How to Select a Proper Maine Coon Cat

This is about selecting a proper Maine Coon cat. I have picked out five major Maine Coon appearance characteristics which should distinguish a genuine, pedigree Maine Coon from a Maine Coon mix, of which there are many on the market.

Also, some genuine, registered Maine Coons are not to type, meaning they have not been bred to the breed standard and don’t have what I consider to have the outstanding appearance traits of this top purebred cat. Breeders don’t always get it right. Under these circumstances, what you end up with is a cat that is very nice but which is hard to distinguish from a random bred cat.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love random bred cats. I love normal looking cats. The Maine Coon should not be extreme.

“a well proportioned and balanced appearance with no part of the cat being exaggerated” (CFA breed standard 2014)

This cat should be normal looking but with certain features, which give it its characteristic appearance.

For me these are the important characteristics to watch out for.

  1. Lynx tipped ears
  2. Square muzzle
  3. Shaggy medium long fur
  4. Long body (large cat)
  5. Plumed tail

I believe that Maine Coon breeders would concur with me in my selection. If not please leave a comment.

Lynx Tipped Ears

This is what the ears should look like. Don’t accept anything less!

Maine Coon lynx tipped ears
Maine Coon lynx tipped ears. Photo by foxypar4 (Flickr)
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The ears are large with a tuft of hair coming out of the tip, which makes the ear look larger. It is very similar to the wild cat species called the lynx hence the name. The cat in the photo also has a lot of fur in the ear flap. Breeders call ear fur “ear furnishings”.

Square Muzzle

I have chosen a comparison between the Maine Coon (MC) and Norwegian Forest Cat (NFC) to highlight the MC’s square muzzle because the muzzle of the NFC is relatively pointed but other than that these cat breeds are quite similar.

Maine Coon square muzzle
Maine Coon square muzzle. Photos copyright Helmi Flick.

Shaggy Coat

The breed standard is clear on this, “heavy and shaggy”. The coat shouldn’t be too tidy, too even or too short. The best picture I have to show this is quality is one that I took several years ago of Zak. You may know the picture. It is on Flickr. God, he is a beautiful cat. I love Zak. His coat is very shaggy and his personality is very sweet. His muzzle is to type as well.

Ken and Helmi Flick's Maine Coon Cat - ZAK
Maine Coon shaggy coat. Photo by Michael (PoC)

Long Body – (large cat)

Maine Coons are large, the largest purely domestic purebred, pedigree cat (as compared to the wild cat hybrids) but not all MCs are large especially the females but they tend to unfold into long bodied cats. This feature is embodied in the fact that the so called world’s longest domestic cat is a Maine Coon named “Stewie“. The point is made but to be honest I have seen longer Maine Coons.

Stewie - Maine Coon cat - longest domestic cat
Stewie – Maine Coon cat – longest domestic cat

And below is a Maine Coon I jokingly called “the world’s tallest domestic cat“. You can see why!

Plumed Tail

Watch for this one. The great pictures of cat tails have been taken by Helmi Flick and the best tail of all is on Creme Soda but only just as there are other super “MC Tails”. The term “plumed tail” speaks for itself. The breed standard simply says: “long, wide at base and tapering. Fur long and flowing”.

Maine Coon cat

Make sure that the MC you see has these features and even if he or she doesn’t have papers (registration documentation) you can be fairly confident you are looking at a true Maine Coon cat. I rank this cat the most popular domestic cat in the world even beating the Persian.

These are my tests for a proper Maine Coon. What are yours?

Note: I have deliberately avoided discussing personality traits in this post. It is about appearance.

16 thoughts on “How to Select a Proper Maine Coon Cat”

  1. The Maine Coon should have a rectangular body under that body you should be able to see another rectangle. The muzzle is a square muzzle with a strong chin, not one that is sliding under the upper jaw. Eyes are almond shape and expressive, ears large and one ear span apart. Lynx tips are nice but not required. Ear tuftin is the fur that is in front of the ear that came about from the cold winds in Maine during the winters the shaggy coat is also a product of the harsh winters shorter on the top and gets longer as it reaches the tummy, toe tuffs are for the same thing Keep the toes warm and easier walking. The plummed tail is for wrapping around and keep warm during napping. This is a working cat and the boning and the strong muzzle was put to good use keep rodants under control. Their bit is powerful. Mother nature built them this way and only the strongest and fittest survived. They have a very gentle personality and can be goofy and silly. As a breeder not all kittens are up to standard, genetics play an important part in breeding. Not every kitten is a show or breeder cat, but that does not make it less of a Maine Coon. The only true way is if the breeder (and every breeder does) register the litter and then they or the new parents register the kittens. Not every Maine Coon is a giant,or every one has the desired look they want in a show hall or breeding program. The only true way you are sure is asking the breeder and making sure you get the proper paper work. I have seen kittens with no coat develop a coat after they turned 3 years old and wondered why I didn’t keep it. Every breeder I know has contracts and health garunettes that you and they sign. You can go by the standards but when looking at a kitten it can look like a normal long hair kitten. Again registration papers of the parents and kitten and the pedigree is what is going to tell you if you are getting a Maine Coon Kitten. If the breeder can not produce them and show you them then I would ask them to find them and show you. Yes there are back yard breeders who do breed them and other breeds and ask if they have been tested and shown I am sure Jo will be willing to give a list of questions to ask. I know as a breeder I have a list of questions I ask when people are inquiring to purchase one of my kittens. That is enough for now I can keep on going. LOL! I do have to say I love my rescues and work with several rescue groups with the cat clubs I belong to and also raising money to purchase oxygen mask for small animals for the local fire departments. In the fancy we are more about the health and well being of the felines society on a whole not just pedigree cats.

  2. i would love so much to have a main coon but know its out of my reach unless like dw said it came on my property and wanted to stay here. I just love their tails and ears and they so beautiful.

  3. The pictures are very attractive and really well chosen to show the characteristics. Our boy Maine Coon Ozzie is in possession of all of the above but even if he wasn’t it really wouldn’t make any difference because I couldn’t love him more šŸ™‚ Btw I love random bred cats as well of which I have 2 but I’ve always loved Maine Coons ever since we stumbled upon a Maine Coon cat show when we were out for the day many years ago.

    • All genuine Maine Coons will be registered with a cat association so check that. That is the ultimate test but my article asks are they proper Maine Coons in their appearance? You don’t want a registered Maine Coon that looks like a moggie. Also a lot of Maine Coons are not bought from breeders. Appearance is a good check in these circumstances. Thanks for asking.

    • A Maine Coon Breeder has their cattery registered with one of the Cat Association or more I am registered with CFA and TICA. All of my cats are registered in one and maybe both. Just looking at a cat you can not tell because a Maine Coon was a domestic long hair cat before it was except as a breed. You can not tell by just looking at them according to the standards. How many people have been told by a vet or shelter that a cat or kitten is a Maine Coon. No shelter or vet has been trained to look at a cat and tell you what breed it is. Genetic testing hasn’t been able to tell what breed it is just what part of the world it is from I think. So looking and trusting say so is not the way to find out. Ask about the cattery being registered, the parents being registered, and the kittens. Ask to see the pedigree of the kitten in question, most breeders have invested in a program to produce their cats pedigree and use them when mating. Not every kitten will be perfect and on that note no cat is perfect match to the standard of the breed. Shows are to judge what cat is closest to the breed stand at that show because the next week or month they cat may grown and change some and be thrown out of balance and come back later after maturing more and be what they are looking for in the breed. Yes I am passionate about the breed it is the most natural breed to me, with the look and personality I love.

      • Thank you for your comment. I agree that registration is the only certain way of knowing whether a cat is purebred or not. However, my article was really about whether the cat that a person is buying from a breeder is a good quality Maine Coon cat. And sometimes, there are a pedigree cats at shelters. There are no papers. There is no registration to check. As a result, people have to rely on the appearance of the cat and my article helps them to decide whether the cat is a genuine Maine Coon or not. Also, not all breeders breed to a good standard and a person does not want to buy a pedigree cat that does not have the classic Maine Coon appearance. Also, there are unscrupulous people who might say that they have a Maine Coon cats to sell. They have lost the registration papers. My article helps these people to decide whether the cat that they are looking at is a true Maine Coon cat.

  4. I would love to have a MC one day. What are the chances of one walking up to my house and saying “Hi, I want to live here now, thank you.”? Not likely. I don’t expect to get a cat any other way than that.

    Helmi takes the best photographs of cats. The strong jaw on the Maine Coon is striking.


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