Mainers love their cats, so much so that it was named the best place to live for cat lovers by the online real estate resource Estately. Although Vermont, named the second-best cat state, ranked higher, the fact that Maine has an official state cat helped boost its rankings.
More than 46 percent of Maine households have cats, and cat owners outnumber dog owners by 11 percent.
The Maine Coon, named one of the most popular cats by the Cat Fancier’s Association, became Maine’s official cat in 1985. The Maine Coon is believed to be one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, and a native to the state of Maine.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association was founded in 1908. In the early days of cat shows, the Maine Coon ranked on top of the Cat Fancier’s boards. But at the beginning of the 20th century, as show fever expanded to the Midwest and the West, favor shifted from the Maine Coon to long-haired pedigreed cats, including the Persian and Angora.
The Maine Coon Cat, a large, broad-chested cat with a long rectangular body and long flowing fur, was historically known as a working-class cat. It can take on many coloration patterns. The males average around 12 to 15 pounds, with some going 20 pounds or more. The females are smaller, averaging 9 to 12 pounds.
The Maine Coon would remain in the background with cat fanciers for the next four decades, so much so that in the 1950s, the Maine Coon was declared extinct. That was far from being the case. Maine Coon aficionados went to bat to bring the cat back to its original glory. It was not a fight that was easily won, taking over 20 years, to have the cat back onto the official Cat Fancier registries.
The Maine Coon, America’s first indigenous show cat, was once again on top of its game.
What happened to make this cat, bigger than life, fall out of fancy with the Cat Fancier’s.
- In January 1878, a dozen of this down-east, working class heroes were listed in the program of a show held in Boston, MA.
- In the 1870s cat shows were held in all the populace eastern cities, even as far west as Chicago, although not on a yearly basis. according to the Cat Fancier’s Association, http://www.cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsKthruR/MaineCoon/MCArticle.aspx,
- In May of 1985, The most famous and largest of the early shows was held at New York’s Madison Square Garden. A brown tabby female Maine Coon Cat named Cosey owned by Mrs. E. N. Barker, was the winner of the National Cat Show. How many Maine Coons that were entered in the show cannot easily be determined because they were classified with Persians and Angoras as “longhaired.” All cats were categorized first by hair length and then by sex.
- In 1897, 1898 and 1899, one of Mrs. E.R. Pierce’s brown tabby Maine Coon Cats, King Max, dominated this classic for three years, until defeated by his son Donald in 1900.
- In 1911, the Maine Coon had its last big recorded victory for over 40 years when a “long-haired blue Maine Cat” took first place in his class and best of show, out of an entry of 170 cats, at the Portland, Oregon show.
The road back to fancy.
- In the early 1950s, Alta Smith and Ruby Dyer formed the Central Maine Cat Club (CMCC) to end the Maine Coon’s slide into a regional oddity and to give impetus toward record-keeping and showcasing for the breed. For the next 11 years, the CMCC sponsored a combined cat show and exhibition of the photographs of cats. The club provided a means to call attention to all cats and the Maine Coon Cat in particular, and in doing so kept the image of the Maine Coon alive.
- By 1963, the CMCC shows outgrew the barn, the elementary school gym, the high school gym and every other workable large local meeting place. The organization became too large to continue its amateur status and the Central Maine Cat Club ceased to be.
- In 1968, the idea to create a universal Maine Coon Cat club whose purpose was to preserve and protect the breed came from Nancy Silsbee. The will and guidance to see the project through was supplied by Dr. and Mrs. Rod Ljostad. These early “movers and shakers” were completely dedicated to the concept of the Maine Coon Cat.
- During the first part of the 1970s the Maine Coon breeders requested and were denied provisional status.
- In 1969-70 the first attempt was made to bring the Maine Coon to provisional status. At the March 3, 1970 meeting, the board felt that they would be acting prematurely to accept the Maine Coon for provisional status. They wanted to determine if there were sufficient numbers being registered. Only 20 Maine Coons were registered at that time.
- In February 1971, the board again denied provisional status.
- In 1973, the Maine Coon Cat Club was formed in 1973
- At the Spring 1974 meeting, Jean Rose announced that CFA now had a Maine Coon Cat breed club. The members stated that they had now fulfilled all the requirements for recognition of the Maine Coon Cat as a provisional breed: they had a standard, a breed club and 133 cats registered. Unfortunately, the timing for acceptance was off as per the existing rules; in addition, some board members thought the breed standard still needed clarification.
- As of May 1, 1975, the Maine Coon Cat was accepted for provisional status following a vote at the October 1974 board meeting.
- On May 1, 1976. America’s native American longhair was back on the show bench with championship status.
- In 1977, the Maine Coon proved they could compete, with Best of Breed going to CH Lybe Christa’s Katy, owned by Elizabeth H. Brouch.
- In 1977-78, GC Purebred’s Silent Stranger, a copper-eyed white male, owned by William and Ruth Patt, became CFA’s first Maine Coon grand champion and Best of Breed.
- 1978-1981, saw a few more Maine Coons achieving their grand championship status. Three Tufpaws female grand champions were the national breed winners in 1978-79, 1979-80, and 1980-81. They were GC Tufpaws Reuelette, GC Tufpaws Schnitzel of Zookatz, and GC Tufpaws Rosana Dana of Zookatz.
- The 1981-82 show season produced the first national winning Maine Coon, GC NW Tufpaws Rosette.
The Maine Coon has finally clawed its way back to the top.
Because the Maine Coon Cat has such an interesting history, Paws will be dedicating the next two posts to the Maine Coon, one about the folklore about where it came from, and the other talking about the Maine Coon Cat as Maine’s official state cat.
In March of 2016, Reagan M shared 10 Fascinating Facts About Maine Coon Cat, and we decided to post in here. Keep in mind, Paws has not vetted all the info here, but we want to share.
Why do you think the Maine Coon Cat fell onto the back burner when it comes to the Cat Fancier’s? Why do you think some die-heart Maine Coon supporters went to bat to bring the cat back to the stature it once had?
It’s hard to believe that at one point, Maine Coons were considered extinct – my human can’t go to a cat show without seeing some of these larger-than-life kitties there!
Agreed, 100+ percent
Love Main Coons. I have three in my family. You are right about their rectangular bodies, one of my guys looks like a little tank. They are talkative and very affectionate. Thanks for sharing the history of the breed.
They are indeed the best, and have a fascinating history.
so interesting, I didn’t know they were considered extinct..
I do know that every long haired cat in Maine is called a coon regardless of if they are or not..
I think you are right. My Little Yellow looks like a Maine Coon, but I’m sure he’s a mix. My Victory, who lived with me for almost 20 years, looked just like a Maine Coon. She was much smaller because she was a girl, but she was stunningly beautiful.