Maine Coon cats have slowly but steadily gained in popularity since the 1960s. In cat shows around the world, it’s common to see Maine Coons win most of the prizes. With their regal ruff, adorable tufted ears, and distinctive bushy tail, this breed easily enjoys the favor of all the judges. These big, lovable cats are very rewarding to own and a lot of first time cat owners instinctively look for a Maine Coon to bring home with them.
Unfortunately, their universal appeal means that a lot of people buy pure-bred Maine Coons and expect each cat to naturally exude excellent behavior, without the benefit of socialization or training. Neglect and ignorance are two of the main reasons, a lot of these cats later end up at rescue shelters after their owners give up on them. Abuse doesn’t always have to be physical. Cats are sensitive creatures, and an impatient owner, who doesn’t put in the time to build a bond with his cat, can easily push a Maine Coon into expressing stress and anxiety through undesirable behaviors. Instead of addressing these problems and making the effort to understand why these bad habits form, neglectful owners tend to blame the cats and abandon them.
Contrary to popular opinion, shelters don’t just board the mixed breeds and mutts of the cat and dog world. Many times, you can walk down the hallway of a shelter and see beautiful, pure-bred Maine Coons, sitting in cages, and waiting for someone to adopt them, despite their pedigree and the social prestige that their previous owners bought with the cat.
If your heart is set on a Maine Coon cat, look around your local animal shelters and talk to the volunteers about the kind of cat you are looking for. Breed-specific rescues like omcrescue.org are possibly the best places to find Maine Coons of the look and character that you have in mind. The difference between a shelter and a rescue, is that shelters have a lot of animals to care for, and cannot devote the necessary amount of energy behind promoting and encouraging adoptions of certain breeds, despite their popularity. A lot of times, there are many people willing to adopt, but have a preference for certain breeds. These adopters never realize that there is a cat languishing in a shelter near them, who would be perfect for their family. In these situations, rescue groups step in and invest all their resources in looking for good homes for the breed their organization represents. They also work with a network of foster homes, trying to keep the breed cats out of shelters and with families who can provide affection and individual attention to each cat. This helps lighten the load on shelters, while giving the breed cat a way to lead a comfortable, secure life until a permanent home is found for them.
There are many excellent reasons to adopt instead of buying from pet stores and breeders.
Save a Maine Coon’s life. Each year, more than a million cats have to be euthanized to make space for more rescues cats in shelters. Many of these unfortunates are just a couple of generations removed from prize winning, pure-bred Maine Coons. It’s important to understand that cruelty and abandonment can happen to all cats, regardless of breed. Therefore, even if you have a strong preference for a Maine Coon which looks a certain way, you should try finding him through rescue organizations before deciding to patronize a breeder.
End unethical breeding. There are many responsible breeders of Maine Coons around the country, but far too many are unscrupulous and run the cat equivalent of a puppy mill. They invest as little time and money into the care of their Maine Coon queens and the litter as possible, in an effort to maximize their profit from the sale. When you buy a kitten from a pet store, you play directly into the hands of these people. Breeders should be personally invested in placing their kittens in good homes, but unfortunately, they are a lot more likely to try and over-breed their queens in order to sell as many litter in a year as possible. Breeding cats, under their suspect care, have miserable and short lives.
Better chance of finding the right Maine Coon. Breeders focus almost exclusively on trying to breed certain traits true and don’t usually have the kittens long enough to decisively know what their individual characters will develop to be in the future. On the other hand, shelter and rescue volunteers spend a majority of their time with adolescent and adult cats. They are the best people to ask about the nature and habits of individual Maine Coons. While breed standards are meant to help adopters decide which breed would suit them best, it is no substitute for knowledge of the specific cat you plan on bringing home.
Give a mixed breed an opportunity to impress you. The irony is that many people take home “Maine Coon” kittens from breeders and later realize that they are distinctly mixed. The personality and temperament of a Maine Coon is often carried through in cats who are only a few generations removed from a pure-bred. The distinctive look and features also pop up in many mixed breeds. If your choice of a Maine Coon is based on their touted personality, then give the mixed breeds in the shelters near you a chance to prove themselves. These cats may lack official paperwork, but because of a mixing of genes they are likely more healthy and less prone to inherited diseases that afflict pure-bred cats. Their nature is as individual as the looks they sport. You might find one who appeals to you in a way their more blue-blooded cousins never did!
Maine Coon rescue groups and volunteers work tireless to find excellent homes for their fosters. They put in every effort to ensure that a cat of Maine Coon breed isn’t taking up space in shelters which are always understaffed and overpopulated. Through endless enterprise and struggle, they try to help each cat find the perfect adopter, so no Maine Coon cat has to be put to sleep. The least we can do is honor that effort by giving these rescues a chance to win our heart.