Were you ever owned by a Maine Coon? If you have, then you know the gentle personality of this breed. If you haven't been so lucky, let me tell you about Maine Coons.
The Maine Coon is one of the oldest natural breeds of North America, and regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the Maine Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A number of legends and theories related to its origin include:
(1) Matings between semi-wild domestic cats and raccoons (bolstered by the bushy tail and the raccoon-like brown tabby coloring) led to the adoption of the name 'Maine Coon.' Initially, only brown tabbies were called 'Maine Coons, while cats of other colors were tagged as 'Maine Shags.'
(2) Another theory is that the Maine Coon sprang from the six pet cats sent to Wiscasset, Maine, by Marie Antoinette when she was planning her escape from France during the French Revolution. But, most suppose the breed originated by mating pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and these longhairs brought to America on Viking Ships.
Maine Coons were established more than a century ago as a hardy and handsome domestic cat equipped to survive the hostile New England winters. As nature selects the biggest, brightest, and best hunters to breed successive generations, the Maine Coon was a natural.
Everything about the Maine Coon indicates an ability to adapt to a harsh climate. Its glossy coat (heavy and water-resistant) is like no coat of another breed, and must be felt to be appreciated. The Maine's coat is longer on the ruff, stomach and britches to protect against water and snow, and shorter on the back and neck to guard against tangling in the underbrush. The posterior look of a Maine Coon is strikingly like that of a pair of knickers! 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 (when wrapped around the cat's body when curling up to sleep) can protect from cold winter weather. The ears are heavily furred (both inside and on the tips) and have a large range of movement. The big, round, tufted feet serve as 'snow shoes.' Their large eyes and ears are also survival traits that increase sight and hearing. The relatively long, square-shaped muzzle facilitates grasping prey or lapping water from streams and puddles.
As my Charlie Brown proved, Maine Coons develop slowly and do not achieve their full size until they reach 3-5 years of age. 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 and drop it at your feet. My Maine Coon loved to chase a thrown peanut (in the shell) and bring it back to you to throw again. They rarely meow, but when they do, the soft voice is unique in relation to their size!
Traits of the Maine Coon are quite numerous and unique. They are known as the "gentle giants" and rightly so. The breed has a clown-like personality, affectionate nature, amusing habits and tricks, and a burning desire to 'help' with any activity being undertaken by their people.
Although they are people-oriented cats, they are not overly dependent. They have a dog-like quality and will happily lay by your feet. Maine Coons will follow you from room to room or wait outside a closed door for you. A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but rarely your baby.
My Charlie Brown was born on January 1, 1994, near Omaha, Nebraska, and became part of our family in June 1994. He was a large boy, timid and quiet. Charlie's size and personality was not fully developed until he was more than four years old. He, truly, was a gentle giant and was always happy to curl up and take a nap with you. His size would surprise people, as he was 18 lbs (however, male Maine Coons can easily weight more than 20lbs). His gait was a lumbering, slow, big cat kind of stride. His big bushy tail, sometimes, over-balanced him. He would come when called, if he felt like it, but once he arrived he was a presence to behold. Charlie was more shy than outgoing, and he would never think of eating humans food - that was just disgusting!
I am lucky enough to have another Maine Coone; a small 8 pound female named Sugar (aka Chuga). Charlie and Sugar were the best of friends. Although under no circumstances could it be mistaken who was the boss and dominate leader - Sugar (all 8 pounds of her)! She would drive Charlie crazy with her silly antics like laying in the food bowl when he wanted to snack on his favorite dry food. But, Charlie being the gentle prince that he was, would just sit down and wait until Sugar got tired of the game.
Then, sadly, on the evening of January 5, 2007, Charlie Brown curled up for a nap and peacefully passed away. We could not understand why this happened because he was not sick or in pain. It seems that his little heart just stopped beating. We shed many tears and Sugar mourned him for several months. Charlie Brown walked to his own drummer but was always available to sit by your side or play a game with his catnip mouse. Charlie didn't have a mean bone in his body, he was always a gentlemen and a majestic gentle giant.
Charlie Brown, you will always be remembered and loved.