The Maine Coon is a native cat from Maine and one of the oldest known natural cat breeds in North America. Because of their massive, long-haired and water-resistant coat, they adapt well to cold climates and harsh environments.
Maine Coons are active and playful, love children, get along with other cats and even dogs. Although these cats are easy to manage, they do have some health concerns their owners should watch out for — some can become severe if treatment isn’t provided. If you’re concerned about your Maine Coon’s health, check in with your veterinarian.
Health Concerns in a Maine Coon
There are many health conditions and diseases related to your cat’s breed through genetics. It doesn’t mean that your cat will develop these problems, but that they may be more at risk than other felines.
- Obesity: Maine Coons are big cats, but there still shouldn’t be extra weight on them. If your cat has excess weight, they’re more prone to developing diabetes, arthritis and other diseases which can be life-threatening. Plus, carrying excess weight can shorten the lifespan of your Maine Coon by as much as two years. Developing a fatty liver, which is called hepatic lipidosis, is another disease which is fatal in an overweight pet.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): The medical term for heart muscle disease is cardiomyopathy. HCM is a type of heart disease that causes the heart walls to thicken. It’s hereditary in this breed. Seeing signs of cardiomyopathy can be difficult. If you notice lethargy, difficulty breathing, a lack of interest in exercise, or poor appetite, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian.
- Arterial thromboembolism: Feline aortic thromboembolism is when cats with heart disease develop blood clots in their arteries. The aorta is a large blood vessel that supplies the blood from the heart throughout the body. Blood clots can become lodged just past the aorta which will block the blood flow to the hind legs. If this happens, your pet’s legs can become painful, cold, or even paralyzed. This is a life-threatening disease and will need extended medical care and quick action.
- Patellar luxation: Luxation is the medical term for being out of place. So, a luxating patella is a kneecap which slides off to one side because the stifle is improperly developed. This condition doesn’t always show up until the condition is advanced. The signs may present gradually as your cat ages. The key to finding this condition early is an x-ray around the time your cat is spayed or neutered. Patellar luxation does occur in many breeds, but Maine Coons are at a higher risk for this condition.
- Hip dysplasia: This is often found in dogs, but it can also occur in cats, and especially Maine Coons. Dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joints. When the hip joint don’t fit well in the socket, the joint will be arthritic. If your cat suffers from hip dysplasia, they’ll most likely start slowing down around 6 years of age. To detect early hip dysplasia, pelvic x-rays are recommended.
- Neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI): NI is a rare immune-mediated disease that is caused when a newborn kitten that has Type A blood suckles the first milk from his mother who has Type B blood or visa versa. Because the immunity against Type A blood is contained in the mother’s milk when the kitten nurses, the antigen is absorbed into the kitten’s bloodstream. This causes antibodies that attack and then destroy your kitten’s red blood cells. This occurs in many cat breeds but the Maine Coon, because of the likelihood of having Type B blood, is more prone.
- Deafness: Genetic or heritable deafness has been found in some Maine Coon bloodlines. There isn’t any treatment for genetic nerve deafness, but your cat will be okay if they live in an indoor environment. Going outside for cats who are deaf or hearing deficient cats is dangerous because cats rely heavily on their hearing. So, a life indoors is the best option for a cat who is deaf.
- Polycystic kidney disease: This is a genetic disease in Maine Coon cats where small cysts which are present in the kidneys develop. The cysts are there at birth, grow in size and multiply as the cat grows and ages. The healthy kidney tissue is replaced with the cysts, and it causes the kidneys to increase in size which causes a decline in the renal function. Chronic renal failure is a complication of this illness. Because this is a slow-moving disorder, your cat may not show any symptoms until they’re about seven years of age. The signs of PKD are frequent urination, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, increased thirst, weight loss.
- Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA): This is a genetic disorder which results in the lower loss of spinal cord neurons in the lower spinal cord in Maine Coon kittens. Kittens will have muscle weakness in their back ends which can cause them to sway and be unsteady. However, older cats with this disease can lead to happy normal lives.
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis can cause pain and redness in your cat’s gums. If the case is mild, it can be treated with a mouth rinse. But, if left untreated, it can progress to Stomatitis Gingivitis or periodontal disease. Both of these have been associated with resorptive lesions and retrovirus infections. You may not realize your cat is having mouth issues until their vet visit for an oral examination.
Signs Your Maine Coon Cat is Sick
When medical care should be sought immediately:
- If you notice an ear discharge, tender ears, shaking the head or scratching.
- If you see redness, cloudiness, itchiness, or other abnormalities of the eyes.
- Discolored urine, not being able to urinate or straining.
- Rapid, labored or open-mouth breathing, sudden onset weakness or exercise intolerance.
A Maine Coon is an excellent pet for the family and loves attention. Just be sure to keep up with his vet visits as well as checking your pet for signs of distress. Find a veterinarian here.