The Native Maine Coon Cat Association Newsletter # 1, 2000 INSPIRATION OF THE CATS OF CASTINE

INSPIRATION OF THE CATS OF CASTINE


          © 2000


The mystique and lure of the true Maine cat came alive to Earl Eugene Eminhizer, Th. D., through 
many tales told him in the early 1940’s.  Unforgettable tales of wharf cats of Castine, Maine, a 
picturesque town perched on broad Penobscot Bay, were the original inspiration behind Dr. and 
Mrs. Eminhizer’s work with the Maine Coon. 
Mrs. Ruth Kelly, a native Mainer herself, had keenly observed the locality while her husband 
pastored the Methodist church in Castine, for many years after WW1.  During her later 
acquaintance with Dr. Eminhizer, she kept him “spellbound with tales of her experience in Maine.  
Her cats were an important part of that experience.”(1) He writes: “ ...her description of their 
size caused me to decide that, should I ever have a cat, a Maine Coon was what I want.
. . . I do remember her describing their ability to catch mice and to fish off the wharf at 
Castine.”(1)

Later, while still in graduate school,  the Eminhizers had begun their interest in the Cat Fancy 
with solid color Persians.  Sometime in 1964, an ad for Maine Coon kittens available from Mrs. 
Robert Whittemore of Augusta, Maine attracted his attention.  All of the stories of the Castine 
wharf cats and their fish-catching, mice-pouncing antics came back-and soon the Eminhizers had 
their first Maine Coon.  This first cat from Mrs. Whittemore, Dawn Dee, a female, was joined by 
Skippe, a male. 
 
Since they had already been showing their Persians, they inquired about the steps to recognition 
for the Maine Coon.  They showed Dawn Dee and Skippe AOV (any other variety) for a show season.
    
True Maine Cats--sea-salt, legend and mystique--somehow this combination inspires great 
dedication.  Previous attempt to reinstate the breed to the official Fancy had come to naught.  
But the inspiration of the Castine minister’s wife had fallen on good ground.  
    
For decades in quiet central Maine, these cats were shown locally, recognized, and bred by the 
people living here.  A Whittemore cat “Tiger Boy” was state champion in 1958.(2) Awareness of 
the various different cat breeds was fostered by the Central Maine Cat Club, and though not 
plentifully, Maine Coon Cats were bred.  Dr. Eminhizer attributes Mrs. Whittemore as responsible 
for the breed being still available; certainly she provided the Maine kittens that stirred Dr. 
and Mrs. Eminhizer.  
 
They greatly enjoyed their Maine Coon cats and noted them larger and heavier than their Persians.  
A white male, Emin-dale’s Frosty, was described to have weighed 40 pounds and Skippe was said to 
have been 20 pounds.  They noted the  intellectual superiority of the Maine Coon parents in the 
teaching of skills to kittens in indoor hunting and other escapades.  Their Maine Coon mothers 
had, they believed, richer milk than the Persian, with consistently well-fed, fat kittens 
immaculately clean.     
 
Soon, the Eminhizers discovered others had strong interest in showing Maine Coons and in getting 
this first breed of the Fancy reinstated and registered.  They discovered that CFF, ACA, and CCA 
allowed registration, and soon ACFA and NCFA also accepted them for registration.
    
The CFA register had originally provided for them under an old Rule 2:

“a long-haired cat, born in New England, of the type commonly known as ‘Maine cats’ or ‘Coon 
cats’, if not eligible for the stud book may be entered in the registry upon a sworn statement  
that said cat is bred from sire and dam of same breed, long hair, and that neither is a short 
hair.”(3)  And in 1971, Dr. Eminhizer urged: “As long as Whittemore’s stock is used or cats from 
the coast of Maine who were known to be of the breed...”(1)
    
Word spread; soon cats were popping up and becoming registered all over.  In the enthusiasm, and 
perhaps due in part to Maine’s great distance from most other states, the “Maine-origin” or 
“New England-origin” mentioned by CFA was generally overlooked while building the early numbers 
up.  Building the necessary early numbers up was an important step in the recognition process.  
Those loving to show and wishing to help enthusiastically encouraged acquaintances to register, 
and some long-haired cats from various other regions were also brought in.  The early cats became 
the foundation basis of today’s registered gene pool.  Judges began judging many of these early 
cats, forming opinions, and setting interpretations. 
   
The core group of early enthusiasts were staunch in their efforts with their Maine cats, and with 
much work, an acceptable standard was developed comprising composite of the best early cats.  The 
breed was again accepted in the show halls of the Fancy, and now the proliferation of the breed 
world-wide, in hearts of breeders and fanciers alike, rivals none.
    
Built on hardy Maine existence and sparked by tales of Castine folklore, today’s Maine Coon 
represents co-operation and contribution of many dedicated cat breeders world-wide.  Early 
breeders usually worked with those closest to them in location and philosophy.  Philosophical 
personal preference of pet homes versus breeding homes for kittens resulted in some early 
bloodlines becoming plentiful and others virtually rare in the registered gene pool.  However, 
the past decade has seen an increase of Maine-based lines in the registered breed.      
 
Tourists and cat lovers from as far away as Germany and Austria, have visited Maine, sought the 
fabled Maine native cat, and have been rewarded for their search.  The hardy indefatigable native 
cat may be possibly outnumbered now by its registered fellow felines, and its fabled wharf days 
are long over.  Still; listen, one can hear sails whipping and masts creaking-with a little 
whisper of Castine, all irrevocably linked forever to the furry Maine Coon in your lap.
 
Copyright © 2000 /no reprints without permission
 
(1) Cat Fancy Magazine, November-December 1971, The Maine Coon Cat, Earl Eugene Eminhizer,Th.D.
(2) Cats Magazine, July 1969, Our Yankee Cat Goes National,  Jane S. Martinke.
(3) CFA Yearbook 1959, The Maine Cat.
 

Dear Beth,

Although we have never met, I found your lovely article about Lida Choate when my daughter and I 
were surfing last night.  We just got a new computer for home and had our internet service hooked 
up through our local cable company.  We own 2 of Lida's cats.  We live in Sterling Heights, 
Michigan, approx. 25 miles from downtown Detroit.  We are displaced New Englanders.  My husband is 
from the Kittery, Maine area and I grew up in Framingham, MA, outside of Boston.  We have lived in 
Michigan for 27 years due to our jobs.

My family has always had Boxers and when one died 7 years ago we decided not to replace her due to 
he high cost of kenneling.  My sister-in-law in Kittery Point, Maine had 2 Maine Coons, one coming 
from Lida.  He has such a great disposition we decided to investigate getting a kitten for our 
daughter (5 yrs. old at the time) as a Christmas present.  We looked all around our area but 
couldn't find many breeders.  We have since discovered that cat breeders aren't as outgoing as dog 
breeders and don't advertise that much.  We enlisted my s-in-law to do the looking for a kitten 
since there are many breeders in Maine.  She, of course, contacted Lida who didn't have any kittens 
at the time but was expecting a litter in September 1993.  After the litter was born, my s-in-law 
drove to Scarborough, where Lida was living in her little house on Pine Point Road, and picked out 
our brown tabby, who became Kristi, named after Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olympic skater.  Since we 
weren't coming to Maine until Christmas, we asked Lida to hold her until we came.  Thus started our 
lives with a Maine Coon cat.  We also had our Boxer, Katie (3 yrs at the time) to get accustomed to 
a 4 lb. fluff ball.  After 3 months, they were pals.  Kristi is very affectionate and is a lap cat 
but is skittish when it is noisy or there is too much activity in the house.  She prefers your 
attention at 10 PM when you're trying to read the paper or the middle of the night when you are 
sleeping and find all this fur rubbing your face.
 
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The Native Maine Coon Cat Association Newsletter # 1, 2000                     Pages 5-7



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