"There is no single quality of the cat that man could not emulate to his advantage." -- Carl Van Vechten
One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine. A number of 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, encouraged by the bushy tail and the most common colouring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) led to the name 'Maine Coon'. Another popular theory is that the Maine Coon sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape there from France during the French Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings).
Maine Coons were well established more than a century ago as a hardy, handsome breed of domestic cat, well equipped to survive in the New England winters. Nature is not soft-hearted. the biggest, the brightest, the best fighters, and the best hunters survive 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.
Everything about the Maine Coon points to its adaptation to a harsher climate. Its glossy coat, heavy and water-resistant, is like no other breed. 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 weekly combing is usually all that is required to keep it in top condition. The long, bushy tail which the cat can wrap 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, increasing sight and hearing. The relatively long, square muzzle facilitates grasping prey and lapping water from streams and puddles.
They are a tall, muscular, big-boned cat; males commonly reach 8-9kg (and sometimes 10kg or larger) with females normally weighing about 6-7kg. Add to that two or three inches of winter coat, and people are well aware 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!
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" whenever they can. They are not, as a general rule, known as "lap cats" but as with any personality trait there are Maine Coons that will prefer laps. Most Maine Coons will stay close by, probably occupying the space next to yours instead. Maines 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 not usually 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, prefering 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. Most Maine Coons can be trained to accept a leash, they are creatures of habit and train easily if they associate the activity with something they want (they train humans easily too!)