Maine Coons are a unique cat breed that can weigh 15 pounds more than an average cat. While their size is strikingly different on their own, Maine Coon cats have unusual ears that resemble those of a lynx rather than a typical housecat.
Due to their differences, people have created mythologies about their genetic makeup and history. Because of the second part of their names - the “Coon” part - people think Maine Coons are related to raccoons.
Can Cats and Raccoons Mate?
Maine Coons and raccoons are different species, so they cannot interbreed. Raccoons will kill cats and their kittens, especially if cats confront raccoons that are encroaching on their kittens.
While cats and raccoons can physically mate, they cannot reproduce. Occasionally, wild male raccoons will mate with female cats, but a genetic barrier prevents impregnation. Therefore, Maine Coon cats cannot be half cat and half raccoon. Most likely, this exceptional breed might be a descendant of Norwegian Forest cats.
Why Raccoons and Cats Cannot Interbreed
Scientifically speaking, raccoons and cats share a kingdom, phylum, class, and order. But, they do not have the same families, genera, and species. Since they are similar in size and have the same reproductive organs, they can mate. But the different animals cannot fertilize the eggs of the other.
Despite having organs that reproduce similarly, the mechanism of reproductive isolation prevents hybrid creations. Consider how donkeys and horses can mate and reproduce because of their similar chromosomes, but the sterile mule is the product of the donkey and horse.
The chromosomes of a cat and raccoon are too different to breed. If cats and raccoons were the parents of the Maine Coon, it would not be able to breed, like a mule. Since Maine Coon cats can have kittens, the breed is not a hybrid animal.
Maine Coon Origin Questions
Unfortunately, no one knows what cat breeds became Maine Coon cats. Scientists know that raccoons and cats cannot interbreed, so the large and glorious feline must have come from a different combination of cats.
The myth of the raccoon and cat mix comes from the coloring and tail similarities between the raccoon and Maine Coon. The two animals have similar sizes, and they are both intelligent animals. They also enjoy swimming, which is rare for domesticated cats.
Maine Coons also have similarities to bobcats and lynx, but those are also different species that cannot interbreed.
Ships Docking in Maine
The Maine Coon name suggests that these cats first arrived in The Pine Tree State. Another myth about the origins of the Maine Coon name and size comes from a story about Captain Charles Coon and his European ships arriving in Maine. The cats kept mice off the ships, then when they arrived in Maine, Coon bred long-hair cats with short-hair cats. The rest is history.
This story is more likely than the idea of cats and raccoons having Maine Coon babies, but no one knows for sure if Captain Charles Coon had his breed of Maine Coon cats.
The Norwegian Forest Cat Theory
Another origin story comes from the Scandinavian ships that arrived in Maine. Like Charles Coon’s ships, Scandinavian ships also had cats to help control mice.
Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coon cats look similar, with long hair, large sizes, and wide-set, pointed ears. Unfortunately, no one knows if the Scandinavian ships are responsible for the Maine Coon breed.
The Queen of Cats
Along with the ship theories, some people believe that Maine Coon cats have a connection to Queen Marie Antoinette. Like the other theories, no one can prove their validity. Marie Antoinette kept domesticated cats, especially luxurious Persian and Turkish Angora cats.
As the French people started to rise against the out-of-touch monarchy, Marie Antoinette supposedly decided to escape to Maine. Some believe that her cats and belongings landed in Maine, where she eventually hoped to meet her love, Louis the XVI - after he was released from prison. Sadly, she and her husband were executed in Paris.
The Maine Coon is not part raccoon, as these two species cannot interbreed. However, there are many theories as to the origin of Maine Coon cats - some being more likely than others!