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


Copyright 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.

The Native Maine Coon Cat Association Newsletter # 1, 2000 Pages 5-7

Copyright 2000 Beth of Dirigo
All rights reserved.


Revised 3/24/2015.