The Maine Coon Cat
Myths, legend and lore surround the Maine Coon Cat. Some are amusing, some are fantastic flights of fantasy and some are merely plausible. They certainly provide good material for conversation. Many books and articles dealing with these aspects of the Maine Coon Cat are available and have been well received as people never seem to tire of the subject and are always eager to learn more about this National Treasure.
The Maine Coon Cat is the native American long-haired cat and was first recognized as a specific breed in Maine where it was named the official cat of the state. These cats were held in high regard by the locals for their mousing talents and special competitions were even held to reward the best “Coon Cat.”
The Maine Coon cat evolved through nature’s own breeding program developing characteristics by following a “survival of the fittest” evolution. The characteristics all have a purpose or function. Maine Coon cats developed into sturdy, working cats suited to the harsh winters and varied seasons of the Northeast region. The Maine Coon Cat of today is known for a sturdy, rugged appearance, which includes an uneven, shaggy coat of three distinct lengths and a long, well furnished tail. They carry that tail proudly and use it to surround themselves for warmth and protection. A Maine Coon Cat has large, well tufted paws to allow ability to walk on top of snow despite size and weight. Ears are large and well tufted for protection and warmth. Even more than for beauty, Maine Coon Cats are noted for intelligence and kindly disposition. After all, what they couldn’t obtain themselves, they could always get by charming a nearby human. Though their size can be intimidating, they are known for their friendliness towards just about anything and are especially good with children and other pets. For these reasons, they have been dubbed the “Gentle Giant” of the cat fancy and are commonly sought after as family pets, companions, and therapy cats.
After years of local competitions and adoration, the Maine Coon Cat was chosen as Best Cat at the first major cat show ever held in the United States. “Cosey,” a brown tabby neuter Maine Coon Cat, was awarded this distinction at the Madison Square Garden show held in NYC in May of 1895. The silver collar and medal awarded to Cosey is on display at the Feline Historical Museum at CFA headquarters in Alliance, Ohio.
The transition from adorned or glorified “Barn Cat” to pedigreed CFA finalist was neither an easy one nor did it happen quickly. The Maine Coon Cat was all the rage in the early 20th century but lost popularity after the introduction of other long-haired breeds to the U.S. The Maine Coon Cat was even thought extinct in the 1950’s. Luckily, rumors of their death were greatly exaggerated and thanks to the dedication and perseverance of breeders, the Maine Coon Cat breed was accepted for CFA championship status in 1976. At present, sometimes the largest number of entries in a CFA show will be Maine Coon Cats and it is not unusual for one of them to be named Best Cat in a ring or even of the entire show.