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What Do Maine Coons Eat? Do They Need a Special Diet?

Maine coons are the largest breed of domestic cat with some of them weighing in at over 20lbs (see How Big Do Maine Coon Cats Get?) Because of this one might assume that they need a special diet to keep that large frame going around the clock. Surprisingly this is not the case.

Maine coons do not need a special diet. You may however want to modify what you give and how often them depending on the age, health and weight. There is no right or wrong answer but discussion with your veterinarian is advisable before making any changes to your Maine coon’s diet.

How you feed your Maine coon is entirely up to you. This will largely depend on you Maine coon’s health and individual preference and to some degree, the cost. Your options for feeding your Maine coon are four-fold:

  • Wet food
  • Dry food
  • Raw diet
  • A mixture of the above

In this article we will discuss what to feed you Maine coon (including what no to feed them), how to convert to a raw food diet, what to feed Kittens and also a bit of detail about special diets for Maine coons.

Maine coons require a well-balanced diet to keep their joints healthy and their coats glossy. Ideally, they require high protein foods which are low in fat and high in nutrients. There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s really up to your preference as an owner (with agreement from your coon of course!). Guidelines do suggest that adult Maine coons should be having 26-40% of their diet as protein.

It’s advisable to use a ceramic bowl rather than a plastic bowl for your Maine coon to feed from. These plastic bowls can develop scratches and cracks in which bacteria can hide, making them very difficult to clean properly. This can result in your Maine coon developing chin acne which can be really difficult to get rid of. Of course, the other thing to think about is the fact that ceramic bowls are much better for the planet as we should all be trying to reduce our use of plastics, pet care included.

Of course your Maine coon should always have plenty of fresh drinking water available at all times. You may find that your Maine coon doesn’t enjoy drinking from their bowl and are constantly trying to turn on the taps and drink from there instead. Maine coons love running water and this may stem back to the survival instinct that running water is less likely to harbour bacteria than still water. You can read more about this in my article, How to Deal With Your Maine Coon’s Water Obsession ?

If this is the case with your Maine coon then you might water to consider investing in a cat water fountain. This will provide a constant supply of fresh running water for your Maine coon and you won’t have to worry about them turning on the taps all of the time. Our Kittens were introduced to a fountain with the breeder so we purchased one from the beginning. See here for my guide to cat water fountains

So, what should you feed your Maine coon? Well, let’s start off with foods you should be avoiding in your Maine coon’s diet:

Foods to Avoid

Large fish

These should be avoided as these can contain high levels of mercury. A little bit of tinned tuna every now and then won’t hurt but you really shouldn’t be giving this to your Maine coon on a regular basis. Smaller fish such as sardines should be just fine.

Chocolate and caffeine

Both of these contain a substance called methylxanthines which can be poisonous to cats. Darker chocolate has a higher methylxanthine content than milk and white chocolate. Symptoms of methylxanthine poisoning include diarrhoea, vomiting, muscle tremors and seizures.

Alcohol

Ingesting alcohol can be dangerous for cats. It can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and in the worst cases, coma and death. If your coon does ingest alcohol then take them to the vet immediately, do not wait for symptoms to arise.

Milk

Cats are unable to digest the lactose present in milk and it can make them really unwell. Even as a kitten cat’s digestive systems are only able to tolerate milk from their mother or a specialised babycat formula if they are being hand reared.

Gluten

Maine coons are known to have sensitive stomach and this can be aggravated by gluten. Have a good read of the list of ingredients and avoid foods containing ‘fillers’ such as corn and wheat. These are no good nutritionally for your Maine coon and can actually cause them digestive issues. You really want to avoid anything that might cause diarrhoea in a Maine coon. It’s distressing for the cat but also difficult to manage in terms of keeping their long fur clean.

Dog Food

Although dog food itself is not dangerous to cats it does not contain all of the vitamins and minerals required in a healthy feline diet. Cats are unable to synthesise an amino acid called taurine and so this needs to be included in their diet. Dog food does not contain this because dogs are able to produce taurine themselves. Dogs also require less vitamin A and their food reflects this.

Garlic and Onions

Onions and garlic are members of the allium family along with chives, leeks and scallions. These are poisonous to both cats and dogs but cats are much more severely affected. Members of the allium family contain compounds called disulfides and thiosulphate. Ingestion equivalent to 0.5% of their body weight will causes issues but garlic is 5 times stronger than onion. Disulfides and thiosulphate cause rapid development of anaemia which leads to lethargy, shortness of breath, fast heart rate and in the most extreme cases, death.

Raisins and Grapes

Even a small amount of these can cause serious illness in cats with symptoms appear within 12-24 hours of ingestion.

Should I feed my Maine coon solely with dried food?

Maine coons do not drink a lot of water. They get most of their hydration from the foods they eat. Therefore feeding them a diet of solely dried food may not be advisable as your Maine coon may end up dehydrated over the long term. This can have a negative impact on their kidney function.


Dried foods should not however be discounted from the diet. Maine coons are susceptible to gum disease. Gingivitis occurs due to a build up of plaque on the teeth and this leads to irritation of the surrounding gum. If this progresses then it can cause pain and affect your Maine coon’s ability to eat. Including dried food in the diet is a good way of preventing plaque build up on the teeth.

Another advantage is that dried food can be left out in the bowl for a long period of time without spoiling. It can also be put into an automatic dispenser if you are going to be away from home for a period of time, not that I am recommending leaving your Maine coon home alone (See, Should I Leave My Maine Coon Home Alone When I Go on Holiday ?).


Royal Canin do a specifically designed dried food for adult Maine coons (over the age of 15 months). The kibble is cube shaped and this is designed to suit the shape of the Maine coon jaw. It’s high in omega fatty acids and vitamin C for a healthy, glossy coat. These fatty acids also support cardiac function and healthy joints. When our Kittens are older, this is what we will be feeding them. Read product reviews and check current pricing here on the ZooPlus website.


My other recommendation for Maine coon dried foods are the James Wellbeloved range. It’s a hypoallergenic brand to reduce the change of gut issues. It’s rich in omega fatty acids to promote maintenance of a glossy coat. They also have a light formulation for overweight cats and a dental health formulation. Click here to browse the range and read all of the reviews.



So, as I mentioned you should be including some wet food in your Maine coon’s diet along with the dried kibble. Again Royal Canin have got your covered with their Maine coon wet food. It contains omega-3 and taurine, which as I mentioned before is an amino acid that cats are unable to synthesize themselves. This product is available via this link on ZooPlus or on Amazon via this link.

Raw Food Diet

What is a raw diet for cats?

Cats fed a raw diet eat only raw meat protein, like they would out in the wild. The usual ratio is 75/15/10, this means 75% muscle meat, 15% edible bone and 10% organs. Heart can be given and would count as a muscle meat rather than an organ.

Raw food can be made up at home or a pre-made raw food mix can be purchased from the store. A mixture of different raw meats is recommended to ensure that your cat gets all of the amino acids they require. Taurine supplementation may be required if your cat has taken to eating a lot of one type of meat, especially rabbit.

Many breeders will wean Kittens onto raw food. Some insist that this diet is continued once the Kittens are home with their new owners. Others will wean them onto store-bought wet or dry foods prior to them leaving for their new homes.

A raw food diet can be a good options for coons who have been found to have allergies. Many coons who are unable to tolerate the different dried foods available find that their symptoms are much improved on a raw food diet.

Prey Raw Model Diet

The Prey Raw Model (PRM) diet aims to replicate the diet of a wild cat without the need to hunt and kill prey. This diet is made up from 84% muscle meat, 6% raw bone, 5% liver and 5% other organs.

Franken Prey Feeding

This diet follows the guidelines of the PRM diet (84/6/5/5) but owners feed their coons a variety of different meat proteins in one meal.

Whole Prey Feeding

Whole prey feeding provides the exact proportions of muscle, bone and organs that your cat needs in their diet. Some owners will choose to feed whole prey with feathers and innards intact e.g. day-old chicks. Whole prey provides several benefits for your Maine coon including endorphin release and natural teeth cleaning.

How do I switch my Maine coon to a raw food diet?

Depending on how your cat gets on this process can take 1-2 weeks. Older cats mays take even longer if they have been brought up eating processed foods. Weaning a cat onto a raw food diet is a step-by-step process which requires a lot of trial and error.

Start by creating a meal made up of only one type of protein. Make a small batch to test with. If your coon eats this without any problems then you know that they like this type of meat protein. Give it a bit of time to check it is not causing them any allergies. Chicken is usually a good place to start.

The next step is to add in a small amount of edible bone. This should make up around 15% of the meal. If you find that the raw diet is causing your cat to have diarrhoea then a good idea is to increase the amount of bone you are giving them to begin with. Quail bones are a good option for cats. Continue with feeding the raw meat and bones until the stools are regular again before moving on to include organs.  

Now you can look at adding organs such as liver. Chicken liver is the mildest so this is a good one to test first. Pork and beef liver can be much stronger and can cause digestive upset so are best left for later once your coon is used to their new raw diet.

Take it slowly and do not allow your cat to go more than 24 hours without eating. If they are not accepting the food you have provided them then go back a step to the last recipe that they enjoyed. Once they are eating again, try them with a different raw protein combination.

An example of a good raw food recipe for cats is as follows:

  • 650g chicken thigh meat
  • 150g chicken backbones or ribs
  • 100g chicken liver
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tin of sardines in tomato sauce

Cut up the sardines into pieces. Mix the egg into the fish and tomato to create a sauce. Chop the meat into pieces and mix into the sauce.

How much raw food should a Maine coon eat per day?

Kittens should be allowed to eat until they are full. If they ask for food then they should be given it. They need as much protein and energy for growing as they can get. Adults should be fed somewhere between 3 and 5% of their bodyweight to ensure that they maintain a heathy weight.

How long can you leave raw food out before it spoils?

Leaving raw food out for a maximum of 12 hours should be just fine but it does depend on the environment. If it is a particularly hot day then foods will spoil quicker. If your coon can learn to eat at a set mealtime then this will ensure that they will become hungry at the right time and foods will be eaten in a timely fashion.

Should I allow my coon to eat wild prey?

This is a bit of a contentious issue. The worry here is that you do not know if wild prey was unwell, and therefore carrying germs, or had ingested anything dangerous e.g. poisons. Cat’s stomach acid is much stronger than human’s so the occasional wild prey will likely not do any harm.


Do Maine coon Kittens need different food?

Kittens do have nutritional needs from fully grown Maine coons. Current dietary guidelines state that Kittens should eat foods comprised of 30-45% protein. This is in contrast to adult cats who only need 26-40% protein in their diet. If you read the labels you will find that specialist kitten foods are a lot higher in protein content.

Another difference between adult and kitten foods is that dry foods for Kittens are also a lot smaller. This is simply because Kittens find it difficult to chew and digest the large pieces of kibble which come in the adult Maine coon dried food mix.

How much do Maine coon Kittens need to eat and how often should you feed them?

In the first four weeks of a life a kitten should be feeding from their mother. Her milk should provide them with all of the nutrients they need. If there is a problem with feeding then consult a veterinarian. Just as an example, in the case of our Kittens, the mother developed mastitis at 2 weeks (an infection of the mammary tissue). This resulted in her being unable to feed her litter of 6. Therefore they needed to be hand-reared. Sadly, not all of the Kittens took to feeding from a bottle and only 2 of the 6 survived, our two lovely coons.

Hand-rearing involves feeding the Kittens a specially formulated milk by bottle. This needs to be done every couple of hours, including throughout the night. If the Kittens are sleeping, they need to be woken up and encouraged to feed.

From the age of 4 weeks the nutrients in their mother’s milk will not longer be sufficient to support their growing bodies and therefore other foods need to be introduced. Kittens have very small stomachs and therefore cannot eat much in one go. During the day they will need to eat up to 6 meals and this will continue on until they reach the age of 6 months.

From the age of 6 months you can reduce feeding to 3-4 times a day. At the age of 10-12 months this can then be reduced twice a day, as you would feed an adult cat.


Age
Frequency
Foods
Comments
0-4 Weeks
Every 2-3 hours
Mother’s milk
Specialised formula for hand rearing if issues with mother
4-5 weeks
3-4 Meals a day plus dried food around the house all day
Wet/raw/dried food mixed with kitten formula
Form a slush which is easy to swallow and digest
5-6 weeks
3-4 Meals a day plus dried food around the house all day
Wet/raw food or moistened dried food
Use water to moisten dried food and make it easier to swallow
6 weeks – 6 months
3-4 Meals a day
Your choice of dry/wet/raw foods
Allow kitten to eat until full
6 – 10 Months
2-4 Meals a day
Your choice of dry/wet/raw foods
Allow kitten to eat until full
10 Months +
Taper down to twice a day
Your choice of dry/wet/raw foods
Good option to try wet/raw food twice a day with dry food available all the time

When it comes to deciding what foods to give your new kitten it is a good idea to discuss this with the breeder. Continuing on with familiar foods is usually a good idea to begin with. Moving to a new house is already a huge change for such a young animal. Changing what they eat at the same time will only cause them added stress which can have a significant impact on their ability to settle into their new home. There is also a high chance that they would develop diarrhoea if their foods are changed over too quickly.

Good examples of foods for Maine coon Kittens:

Royal Canin Maine Coon Kitten Dried Food


Not only is this dried food made specifically for Maine coons but this formulation is only for Kittens (up to the age of 15 months). The pieces of kibble are much smaller in size which makes them easier for the Kittens to chew on. This formulation is high in vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus which are all of the ingredients needed for healthy bone and joint development. This is particularly important in the Maine coon breed as they have such large frames when fully grown. This is the dried food we are currently feeding our Kittens. Click here to see pricing on ZooPlus.


Applaws Kitten Tinned Wet Food


This brand of wet food is what our Kittens had really been enjoying before they came home to us, especially the ocean flavour. It’s made from 100% natural ingredients, meaning that there are no nasty additives. There’s no gluten which can be difficult on sensitive kitten stomachs. It’s also got a natural consistency which is easy to digest. Our two love the ocean and tuna flavours. The best price I have found for this tinned food is on ZooPlus so this is why we are recommending this store for the majority of Maine coon food brands. Click here to see this product.



Felix As Good As It Looks Wet Food

This is a favourite with our two. They have one of these pouches a day each. The fish selection includes salmon, trout, sardines and tuna. The meat options include chicken and beef. This brand is frequently on offer at our local supermarket but can be bought online. See this link for the ZooPlus listing or see this link to check current pricing or subscribe on Amazon.


What Should Elderly Maine Coons Eat?

Older cats also require special diets. There is not a specific Maine coon food available for coons who are reaching their senior years. Instead you’ll want to look for a food that is designed for cats aged 7+ which also does not contain grains and is for indoor cats. A good example of this would be either Hill’s Science Plan Mature Adult Hairball and Indoor or Royal Canin Home Life 7+, follow the links to see more details about these products on the ZooPlus Website.

Special diets

If your Maine coon is suffering from a health condition or maybe they’ve put on a few pounds then your veterinarian may suggest that they are put on a specific diet.

Pregnancy

A typical cat pregnancy is around 65 days and during this time you will want your pregnant queen to have the best diet possible. This often involving the inclusion of kitten food back into her diet. This is because the protein and calorie content are higher in these foods. As mentioned previously kitten food also has increased calcium and vitamin D which mama cat will need to pass on to her Kittens to grow their tiny bones.

Find a good quality wet kitten food wean her onto this from the time of mating. A good example of this is the Royal Canin Mon and Baby Cat range which is designed for pregnant and nursing mum cats and Kittens who are being weaned onto solid food. Click here to see current pricing on Amazon.


Another easy way to introduce this into her diet is to buy a kitten formula and add it into her adult wet food, gradually increasing the amount over the period of a week.

As she progresses through her pregnancy increase the amount of kitten feed and reduce the adult feed. By the end of pregnancy she should be solely taking food designed for Kittens. As the Kittens grow they will put pressure on her stomach and she will not want to eat as much. It is important however that she gets the nutrition she needs to grow a litter of Kittens. At this point you’ll want to provide 4-6 small meals per day for your queen.

Nursing

When nursing a mama-cat can eat up to four times the amount she normally would have before she got pregnant. It is important that she continues with the diet of kitten feed that she was given during pregnancy, and that the amount of food she is eating is increasing.

At around 4 weeks the Kittens will begin to wean onto solid foods. At this point mama cat’s milk will begin to dry up and will usually be gone by 6-8 weeks. You can then begin to wean mama cat back on to adult food. You can slowly re-introduce it again over a 7-10 period.

Obesity

Being overweight is dangerous for any cat but it can have even greater implications for a Maine coon. First of all we have the cardiovascular complications of being overweight. These include diabetes and high blood pressure. Over time this can lead to strain on the heart resulting in heart failure and this is not curable.

In addition to this the Maine coon breed has a susceptibility to developing issues with their joints. Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation are common conditions which plague the breed. You can read more about these conditions in my article, Common Health Conditions Affecting the Maine Coon Breed. Having additional weight on an already heavy-set frame will stress the joints causing osteoarthritis and increasing the chances of developing these conditions. If this happens then your Maine coon will likely become less mobile and put on even more weight; it’s a vicious cycle.

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is coon and what is fur! If you think that your Maine coon may be overweight then discuss this with your veterinarian. They may suggest a meal plan or specific foods for your Maine coon.

Furballs

The Maine coon breed of cat is at particular risk of developing fur ball and this can make them feel pretty poorly! Fortunately there are several things that you can do to address this and a good diet is a really important part of this. Having a well-balanced diet should provide your coon with a healthy coat of fur. If you do find that they are developing furballs then a change of tact might be in order.

If this is the case then consider changing to a furball formulated cat food. A good choice would be this hairball control dried food by James Wellbeloved (link allows you to view the product on Amazon). It’s a dried food made primary of turkey and rice with no gluten. More importantly, it contains natural pea fibre which traps hairs in the stomach and pulls it through the digestive system.


We are fortunate that our two have not been suffering with furballs. I like to think it is down to our regular grooming routine. We do also give them these furball prevention treats several times a week which may also be helping.



Renal (kidney) Failure

Kidney disease is not uncommon in older cats, particularly in Maine coons who have developed polycystic kidney disease. Your veterinarian will be able to give you advice about the best diet for a Maine coon with kidney disease and you should discuss this with them before making any major changes to our pet’s diet.

In kidney disease means that your Maine coon’s ability to filter out toxins in reduced. Renal formulated foods tend to have reduced protein and phosphorus in them. They will also have higher levels of fatty acids and antioxidants to help with overall well-being and to slow progression of the kidney disease.

A good example of this are the Royal Canin Renal Support Cat foods. These come in several different formulations of both wet and dry food. The different formulations are needed because cats who have renal disease often lose their appetite and so they may need to try different foods in order to find one which spikes their interest in eating again. The different formulations of Royal Canin renal support are indicated by different letters, below is a list explaining what they all mean:

A – aromatic, round-shaped kibble

D – delectable, morsels in gravy

E – enticing, soft pate

F – flavourful, triangle-shaped kibble

S – savoury, square-shaped kibble

T – tasty, thin slices in gravy

Wet foods are good for helping to correct dehydration in cats with kidney disease. Also, you’ll want to make sure they are drinking plenty so for these Maine coons a cat water fountain is a really good idea. See my guide to cat water fountains for more information.

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