Selecting a Maine Coon Cat

White maine coonYour selection of a Maine Coon Cat depends largely on your future plans. If you just want one to love and to be a part of your family, but you have no intention of showing the cat, you really don’t have to pick one – it will pick you. If you will be showing the cat, however, there are certain things that you will look for.

In either case, it is vital that you work with a top breeder, as opposed to a backyard breeder. You want to be certain that the environment that the kitten has been raised in is conducive not only to good health, but also to the development of a good personality.

You should have lots of questions for the breeder – and the breeder, in turn, should also have lots of questions for you. A good breeder doesn’t allow their kittens to go to people that the breeder doesn’t think is suitable.

A good breeder will also guarantee the cat’s good health. This is because top breeders have their kittens checked by a veterinarian before they are sold. They will have had the kitten tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). They will also know that the queen and stud were devoid of any genetic disorders that may have been passed onto the kittens.

You should check the kitten for good muscle tone by picking it up and holding it. Maine Coon Cats are considered to be hearty, healthy animals. If the kitten feels ‘weak’ or ‘frail’ it typically means that it does not have good muscle tone, and that it may not be very healthy. Also look for obvious signs of ill health, such as sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and ears that appear to be full of dirt.

The kitten’s fur should have a shaggy appearance, but the fur itself will feel smooth. There should be no signs of any bald patches. Look down to its skin, and make sure that the skin isn’t dry either. Also be on the lookout for fleas. If fleas exist, the breeder probably isn’t taking good care of the cats. The breeder should not only guarantee the kitten’s good health – they should also put it in writing in their agreement with you.

Maine Coon "Bing"The kitten should be playful and sociable, but not all kittens are. Therefore, look at the personalities of the adult cats in the breeder’s possession. Are these cats sociable? If not, you may want to work with another breeder.

Maine Coon Cats should stay with the breeder and their mother until they are between ten and twelve weeks old. Most top breeders keep the kittens for twelve weeks. In the agreement, the breeder will most likely require that you have the kitten spayed or neutered within a certain time frame, and may even require you to agree that you will keep the kitten indoors. Top breeders typically stipulate that if you are unable to keep the cat for any reason, that you return it to them. You will not, however, be refunded.

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Polydactyl Maine Coon Cats

Polydactyl maine coone cat 7toesWhen it comes to poly-dactyl Maine Coon Cats, there is a great deal of debate. Many breeders try to breed them out, while others actually want poly-dactyls. Some shows will allow poly-dactyls, while others will either disqualify them, or give them lower scores. A poly-dactyl cat is a cat that has an extra toe on one or both front paws, and the back paws as well.

It is believed that the poly-dactyl trait in Maine Coons comes from breeding between American cats, and cats that came over from England in the 1600s. The poly-dactyl state exists through a dominant gene, and occurs 40 to 50 percent of the time. Note that poly-dactyl does not cause any pain or health problems for the cat.

Luckily, because some breeders do want poly-dactyls, and some don’t, determining whether a kitten will be poly-dactyl or not is easily decided. If you want a poly-dactyl, simply mate two poly-dactyls. If you don’t, mate two non-polys. You should know, however, that while a poly-dactyl is not a problem, you will need to clip the toenails more often to avoid injury and pain that could occur because there is an extra toe.

Any animal can be a poly-dactyl, but this is a trait that is very dominant among Maine Coons. Maine Coons originally were predominately poly-dactyl, right up until the breed standards were set by the various cat organizations, which deemed poly-dactyl to be a bad thing. Because there are no ill effects from poly-dactyl, it is clear that breeders breed it out simply to make the cats more suitable for showing.

Poly-dactyl Maine Coons have gone from being highly desired to being highly feared. At one time, sailors considered Poly-dactyls to be lucky. It is even said that nature intended these cats to have extra toes because it helps them to keep their balance on rocking ships. There was a time when Maine Coons were ‘working cats.’ Their job was to catch rodents on ships and at harbors.

The fear settled in during the time when people were being burned for suspected witchcraft. Everything was suspect then, and a cat with six toes was also destroyed – typically burned – because it was thought to either possess evil qualities, or to be used by humans for the purpose of witchcraft.

The debate, of course, still rages on. What many poly-dactyl supporters argue is that poly-dactyls in other breeds are accepted in shows, but it is only poly-dactyl Maine Coons that are discriminated against. Poly-dactyls are allowed to participate in certain divisions of a show, but never in championship divisions or purebred divisions.

There are those poly-dactyl supporters who are fighting to have the standard – and the rules – changed, so that poly-dactyls can fully participate. They are also working to make people realize that poly-dactyl is an integral part of the Maine Coon Cats heritage. Hopefully, with time, this will be recognized, and steps will be taken to preserve this heritage, and to make things a bit more fair on the show circuit.

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