A Maine Coon Cat, a large breed of domestic cat,
is the only breed native to North America. The breed evolved naturally, in response to New England's harsh winters.
It has a long, shaggy coat, which comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Its thick coat, which is warm and water-resistant, is long on the stomach, neck, and hindquarters, to protect the cat from wet conditions and from the snow. It also has large ears, with lynx-like tufts at the points, and heavy fur both outside and inside, to protect the ears from the cold.
The Maine Coon Cat has a long, stocky, muscular body, with heavy bones, and large round tufted paws, which serve admirably as snowshoes. One of the Maine Coon Cat's most striking characteristics is its long, full plume of a tail, which is at least as long as the cat's torso. The cat can wrap this long, bushy tail completely around itself as it sleeps, to provide added warmth.
Its sturdy build helps the Maine Coon Cat to tolerate harsh winters. In fact, the breed it most closely resembles, the Norwegian Forest Cat, evolved under similar climate conditions. There is even a possibility that the Maine Coon Cat actually is descended from Norwegian Forest Cats that might have been brought by the Vikings on their expeditions to the New World.
Popular legend has it that the Maine Coon Cat is the result of matings between feral domestic cats and wild raccoons. This is, of course, impossible, but it is true that a large brown tabby Maine Coon--the most common coat color and pattern for the breed--bears some resemblance to a raccoon.
The Maine Coon is a slow-developing breed, usually reaching its full size at about four to five years of age. A full-grown male will be 12 to 18 pounds, while a full-grown female is somewhat smaller--ranging from 9 to 12 pounds. The breed retains its kittenish demeanor throughout its life, remaining playful and affectionate. In fact, the Maine Coon is commonly referred to as the "gentle giant" of domestic cat breeds.
Despite its large size, the Maine Coon has a surprisingly small voice. It seldom meows, but when it does, its voice is soft and high-pitched. More often, its vocalizations are in the form of a high-pitched chirp or trill. This voice, combined with its characteristic large, round, expressive eyes and its kittenish demeanor, undoubtedly has something to do with the breed's popularity in the United States. As beautiful as the Maine Coon Cat is, its appeal for most enthusiasts is its personality. It makes an excellent companion animal--and for many owners, a perfect surrogate "baby."