Are Maine Coon Cats Part Raccoon?

See if America's favorite cat is related to the raccoon.

By Diane Morgan

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Are Maine Coons Part Raccoon?

The stunning Maine Coon cat is not a cross between a raccoon and a domestic shorthair, but there's a good reason people used to suspect it. When I was growing up in Maine, everyone “knew” Maine Coons were half-raccoon and maybe part bobcat, too.

Of course, it's scientifically impossible for raccoons or bobcats to mate with domestic cats. But, having lived in Maine for many years, owned Maine Coons, and being well aware of the ways of bobcat and raccoon (both plentiful in the Pine Tree State), I wonder. I wonder if the qualities of these mysterious and beautiful animals somehow, by some strange spiritual osmosis entered the soul of this domestic cat and changed it forever.

Similarities End At Looks
The resemblance is partly in the Maine Coon's tail, which indeed is long, bushy, extravagant, and sometimes ringed — remarkably like a raccoon tail. Like other cold weather animals, such as the arctic fox and Siberian Husky, such a tail comes in very handy on a cold winter's night when sleeping outdoors, serving as a combination ski mask and muffler. The large, well-tufted ears (sometimes called “lynx tips” in Maine Coon enthusiast circles) and big feet (like snow shoes) probably gave rise to the bobcat legend. And of course, like both the raccoon and bobcat, Maine Coons are nocturnal and prowly, but no more so than any other domestic cat.

Maine Coons are also superior climbers, like raccoons and bobcats, another quality which may have given rise to the legend of their origin. Some people maintain that Maine Coons aren't “vertically oriented,” possibly because they're so heavy. However, the fact is that these cats can climb quite well when so inclined. They can actually do pretty much anything they please.

Both Love Water
Then there's the matter of the water-fetish. Like raccoons, the Maine Coon is totally fascinated by water in any form. Not only do they not seem fearful of it, they revel in it. Many will spend several amusing minutes every day playing with their water bowl or attempting to turn on the faucet. Sometimes they succeed.  They like bathtubs, too. One of mine would take naps in ours.

Perhaps their fearlessness of water is due to the quality of their thick coats, which are partially water repellent. This lavish cat really has to be felt to appreciate its quality. Although the fur is not as long as a Persian's, the Maine Coon has a cold-protecting, dense coat that requires careful, twice-weekly grooming with a wide-toothed steel comb. However, the coat doesn't mat nearly to the extent of other longhaired breeds because the Maine Coon has a shorter undercoat. This is a plus for those families that enjoy the beauty of a longhaired cat, but prefer a less grooming-intensive pet.

Another raccoon-like characteristic of the Maine Coon is the dexterous use of its oversize paws. It can scoop up a toy or bit of food and clench its toes possessively around the item. Some Maine Coons actually dunk the food in water, just like — well, a raccoon. So, although the Maine Coon is touted as one of oldest “natural breeds” in the United States, there's always been something just the tiniest bit “unnatural” (at least as far as ordinary cats go) about this big beauty.

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