Maine Coon

Maine coons are large, intelligent, affectionate pets who love their people. Learn more about the characteristics of Maine coons.
By Hilary Braaksma
August 24, 2020
Maine Coon
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament

Maine Coon

height
  • 10—16 inches
weight
  • 8—18 pounds
life span
  • 10—13 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • frequent
playfulness
  • high
activity level
  • active
vocalness
  • when necessary
coat length
  • long
colors
  • white
  • black / ebony
  • red / orange
  • blue / gray
  • cream / beige / tan
  • chocolate / brown / sable
patterns
  • bi-color
  • solid
  • calico / tri-color
  • color point
  • tabby
other traits
  • easy to train
  • requires lots of grooming
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • prone to health issues
  • high prey drive
  • strong loyalty tendencies
  • tolerates being picked up

Maine coons are large, affectionate cats who love to play and hang out with their humans. This cat breed is typically known for its massive size—up to 40 inches in length—but Maine coon owners know and prize these cats for being loving family pets.

Maine coons are surprisingly popular, especially considering at one point this breed almost faced extinction. In 2019, the Cat Fanciers’ Association listed the Maine coon as the fifth-most popular cat breed. The average Maine coon kitten costs between $400 and $1,500, depending on pedigree. 

Maine coons come in dozens of colors, color combinations, and patterns, including the striking silver mackerel torbie with white. | Credit: Sergey Semin on Unsplash

Appearance

The Maine coon is the largest domestic cat breed, and largeness is certainly one of its defining physical characteristics. The size of a typical Maine coon comes in at 10–16 inches tall and up to an impressive 40 inches in length. These sturdily built felines usually weigh 8–18 pounds and have muscular bodies with wide chests and solid legs.

As if their big-boned build wasn’t enough, the ample fur in the Main coone’s coat makes these majestic animals look even bigger. Their long coat is silky and smooth and grows shorter near the shoulders. Maine coons come in a variety of colors and patterns. You can find solid white, cream, red, blue, and black Maine coons, as well as tabby, bi-color, particolor, tortoiseshell, shaded, and calico Maine coons.

Other defining physical features are large pointed ears often topped with wisps of hair, expressive oval-shaped eyes, and a long, bushy tail.

Left: Allowed to evolve naturally over many years, the Maine coon adapted to her environment. Her large, tufted paws serve as built-in snowshoes that help her survive during the cold, snowy winters of New England. | Credit: Allison Achauer/Getty
Right: The Maine Coon's dense, water-repellent coat keeps them warm in wintery weather. | Credit: Alexandra Jursova/Getty

Temperament

Don’t let their imposing size fool you—deep down, Maine coons are soft, gentle giants who love to spend time with their humans. They very much expect to be part of the family and aren’t big on personal space or privacy. These cats are delighted at the thought of following you from room to room as you go about your day. 

Though Maine coon’s are definitely affectionate and social, they’re not usually lap cats. This breed typically prefers to hang out beside you rather than on top of you—which can be a good thing, considering their size. 

Maine coons are incredibly intelligent and fun-loving and will keep their kittenish playfulness well into old age. The Maine Coon Cat Club calls them the "clowns of the cat world." The Maine coon is not an aggressive breed, and will tolerate being picked up, held, and cuddled. These animals are friendly, kind, and patient with children.

Unlike most cats, Maine coons love water! Why? One of the most popular theories is that they are descendants of cats kept on Viking ships and therefore comfortable around water today. | Credit: Nils Jacobi/Getty

Living Needs

The Maine coon’s first and foremost need is an affectionate and loving family with the time to play and patience to include this cat in all aspects of day-to-day life. These patient pets are good with kids, dogs, and other cats.

Maine coons can be left alone for periods of time, but they won’t be happy about it. Regularly being left alone can make these cats sad and anxious, so they’re best matched with a family that often has at least one or two people home during the day for some company.

Most Maine coons love to play in water. This is great news for bath time, but it also means they’ll follow you into the shower or interfere while you do the dishes.

These big cats are surprisingly quiet—they do love to communicate and vocalize to their humans, but their soft voice may take you by surprise.

Maine coons are amazing family pets. Those with the time, patience, and attention to give to a member of this cat breed will be hard-pressed to find a more loving, adoring feline friend.

Left: Like any cat, Maine coon kittens should be socialized early to help them get comfortable around people. But remember, the Maine coon is generally not a snuggler. She prefers to sit near, not on, her humans. | Credit: Nils Jacobi/Getty
Right: Maine coons love to play outdoors but can be trained to walk on a leash as well. | Credit: Nils Jacobi/Getty

Care

“Maine coons have a heavy, shaggy coat which requires maintenance brushing to ensure it doesn’t get tangled or matted,” says Catherine Lenox, DVM, DACVN, a board certified veterinary nutritionist with Royal Canin.

Your Maine coon will need regular, dedicated grooming and will require anywhere from weekly to monthly bathing. Their long coats are usually silky smooth, but when they start to look greasy or stringy, it’s time for a bath. They also require weekly brushing to keep their long hair and undercoat from getting tangled and matted. These cats do shed quite a bit, and brushing will also help get rid of loose hairs. Don’t worry—the Maine coon loves any sort of attention it can get, so grooming is usually a pleasant task.

Maine coons don’t have any special exercise needs—they’ll keep the same activity schedule of most cats, with long hours of sleep and playful bouts of jumping and running through the house. Cat toys and cat trees can help them work out some of that energy.

These super-intelligent cats are easily trainable. Some owners have described the Maine coon as “dog-like” for their ability to be trained—they can learn to walk on a leash outdoors or even play a round of fetch. They take quickly to basic housetraining and litter box use, but keep in mind these large cats will require a large litter box to help them comfortably do their business.

Maine coons should be socialized early on. If you’re bringing home a Maine coon kitten as a family pet be sure to let the various members of the household—small kids included—gently handle the kitten daily. They should also be introduced to other pets if possible. These early introductions will keep your cat from becoming shy and reserved.

Feed your Maine coon high-quality cat food and monitor their diet to prevent them from overeating. Check-in with your vet to learn how much and how often to feed your individual cat.

Left: Many who study the breed have dubbed the Maine coon a "supervisor" because of their tendency to watch everything going on around them. | Credit: Alexandra Jursova/Getty
Center: The Maine coon's thick, bushy tail serves a purpose beyond its handsome looks. In cold weather, the cats can wrap that tail around their bodies for insulation. | Credit: ~UserGI15634531/Getty
Right: The Maine coon's ear tufts and lynx tips are some of her most distinguishing characteristics. The ear tufts—wisps of hair growing from the inner ear—protect the ear against rain and snow. Lynx tips, the hair growing up from the ear points, are purely decorative; not all Maine coons get them. | Credit: Alexandra Jursova/Getty

Health

Maine coons have a lifespan of 10–13 years and are typically healthy pets.

“Because of their large stature, Maine coons can develop joint disease such as arthritis or hip dysplasia,” Lenox says. “Maine coons are also predisposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), and dental disease can be quite common in this breed.”

Reputable breeders will screen for health issues in your kitten, but it’s important to have them screened regularly into adulthood. HCM and other health problems can go undetected until later in your cat’s life.

Maine coon cats were popular in the late 1800s before long-haired cat breeds from overseas stole their thunder. A handsome, long-haired “coon cat” is the subject of this advertising card for Garland Stoves, issued in the late 1880s.
Maine Coon cats were popular in the late 1800s before long-haired cat breeds from oversees stole their thunder. A handsome, long-haired "'coon cat" is the subject of this advertising card for Garland Stoves, issued in the late 1880s. | Credit: Transcendental Graphics/Getty

History 

Most experts speculate that the Maine coon is descended from foreign long-haired cats brought ashore by early American explorers in—where else?—Maine. Those ship cats then mated with the native short-haired breeds, creating America’s only native long-haired cat. There are multiple theories as to how the Maine coon got its name, including one that traces the breed’s ancestors to a sailor named Charles Coon and another that links the name to the cat’s bushy tail, which resembles that of a raccoon. 

The New England native breed enjoyed some popularity in 19th century cat shows but was later overshadowed by more exotic breeds until a resurgence in popularity in the 1950s. Because the Maine coon breed was left to develop naturally from the 1800s to the middle of the 20th century, it’s typically a strong and healthy breed. The modern Maine coon retains many of the characteristics of the breed’s earliest form—from the cold-weather tolerant coats that helped them survive harsh New England winters to the high prey drive that makes these sweet house cats excellent mousers.

The first North American cat show was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 8, 1895, and a female Maine coon named Cosey was named Best in Show. The silver collar Cosey won was later purchased by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) Foundation and is now displayed in their headquarters as an important piece of cat history.

It can take Maine coons four to five years to reach their full adult length!
In 2016, Maine coon Samson, shown here with his Brooklyn-based owner Jonathan Zurbel, was dubbed the biggest cat in New York. According to reports, Samson weighed 28 pounds and measured an incredible 4 feet long. The huge kitty is chauffeured around in his very own super-size carriage and now boasts quite the social media following. | Credit: Ruaridh Connellan/BarcroftImages/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Fun Facts

  • The Maine coon is the only long-haired breed of cat native to the United States.
  • No surprise here: the Maine coon is the official state cat of Maine.
  • A female Maine coon named Pebbles played Mrs. Norris in the Harry Potter film series.
  • A Texas woman had her Maine coon, Little Nicky, commercially cloned for a whopping $50,000. 
  • Given their size, it's no surprise that Maine coons have held records for the longest domestic cats for more than a decade. In 2018, a Maine coon in Italy was crowned as the world's largest domestic cat by the Guinness Book of World Records, unseating the previous record holder who was also a Maine coon. Current record-holder Barivel measures 3 feet, 11.2 inches, making him longer than a baseball bat! The longest cat on record with the Guinness Book of World Records is Stewie, a Maine coon that measured 48.5 inches long when recorded in 2010. Sadly, Stewie passed away in January 2013.