The questions can be many when you are about to get your first purebred cat and not all breeders are either knowledgeable or honest. We have all been new at some point, the difference is if you are lucky enough to have an experienced and talented mentor or if you are unlucky to get someone who is not so knowledgeable.
So what should you think about to get the best possible start? I will address some points below.
Many people who want to buy, want a BIG cat, the bigger the better. Well, here we come to the first problem in this breed. This is a big breed and compared to a normal house cat, even a very small Maine Coon is a giant. But for God's sake, forget about the fantasy weights of 12-15 kg, they simply do not exist except in some extremely fat cats, or in the imagination of some owners. The normal weight of a fully grown male is between 6-8 kg and a female 4-6 kg.
When you then are going to look at a small kitten, if the breeder claims that the cat will become a giant then you can turn off your ears. Nobody can guarantee the size of a specific kitten, sure, two big parents give a slightly greater chance of the kitten getting big, but there are many genes which can also breakthrough from behind. There are very small females, for example. who gives a very nice size to their offspring and vice versa. It is never possible to predict the size of a growing kitten or young cat unless you happen to be a psychic, so do not go on that rivet. An experienced breeder points out that we can never guarantee the size of a kitten. Nor is it particularly common for the largest as a kitten to become the largest as an adult, it may well be that the absolute smallest as a kitten who actually becomes the absolute largest as an adult. What we can foresee to some extent is the bone structure, we can look at, for example, which kitten is the largest in the tail closest to the body, or has the largest paws and roughest legs. This cant to some extent tell us how good a bone structure a kitten got.
This is, of course, just as with us humans very individually and it will always be someone who is shyer than others. But overall it can be said that the whole litter and the rest of the cattery should not run and hide under the nearest sofa and do not come out again. Maine Coon is normally curious and would love to be part of everything that goes on. That the mother may be slightly skeptical at times, and this is perfectly normal but she and the kittens should not be in a panic. Also, always make sure to meet the mother and all the siblings (those who are still at home, if you are late some or many of them may have moved already). Also make sure to meet the dad if he is with the breeder, not quite unusual, however, that he is borrowed and thus lives elsewhere. Here you, as a buyer, also have a certain responsibility. Unless the breeder is experienced enough to be able to give you advice on which kitten who is the right one for your family, you need to learn a little yourself to be able to see which one may be suitable just your family. If you are a family of two or you live alone, then maybe the shy little kitten can become a fantastic company that blossoms in your home. If, on the other hand, you are a family with children and the daily life is full of some noise and sounds and things that happens, you should perhaps not choose the shy little kitten, who pulls away, but instead, you should choose one of the kittens who make contact with both you and the children. Maybe you can’t really expect them to throw themselves in your arms right away, but at least they should get out from possible hiding places, in some time and seek contact. The Maine coon is, as I said, a social cat, however, this does not mean that they are all into being in your arms all the time, many are content to just sleep nearby perhaps right next to you, although there are of course also those who like to be on you all the time. They are, as I said at the beginning of this paragraph, individuals o can be very different from each other albeit equally nice and lovely everyone in their own way.
This is probably where the bluff makers stand out most, most serious breeders have enough knowledge, to blur out, stupid statements about unique colors, etc.
I have seen so many ads, that I think I'm might go crazy, where a higher price is required for a kitten of "unusual color" in these cases, silver cats or red females are often visible. Let's get this clear once and for all, a red female is by no means unusual, the only thing required is that the mother is red or tortie and that the male is red, not so difficult in other words. If you have a red female and even the father is red, all kittens will be red, whether it is a female or a male.
The silver gene is a so-called dominant gene, which means that just one copy of the gene is needed for the cat to become silver, this means that only one of the parents needs to be silver for the kitten to be silver. If this parent should also have two copies of the silver gene, all offspring would be silver regardless. So don't be fooled to pay extra for unusual color, as there are basically no unusual colors.
There are, above all, two diseases at Maine Coon that should be taken into account, however, note that this does not in any way mean that the breed is sicker than any other breed, rather the opposite, we have simply worked out a successful health program. And that helps us to have good insight into these. Always ask to see health status, in cases where cats are tested within the health program, this can be seen at www.pawpeds.com (HCM can only be performed by veterinarians who are affiliated with the health program as they are the only ones with adequate training), in case HD is made outside the health program eg. at OFA ask to see the result. The same goes for DNA results, of course.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – HCM
HCM belongs to the group of diseases called the silent death.
Most often the cat has no symptoms, before they just drop dead, without any premonition. Countless are the stories from both breeders and pet owners who suddenly found their cat lying dead on the floor, in bed or in its own bed.
In the worst cases, the owner has seen the cat die in the midst of watching birds from the windowsill or in the middle of a jump or a game, the heart just stops beating. In the worst-case scenario, the cat gets an embolus and terrible pain before it dies.
Why am I telling you this? To scare you? Well, not really, it’s just so that you will understand how important it is for your own sake to make sure that the cat you buy comes from tested parents. This is absolutely no guarantee, that your cat will not be affected, but by testing inside the health program the breeder done everything in their power to prevent sickness in the kittens. The breeder also by doing this helps the scientist to maybe, just maybe find more of the mutations that can cause HCM and give us more mutations to DNA-test for.
It’s important to remember that the one DNA-test we do have is just for 1 mutation and there is a lot more mutations who can cause HCM in Maine Coon (at least 12 most likely even more), but so far we found only this one! So as you can imagine just a DNA-test if far from enough. That's why we do need to do the Ultrasounds to actually look at the heart and look for signs of any change, we do this at the ages 1, 2, 3 and 5 sometimes we do it once more at about 7-8 years of age. The first ultrasound will be done before the first mating.
Hip Dysplasia - HD
HD is more mentioned when it comes to dogs, but it does occur in a lot of cat breeds also.
This sickness is actually worse from the cat's point of view if a cat had to choose between drop dead suddenly while looking at birds or move around with horrible pain for month or years before needed to be put to sleep, I’m pretty sure what the cat would choose.
I would definitely choose to drop dead suddenly while doing something nice if I had to choose.
From the owner's perspective, HCM is, of course, more shocking.
HD means in short that the hip sockets in worst cases more or less would not grasp the hip bullet at all, which of course would give severe pain. There are several degrees of HD in the health program the hips are graded one by one and not together, the grades are Normal, 1, 2 and 3. We do breed degree 1 in, but only to a mate that is completely Normal on both hips. X-rays is done once before first mating as earliest at 10 months of age.
As you can understand this is a really important test to do.
Pyruvate Kinase – PK
Not much need to be said about this, there is a DNA-test, of course it’s best if both parents are tested. Note that kittens can also be free by parents, sometimes for several generations, in those cases tests of course are not necessery. Also note that there can be carriers and this is not something to be worried about, a carrier (N/PK) will never be sick from PK. When breeding it's ok to use a cat with N/PK but always mated to a partner who is N/N of PK of course. A cat that are PK/PK will not be bred.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy – SMA
A lot of cats have been tested now and so far it’s been very few and only from some isolated line, so this would today not get the main focus and you won't need to feel any panic if the parents are not tested with DNA for this one. Of course the BEST is if they are tested, that gives foundation to research and also we can keep an eye on it and see if something changes. Of course, it's the same as above, in this case, SMA/SMA if any will, of course, be neutered without any litter, N/SMA will be mated to partners who are N/N on SMA.
Do you want to have a litter?:
This is an extremely important point, if you have the slightest thought or interest in breeding, think this through and buy a cat with breedingrights, not a pet cat. All serious breeders work hard to keep track of who is breeding from a litter, how many that goes into breeding, etc. this is not because we are trying to control anyone, but simply for the sake of the breed in whole. As a rule, a maximum of 2 kittens from each litter is allowed into breeding, so there will not be too many closely related cats into breeding at the same time. We work hard to plan matings that are unrelated and to make sure that some lines or cats should not be over-represented, it is a hard job and many times it requires that we import cats, travel to collect and other costs in connection with with this can easily exceed SEK 25000.
Please do think about this and so that you wont destroy our hard work, by reckless just get a cat as pet who you then takes into breeding just for fun or because kittens are so sweet. To be a breeder is fantastic, but it’s far from a dance on roses. Which it can often look like from the outside. But breeders will often need to make really hard and difficult decisions, we have to put in huge amount of money and time, we need to take a lot of time off work. It takes dedication, money and, quite simply, a lot of go in you, to be able to keep breeding in the long run.
If you from the beginning set to buy a cat to breed, and you have already told your prospective breeder that you want to buy a cat meant for breeding, dare to make demands! Do not agree to pay a deposit on a kitten when it’s only 4 weeks old or younger. Turn to a breeder who is prepared and experienced enough to understand that a kitten future breeding needs to be evaluated for at least 6 weeks, preferably 8-10 weeks. Before that, it is extremely difficult to say which cat/cats are the best in the litter and for future breeding we must always make sure to select the best ones, which is always the way to drive the breed forward. Do not forget important details, there is more that distinguishes a good breeding cat than just the type….
More to take into account is the health of the parents and even further back in the pedigree, the temper of the parents and the kitten, perhaps whether the parents marked territory or not both female and male can give this in inheritance to their offspring.
A male who does not mark territory has a greater tendency to give offsprings who do not mark territory either. However, we must remember that a male is a male and there is never any guarantee, but at least the chances are greater if the father is safe and stable. The same goes for the females, many times the females are worse than the males which is hilarious as the males are often the ones who come up for discussion when talking about marking territory.
Another important aspect is how the mother takes care of the kittens, did she got easy deliveries? Sure it can go awry and they can have problems once, but if a female got a problem at multiple births or with multiple litters you should think it through and close her.
By: Malin Sundqvist