The Times Record, Brunswick, Maine - Friday, May 4, 1990
North of the Piscataquis River, a distinctive breed of cat known as the Maine coon cat can be found. Mysterious and beautiful as the fog-bound rocky coast from whence it has sprung, this native Maine longhaired cat is tough and hardy. Legends are told regarding the origin of these unique cats. They have developed over 250 years in the harbor villages along the coast of Maine, since the days the square riggers commonly sailed the Gulf of Maine. Though these cats trace their origin back more than two centuries, they have been recognized as a distinct type in literature since 1861. Originally known as "Maine cats," the breed is now known as the Maine coon cat and is bred and exhibited nationwide. Few people realize that it is still possible to find a Maine coon eat in the state. Adding to the mystery, many folks who own a Maine coon cat don't know it. Color is not what makes a Maine coon, and many incorrectly think that any brown tabby or "racoon-colored" cat is a coon cat. The body type and long fur - together with a sweet intelligent nature - make the Maine coon.
Maine coon cats can come in any cat color except that of the Siamese. Black and white, silver, pure white or orange, a Maine coon can come in a color for anyone! They were exhibited in America's earliest cat shows as Maine 'cats, but were known only as coon cats back home. Only those from away call these cats "the Maines." In 1985, The Maine coon cat was designated the Maine state cat by act of legislature. A genuine coon cat has long-haired ancestors that have been around Maine as long as folks can remember. The keys to identification are head shape, body type, and fur type. Because this native cat has earned its keep along the Maine coast, certain characteristics have evolved. The most notable is the long, shaggy fur. The fur is weather-proof, with long, glossy, slightly coarse guard hairs protecting the insulating undercoat. The long brush tails keep their noses warm in the cold and insulating tufts of fur keep their toes off the snow. Double paws, or snowshoes, are highly prized characteristics and keep these heavy cats from sinking into deep snow. Even their ears are dressed, with long frills and lynx tips. Most Maine coons shed tangle free and don't mat. Native coon cats, as well as pedigreed purebreds, are rugged cats and hardy. Some won't come in from the cold even when it is below zero, preferring their comfortable coats to overheated houses. Others prefer to grace the hearth and won't budge until ice-out. Purebred Maine coon cats are not generally allowed to roam. The head shape of a good Maine coon resembles more of a fox than a cat. A regular alley cat, even if long-haired, has a roundish head, muzzle and rounded-over ears. A Maine coon's head is more angular, with a distinctively square muzzle and a slight wedge shape to the skull. The slightly pointed ears are a true 45-degree angle from the center of the nose to the lower edge of the ears. The ears are a bit larger than those of an alley cat, and the more handsome cats have pointed tips of fur. The ruff of a Maine coon, set off by short fur over the shoulders, makes it most handsome. The tails are magnificently full and expressive. Coon cats are known as tails with a cat attached! The body of a Maine coon is longer and more rectangular than that of a regular cat. True Maine coons grow slowly, not reaching full maturity for three to five years. A recently published survey shows the weight of males to average 12-15 pounds, with the heaviest at 19 pounds. Females weigh in at eight to 12 pounds, and the 30-pound cat of the legends was likely a 15-pounder in full winter regalia. Overweight neuter cats contribute to the legends. The largest mature males have such broad chests that one can not span them. The particularly sweet disposition of a true native Maine coon cat sets it distinctly apart from its conglomerate cousins as stories told by countless lucky cat owners prove. Rarely do native coon cats hiss in the show ring or at home. They are easy-going intelligent companions. They act like dogs, caring about their owners, and unflinchingly give their hearts. Coon cats know if you are happy or sad or tired. If you are ill, they will curl up and keep you company. Especially noted for their adaptability, they make comfortable house cats and can do mouse duty like none other. (Ed. note - Beth is guest columnist for the week. Regular "Outdoors" columnist Nate Mitchell is on vacation).
The author is a dyed-in-the-wool "Main-ah" who is oft found puddling around the salt and drifting among the islands of the Gulf of Maine. She is no stranger to sea and ships of old, has sailed some of the biggest, piloted, worked, and lived the seasons aboard the great working schooners off Maine. She is as much at home while mining the mountains of western Maine for tourmaline and their rivers for gold as she is camping with her husband and five children on their island in Maine, near where she and her husband were born. She is an artist and a pretty decent old style New England cook. And she knows a real Maine Coon Cat when she sees one.More Information on Maine Coon Cats