Is my cat a Maine coon?
Updated: Jun 4
I know that many people are unaware that cat breeds exist, but they exist the same as dog breeds do. We will dispel numerous myths regarding Maine coons and domestic cats, as well as explain how cat breeds were developed and why your domestic cat is not a Maine coon.
Domestic long, medium, or short hair cats (I'll use domestic for short) are cats of mixed and unknown ancestry, with the name defining the length of their hair. Many people believe that a domestic cat is a breed, however it is not. These are the most commonly seen cats, also known as house cats. These cats, when found in shelters or on the street are usually not domesticated and breed as freely as a wild animal would. When an area becomes overpopulated with domestic cats due to their free breeding, rescue organizations will trap these cats and spay or neuter them, cutting off the tip of their ear as a "tag." Domestic cats have never had any human interference in terms of selective breeding, and as a result, they have a wide range of temperaments, structure, and appearance. All of these things is what makes these cats not classified into a breed.
When it comes to the very first cats that began the formation of them, the Maine coon has unclear origins, but it is known that they originated in Maine and are the only cat native to America. Because of the harsh weather in Maine, it was survival of the fittest, and only the Maine coons who adapted with their thick, waterproof coat and hunting skills were able to survive here. Because the Maine coons were the only cats capable of survival in this area, and because they were separated from any other cats, the Maine coon breed remained unmixed for hundreds of years. The Maine coon grew in popularity, earning them the recognition they deserved, as well as the official creation of the breed and the breed standard. A breed standard specifies how a cat should look and act from the tip of their whiskers to the tip of their tail; it is the blueprint for a breed, and each cat breed has a separate one that is exclusive to their own characteristics. This breed standard instructs a breeder on which cats to breed. Selective breeding is the process of using animal breeding to selectively develop specific characteristics by selecting which male and female animals will reproduce. Selective breeding allows us to select only the best cats that suit the standard the best and utilize those to reproduce so that we see the same look and temperament in the offspring on a continuous basis in order to maintain the breed. Maine coons, among other recognized breeds are registered in a cat registry and are only eligible for registration if both parents are also registered and this goes back to when the Maine coon first became a breed. Cats without proof of registration can not be brought in and claimed to be a Maine coon. This registration serves as a tracking device as well as a family tree for cats. These cats have a pedigree, or family tree, and their ancestors can be traced back 25+ generations. Be wary of fake registries that will register any cat. American registries include CFA and TICA, while foreign registries include WCF and FiFE, among others.
At this point, the distinction between domestic cats and Maine coons should be obvious. Because Maine coons are becoming more popular, people are claiming to have "Maine coon mixes" despite the fact that neither of their kittens' parents is a Maine coon. This is due to misinformation on the internet and a lack of awareness about purebred cats. People appear to be offended when told that their cats are not Maine coons, but spreading accurate information will keep people from being fooled by people "breeding" domestic long hairs and charging far too much. Maine coons and domestic cats share ancestors as well as qualities that aren't unique to Maine coons, such as ear tufts and long hair. This means that just because your cat looks like a Maine coon does not guarantee it is one, because the only thing that verifies a cat is a Maine coon is a pedigree from a ligitiment registry. A huge majority of the time, someone claiming to have a "Maine coon mix" is unable to provide the pedigree of the Maine coon parents, and without a pedigree, your cat is merely a domestic cat because ancestry is unknown. Given the high cost of Maine coons, breeders almost guarantee that these cats are not being bred, mixed, and sold on Craigslist for $200, or being abandoned in shelters or on the streets by withholding registration until proof of spaying or neutering, or performing it themselves before the kitten leaves the cattery.
To refute some myths, it should be noted that cats with a M on their forehead are actually tabby cats, which is a color pattern rather than a breed. The statement "Cats with hair on the tips of their ears are Maine Coons" is untrue because other breeds as well as domestic long hairs also have hair on their ear tips. This trait is not unique to the Maine Coon. There are other long-haired cats than just Maine coons, and long hair does not identify a cat as a Maine coon. The breed standard for the Maine Coon specifies long hair that is longer in the neck, stomach, and tail. There is no such thing as a short-haired Maine Coon.
One thing I hear people say is, "My vet also agreed that my cat is a Maine coon." Vets do not know breed standards and have probably only seen cats that people claim to be Maine coons. Another issue is people claiming that their cats are Maine coons but that they did not inherit the desirable traits. These people appear to be in denial. A kitten will look different than an adult, but you can still tell the difference between a domestic and a Maine coon. As I previously stated, Maine coons have been bred to a standard for generations, and if your cat's breeder is breeding to standard, you will never have kittens that do not look like a Maine coon unless the breeder is being dishonest and actually mixing breeds.
Be wary of people claiming to have Maine coons or Maine coon mixes online, particularly on Craigslist and at shelters, because these people are aware that neither of the kittens' parents are true Maine coons but they do it anyway in order to sell the kittens for a higher price. Maine coons should always be $2,500 or more, and seeing one advertised for $500 is not a "good deal" and is usually a scam. Please do your homework on the true Maine coon breed standard. The biggest take away is that a cat is not a Maine coon without proof of both parents registration. Domestic cats have a interesting history as Maine coons do and there is no issue with claiming what your cat truly is, of mixed ancestry.
This is a link to my males pedigree where it shows a very long family tree, I can go back 55+ years and 25+ generations of cats that contributed to preservation of the Maine coon.
TICA breed standard
CFA breed standard
a quiz: Which picture is the one with Maine coons in it?
Males on the left and females on the right in both pictures. This should clear up any confusion between the two.