shows – if it’s the same old Maine-Coon from American farm or may be something new? May be new MC has nothing to compare with old well known breed?

Today we can see the difference in MC type. This is, mostly, caused by different bloodlines used in different catteries, cat’s look totally like nothing to compare, but all of them suits a criterion of MC standard and a lot of cats used to obtains for a high titles and prizes. The difference we can see in the past few years, when some breeders who already reached a wonderful coat or perfect size started to work on new MC type. If it’s possible to find a books with MC photos at last for a 20 years - we can see that MC becomes more extreme – their body becomes longer, their ears become larger and the mill of them is going to be very high, also new MC has a very strong muzzle and chin – this is the detail what made MC cognate cat. Sometimes when MC body becomes longer it could make an effect of “light bones” and in this case breeders have to return to ancestors lines to obtain a balance. In some MC pedigrees we can see that in the beginning it was a sequence of inbreeding with out breeding (what brings fresh bloodlines to enlarge MC kittens’ size).

In Russia we have 20-30 MC breeders who work with MC, mostly breeders are very young, their catteries were created in 2-3 past years, but some catteries are working about 10 years. In breeding programs they have different bloodlines and geography of MC ancestors is very wide - America, Denmark, Netherlands, Poland, Finland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Great Britain, South Africa… breeders tries to bring perfect cats, they are in love with MC, and they do their best for lovely cats. If somebody wants to buy a kitten or have an intention to create a cattery even now they have a great selection. But only one counsel to future owners: you have to be serious and responsible. Up-to-day Maine-Coons is not a myth, they are real and this is the result of professional breeders’ work, when you choosing your future kitten you have to know the truth about MC, their real story!

You’d better come to cat shows, talk to breeders and owners; watch catteries sites – there you may find information about kitten-minding, caress. Please don’t hesitate to ask breeder about MC, think about future! And only after that you’ll be blessed by warm and tender love and friendship not only biggest cat, but the most beautiful cat, YOUR lovely cat!

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