About the Maine Coon Cat
We found the article below published in many places on the web, and it is full of interesting and useful commentary on this extraordinary breed. It is not clear who the author is and we hope that she does not object to our publishing it here without citation.
One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the Maine Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A number of attractive legends surround its origin. A wide-spread (though biologically impossible) belief is that it originated from matings between semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth, bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) led to the adoption of the name ‘Maine Coon.’ (Originally, only brown tabbies were called ‘Maine Coon Cats;’ cats of other colors were referred to as ‘Maine Shags.’) Another popular theory is that the Maine sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings). First recorded in cat literature in 1861 with a mention of a black and white cat named ‘Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines,’ Maine Coons were popular competitors at early cat shows in Boston and New York. A brown tabby female named ‘Cosie’ won Best Cat at the 1895 Madison Square Garden Show. Unfortunately, their popularity as show cats declined with the arrival in 1900 of the more flamboyant Persians. Although the Maine Coon remained a favorite cat in New England, the breed did not begin to regain its former widespread popularity until the 1950’s when more and more cat fanciers began to take notice of them, show them, and record their pedigrees. In 1968, six breeders formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA) to preserve and protect the breed. Today, MCBFA membership numbers over 1000 fanciers and 200 breeders. By 1980, all registries had recognized the Maine Coon, and it was well on its way to regaining its former glory. Maine Coons were well established more than a century ago as a hardy, handsome breed of domestic cat, well equipped to survive the hostile New England winters. Nature is not soft-hearted. It selects the biggest, the brightest, the best fighters, and the best hunters to breed successive generations. Planned breedings of Maine Coons are relatively recent. Since planned breeding began, Maine Coon breeders have sought to preserve the Maine Coon’s “natural,” rugged qualities. The ideal Maine Coon is a strong, healthy cat. Interestingly, the breed closest to the Maine Coon is the Norwegian Forest Cat which, although geographically distant, evolved in much the same climate, and lends credence to the theory that some of the cats responsible for developing the Maine Coon were brought over by the Vikings.
Everything about the Maine Coon points to its adaptation to a harsh climate. Its glossy coat, heavy and water-resistant, is like that of no other breed, and must be felt to be appreciated. It is longer on the ruff, stomach and britches to protect against wet and snow, and shorter on the back and neck to guard against tangling in the underbrush. The coat falls smoothly, and is almost maintenance-free: a weekly combing is all that is usually required to keep it in top condition. The long, bushy tail which the cat wraps around himself when he curls up to sleep can protect him from cold winters. His ears are more heavily furred (both inside and on the tips) than many breeds for protection from the cold, and have a large range of movement. Big, round, tufted feet serve as ‘snow shoes.’ Their large eyes and ears are also survival traits, serving as they do increase sight and hearing. The relatively long, square muzzle facilitates grasping prey and lapping water from streams and puddles. Although the Yankee myth of 30-pound cats is just that, a myth (unless the cat is grossly overweight!), these are indeed tall, muscular, big-boned cats; males commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds, with females normally weighing about 9 to 12 pounds. Add to that two or three inches of winter coat, and people will swear that they’re looking at one big cat. Maine Coons develop slowly, and don’t achieve their full size until they are three to five years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish throughout their lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured goofs. Even their voices set them apart from other cats; they have a distinctive, chirping trill which they use for everything from courting to cajoling their people into playing with them. (Maine Coons love to play, and many will joyfully retrieve small items.) They rarely meow, and when they do, that soft, tiny voice doesn’t fit their size! Temperament while Maine Coons are highly people-oriented cats, they are not overly-dependent. They do not constantly pester you for attention, but prefer to “hang out” with their owners, investigating whatever activity you’re involved in and “helping” when they can. They are not, as a general rule, known as “lap cats” but as with any personality trait there are a few Maine Coons that prefer laps. Most Maine Coons will stay close by, probably occupying the chair next to yours instead. Maine Coons will follow you from room to room and wait outside a closed door for you to emerge. A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but hardly ever your baby. Maine Coons are relaxed and easy-going in just about everything they do. The males tend to be the clowns while the females retain more dignity, but both remain playful throughout their lives. They generally get along well with kids and dogs, as well as other cats. They are not as vertically-oriented as some other breeds, preferring to chase objects on the ground and grasping them in their large paws — no doubt instincts developed as professional mousers. Many Maine Coons will play “fetch” with their owners.
The important features of the Maine Coon are the head and body shape, and the texture and ‘shag’ of the coat. The head is slightly longer than it is wide, presenting a gently concave profile with high cheekbones and ears that are large, wide at the base, moderately pointed, and well tufted inside. They are set well up on the head, approximately an ear’s width apart. Lynx-like tufting on the top of the ears is desirable. The neck should be medium-long, the torso long, and the chest broad. The tail should be at least as long as the torso. One of their most distinctive features is their eyes, which are large, round, expressive, and set a slightly oblique angle. Overall, the Maine Coon should present the appearance of a well-balanced, rectangular cat. Throughout their history there has been no restriction on the patterns and colors acceptable, with the exception of the pointed Siamese pattern. As a result, a wide range of colors and patterns are bred. Eye colors for all coat colors range through green, gold, and green-gold. Blue eyes and odd eyes, (one blue and one gold eye) are permissible in white cats. There is no requirement in the Maine Coon Standard of Perfection for particular combinations of coat color and eye color.
Maine Coon owners enjoy the breed’s characteristic clown-like personality, affectionate nature, amusing habits and tricks, willingness to ‘help’ with any activity, and easily groomed coat. They make excellent companions for large, active families that also enjoy having dogs and other animals around. Their hardiness and ease of kittening make them a satisfying first breed for the novice breeder. For owners wishing to show, the Maine Coon has reclaimed its original glory in the show ring.
Care and Training
Most breeders recommend a high-quality dry food. Most cats can free feed without becoming overweight. Middle-aged cats
(5-10) are most likely to have weight problems which can usually be controlled by switching to a low-calorie food. Many Maine
Coons love water. Keep a good supply of clean, fresh water available at all times. Most Maine Coons can be trained to accept a leash. Maine Coons are creatures of habit and they train easily if they associate
the activity with something they want (they train humans easily too!).
Special Medical Problems
Individuals within any breed are fairly closely related, and have many characteristics in common. This includes genetic strengths and weaknesses. Certain genetic health disorders may be more or less of a problem in a particular breed than in other breeds. For example, a breed may have a slightly higher incidence of gum disease than the cat population as a whole, but have a lower incidence of heart disease or liver disease. Genetic problems generally only affect a tiny minority of the breed as a whole, but since they can be eradicated by careful screening, most reputable breeders try to track such problems, both in their breeding stock and the kittens they produce. By working with a responsible breeder who will speak openly about health issues, you are encouraging sound breeding practices. In the Maine Coon, the most common inherited health problems are hip dysplasia, which can produce lameness in a severely affected cat, and cardiomyopathy, which can produce anything from a minor heart murmur to severe heart trouble. Any breeder you talk to should be willing to discuss whether they’ve had any problems with these diseases in their breeding stock, or in kittens they’ve produced; how much screening they’re doing, and why. What are we doing with DNA testing of HCM? http://pawpeds.com/pawacademy/health/mybpc3/
What is feline herpes virus?
Feline herpes virus is an upper respiratory virus of cats. It is also known as rhinotracheitis virus. It is very common among cats, especially in environments where there are multiple cats or new cats are constantly interacting. The virus is spread through the air and replicates in the upper respiratory tract (nasal area, tonsils). The conjunctiva of the eye is also affected during the primary infection. Clinical signs of infection include sneezing and ocular and nasal discharge. In most cases the primary infection resolves with no residual ocular lesions. However, depending on the age when the cat is affected, the serotype of the virus (infectivity or strength of infection), and other factors, there may be various ocular signs. In very young cats, adhesions of the eyelids to each other or to the cornea may occur. Adult cats may experience recurrent conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers. The virus remains latent in the nerves that serve the eyes. When a cat is stressed or exposed to new serotypes (different strains) of herpes virus, the ocular disease can recur. There is some evidence that eosinophilic keratitis, plasmacytic-lymphocytic keratitis, corneal sequestrum, and some cases of anterior uveitis may be associated with feline herpes virus infection.
How do cats get feline herpes virus?
Most cats are affected as kittens, contracting the infection from their mothers. Stray cats, multi-cat households, and cats from households where new cats are constantly introduced are more likely to suffer infection. Feline herpes virus is not contagious to dogs or to humans but only affects cats.
How is feline herpes virus diagnosed?
History and clinical signs can diagnose ocular diseases caused by feline herpes virus. Aside from history and clinical signs, diagnostic tests for feline herpes virus include virus isolation, immunofluorescent antibody testing, polymerase chain reaction testing, serology, and cytology. Testing can be expensive and is generally reserved for specific cases. Tests that may not specifically detect the presence of herpes may be used to detect ocular disease caused by herpes. These tests include a Schirmer tear test (measuring tear production), corneal staining, and conjunctival biopsy.
How is feline herpes virus treated?
Treatment for feline herpes virus infections is nonspecific and generally directed at controlling secondary bacterial infection. A topical antibiotic such as tetracycline or erythromycin may be prescribed for use in the eye. Systemic antibiotics may also be prescribed. Viralys Powder contains: 250 mg. L-Lysine per 1 rounded scoop. Scoop provided in container. Approximately 310 doses per container. Oral L-Lysine is recommended by many veterinary ophthalmologists at a dose of 250-500 mg twice daily. Lysine competes with another amino acid, arginine, that herpes virus must have in order to reproduce. Lysine has been demonstrated to decrease the severity of ocular symptoms associated with herpes virus infection (1) and reduce viral shedding during periods of disease recurrence (2). Depending on symptoms, other medications such as topical antiviral drugs, topical polysulfated glycosaminoglycans, topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or topical interferon may be used. In some cases the ocular diseases resulting from feline herpes virus may require surgical intervention. The key to managing the clinical signs associated with feline herpes virus is controlling the cat’s environment. Cats exposed to multiple cats (indoor-outdoor cats), cats in multiple cat households, or cats that are frequently introduced to new cats are difficult to keep disease free. Reducing stress by maintaining a stable routine is helpful in preventing recurrences of disease. Keep in mind that it is the nature of the virus to see recurrences of the disease and periodic treatment is often necessary.