Why are Maine Coons so big?

Maine Coons are big because (1) people want them to be big and (2) the cat fancy allows them to be big or demands it. But the number one cat association in America, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), state that this popular cat should be “medium to large” in size, which may surprise some people. Europe’s cat association, the World Cat Federation (WCF) demands that the cat is “large to very large”.

There is another reason: cold climates create cats with larger skeletons. The Maine Coon essentially originates in the north around Boston and in the state of Maine as barn cats. Cold winters. Larger size means the cat keeps warmer because the surface area to weight ratio is smaller. Less heat loss. But this small difference has been enhanced by selective breeding.

Maine Coon on white
Maine Coon on white. Image by ClaudiaWollesen Pixabay
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Historical they were not necessarily big

The original Maine Coons, those Maine barn cats in the middle of the 19th century called “Maine cats” were not big. Some individual cats may have been bigger than normal but then again some may have been smaller. They were pretty much standard medium-longhaired domestic cats imported from Europe 400 years earlier.

They were handsome cats and it was decided that one at least of them should be entered into the first American cat show. It won the top prize. The selective breeding of this cat since the middle of the 1800s to the present day has resulted in the gradual increase in size of this domestic cat. Why should this be?

The answer is because some Maine Coon cat breeders know that the public, the people who buy their cats, like big ones. Therefore their product becomes more marketable and they can ask more money for it. I use the word “it” deliberately because fundamentally cat breeders produce a commercial product. The Maine Coon became recognised as being a big cat.

Cat associations

The cat associations support the idea that Maine Coons should be big. It’s as if the public is feeding the cat associations and then the associations feed the public with what they want.

Although, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) does not specify that the Maine Coon should the big. They say the cat should be “solid, rugged, and can endure a harsh climate”. They also state that, “Quality should never be sacrificed for size”. This implies that the breed should be of a substantial size. They also state that show cats will be disqualified if they have a “delicate bone structure”. Once again this implies that the Maine Coon should have a solid bone structure indicating a cat of large dimensions. Finally, as to body shape they state that the cat should be “muscular, broad-chested. Size medium to large“.

Huge Australian Maine Coon is probably world's longest domestic cat
Omar, huge Australian Maine Coon is probably world’s longest domestic cat. Picture in the public domain.

Medium to large

It’s interesting to study the CFA breed standard because, as mentioned, the cat should be medium to large in size and not necessarily big. You can have medium-sized Maine Coon cats. This is true because the Internet tends to share pictures of very large Maine Coon cats because they make better pictures and they are more interesting to people.

However, there are hundreds of thousands of cats of this breed which are medium-sized. It is extreme breeding to an ever larger size which creates the impression that this cat is “so big”. The American version of this cat is not “so big” but it is the largest of the domestic cat breeds.

Comparing Maine Coon and standard sized cat
Comparing Maine Coon and standard sized cat

European Maine Coons

Some Russian bred Maine Coons are very large. Their breed standard comes from the World Cat Federation (WCF) which explicitly states that the cat should be large, “The large to very large cat has a muscular, elongated and broad body”.

Massive Maine Coon
Massive Maine Coon. Pic in the public domain.
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