This is an alternative view on the subject of Maine Coon characteristics, which refers to notable aspects of the cat’s physical appearance and her/his personality. The entire internet is chock-a-block with conventional descriptions of the characteristics of the Maine Coon. One article feeds the other. It is article inbreeding 😉 The way that the internet works for publishers is interesting. There will be one nice article on this cat and someone uses it as a source. Then someone else uses the second article and so on, ad infinitum, until the internet has almost created fact from fiction.
Maine Coon cats are selectively bred. That is common knowledge but in the early days of the Maine Coon – the mid 1800s – this cat was a shaggy, long haired barn cat and mouser that was shown at the odd farm show. These cats would not have had the same characteristics as today’s Maine Coons.
For instance, one of the defining characteristics of this most popular cat breed is the tufted ears. You’ll see huge, long ear tufts growing out of the apex of the ear flap making the ear look larger and almost pointed. The tufts are very similar to those seen on the wild cat species called the lynx and bobcat.
The original Maine Coons would have had ear tufts because all cats have ear cats to varying degrees. Sometimes you can barely see them but as hair grows on the ear it has to protrude beyond the boundary of the ear at its apex forming a tuft.
The modern, impressive and striking Maine Coon ear tufts have been created through careful selective breeding, following the breed standard:
EARS: Shape: large, well-tufted, wide at base, tapering to appear pointed.
The standard encourages the large triangular appearance and the ear tufts add the point at the top of the triangle.
So, one major modern characteristic is the ear tufts. At the other extremity the shaggy fur between the toes that sometimes splashes out at all angles is also noticeable. Long furred cats will have toe hair like this. The Persian has the same fur between the toes.
Another characteristic that is “stand out” is the muzzle. This can be quite pronounced and square. It gives the cat a strong, solid appearance. More masculine really. The CFA breed standard demands that the muzzle/chin be “visibly square”. Well, you’ll see a lot of that on this cat.
The tail is simply outstanding. Plumed perfection. The best tail in the whole world belongs to a Maine Coon: Creme Soda.
The ruff is another defining feature of this cat. It is a shaggy one like the rest of the coat but you’ll barely see it on some cats.
It should be said that breed standards are not scientific works. They allow some variations in interpretations and this has been exploited by the cat associations. TICA prefer a more wild looking or natural Maine Coon, while the CFA prefer a more refined or dressed up cat that you could argue is less natural. These are the world’s most important cat associations and they have a different perspective on matters. TICA are content to register wild cat hybrids while the CFA stick to the more conventional cat fancy. The CFA’s attitude towards the heavily, selectively bred Persian illustrates their attitude.
Another important physical characteristic of the Maine Coon is the cat’s size. On my reckoning this is the world’s largest purely domestic cat (i.e. non-wild cat hybrid). That said there is some exaggeration on the internet. There may be some exceptionally large Maine Coons but in general you can consider this cat to be large, yes, but 25 pound Maine Coons are rare, surely. You will see very large moggies in equal numbers. However, the Maine Coon is bred to be a large cat.
The word that best describes another characteristic – the coat – is “shaggy” – a messed up appearance. This is more natural and respectful of the cat’s heritage as a farm, barn cat, living a functional life in all weathers. Some people believe the tabby coat best suits the Maine Coon for this reason. The tabby coat is the most natural and most functional of all the coat types. Brown tabby and white looks wonderful on this cat. Although the associations allow a huge range of coat types and colors.
What about the voice? People say the MC chirrups and makes unusual sounds. Some do and some don’t. My moggie makes some pretty unusual sounds too. We should be careful not to brand all MCs the same. Cats are not manufactured like machinery in a factory. Individuality means that Maine Coons are domestic cats before being a cat breed.
Which brings me nicely to personality. Once again the conventional writers about cat breeds will repeat what the cat associations put out on the internet. In truth one can only describe the domestic cat while respecting the fact that all cats have their own individual personalities.
The mainstream view is that this cat breed is relaxed and easygoing, well able to get along with children and dogs. They are people orientated and not overdependent. Are we describing the domestic cat? Yes, we are really.
When conventional cat writers describe cat breed personality the language is vague and generalized. It has to be because it is impossibly to breed hard, distinguishing personality characteristics into cat breeds. There are too many variables: socialisation, neutering, life experiences and the genetics of personality are beyond the fine control of cat breeds. There will be some traits because breeders will select for appearance primarily and personality but we have to accept that it is unreasonable to describe the personality of an entire cat breed.