Maine Coon Cats: Maine's Gift to Cat Lovers
By Lisa J. Lehr  

Maine coon cats are an
American classic, a
contribution to our
history and culture
that only Maine could
provide. This hardy,
handsome breed of
domestic cat was
established at least
150 years ago, and its
unique characteristics
developed as it adapted
to Maine's own unique
characteristics. And as
America has become
a nation of animal
lovers, the Maine
coon has only become
more appreciated.

Maine Coon: One of
Oldest Cat Breeds in
North America

Maine coons are one
of the oldest natural
breeds in North America
and are regarded as a
native of Maine.

"Around the origins of the Maine Coon cat swirls a fog of legend and conjecture
as obscuring to reality as the fogs of its homeland," says Marilis Hornidge in
That Yankee Cat -- the Maine Coon. "Of the many legendary tales of the Coon cat's
beginnings, the one most completely discredited is the best known, the mating
of the raccoon and the domestic house cat. This is, of course, a physical
impossibility."

Most Maine coon breeders
believe that the breed originated from matings
between pre-existing
short haired domestic cats and long haired types
brought to America from
overseas by New England seamen or by Vikings. We
know from history that
the old sailing ships kept cats for rodent control,
and Maine was a
commerce area, so it is not difficult to imagine how this could
happen.

Maine coons are tall,
muscular, big-boned cats, with a long,rectangular body and
deep chest. Males commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds; females, normally about
nine to 12; they may continue to grow until three to five years of age. They have
long muzzles and long teeth. All of these traits would have given them an
advantage against competitors as well as predators.

A Cat Well-Suited for New England Weather

Maine coons, with their heavy coats, are well suited to the harsh New England
winters. Adult Maine coons have a three-layer coat; in winter, their undercoats
thicken. They have long guard hairs to keep off the snow and repel water, and a
long, bushy tail to wrap around themselves for warmth. Maine coons have large,
furry feet (all the better for walking on snow); furry, tufted ears that stay warm
against the cold; and extremely long whiskers, which help them stay clear of
brush that may entangle their long fur.

According to the Maine.gov website, "Maine coons' voices set them apart from
other cats; they have a distinctive, chirping trill."

Initially appreciated for their rodent hunting skills, they were also highly
admired by the families of Maine for their friendly personalities and high
intelligence, and began to take on an important role as pets. As they became a
more important part of New England culture, it became a popular pastime for
families to admire, pamper, and brag about their cats.

In the mid-19th century, the Maine coon became a special exhibit at many county
fairs in Maine, thus becoming America's very first "show cat."

Maine coons come in almost all colors; although the classic brown tabby may be
the first that comes to mind, they can be red tabby, silver tabby, tortoiseshell,
black and white -- almost anything except the Siamese pattern and a few others.

As Cat Fancy Magazine says, "Maine coons are a furry piece of American
history."

About the author: Lisa J. Lehr is a freelance writer and Internet marketer specializing in
direct response and marketing collateral. She holds a biology degree and has worked in a
variety of fields, including the pharmaceutical industry and teaching, and has a particular
interest in health, pets, and conservative issues.
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