Maine coons are a little different to your average domestic cat. For a start they are a pedigree and therefore it is unlikely that you’ll be rescuing them from a shelter. You’ll more likely be visiting a breeder to adopt a kitten.
Making the decision to adopt a Maine coon is a big deal and there are several questions you will want to be asking when visiting a breeder. Here we will go through what these questions are and why you will be wanting to ask them. We’ll even provide you with a handy list that you can take with you to the breeder at the end of the post. This way you can ensure that you are adopting a happy, healthy kitten and that you are not supporting unhealthy breeding practices.
Will the breeder only allow the Kittens to leave their mother after 12 weeks?
You want to see that the Kittens are being kept with their mother when you visit the breeder. Pedigree Kittens should remain with their mothers for an absolute minimum of 12 weeks but ideally, they should stay together for 13-14 weeks. This will give the Kittens plenty of time to be weaned onto solid food but also to become well socialised with their litter and give them time to learn cat-like behaviours from their mother.
How many litters per year does the mother have?
Mothers need time to rest between having their litters. Ideally you do not want a queen having more than 3 litters in the space of 2 years. You should enquire about this when you visit a breeder. You want to make sure that you are not unintentionally supporting an unhealthy breeding environment.
This next set of questions all follow a similar theme. There are a number of genetic medical conditions that Maine coons are prone to and every Maine coon owner should make themselves aware of what these conditions are. You will want to know the status of these conditions in the parents to be able to tell if your kitten is potentially going to be at risk of problems in the future.
Were the parents screened and graded for hip dysplasia?
Maine coons are at high risk of joint problems due to their large frame. Years of breeding have meant that genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia have become an issue. You will want to see that the parents of your kitten have been screened for hip dysplasia. They will be graded based on the health of their hips and this will give you a good indication of whether your kitten is likely to run into problems in the future.
The grading system is as follows:
Normal – both hips look healthy
Borderline – the socket for the hip joint is not quite normal but neither is it considered to be dysplastic
- Mild dysplasia
- Moderate dysplasia
- Severe dysplasia
In some countries, Maine coons graded 1 (mild dysplasia) can still be included in breeding programmes, as long as they are bred with a Maine coon who has been graded as normal. Hip dysplasia can often result in the need for surgery therefore this is something that is often asked about when you apply for pet insurance.
Do the parents have a history of polycystic kidney disease?
This genetic condition affects the kidneys and can make your Maine coon prone to both recurrent urinary infections and kidney failure. Ask if the parents have suffered from these problems or if they are known to have polycystic kidney disease.
Have both of the parents been screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
This is another important genetic medical conditions that is not uncommon in Maine coons. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can result in heart failure. There are blood tests that can be performed to identify if a Maine coon carries the gene for this condition. Any Maine coon that is being used for breeding should have had this test. In addition there are a number of Maine coons who will go on to develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy despite having a negative test. Therefore you will want to check that the mother is having regular echocardiograms to scan her heart and check for the condition. Ideally a Maine coon queen should be tested between every litter but at the very least should be having an echocardiogram performed every other year.
Have both of the parents had genetic tests for spinal muscular atrophy?
This is another genetic condition which can be passed down from the parents. Spinal muscular atrophy causing muscle wasting which results in progressive instability and unsteady gait. Kittens will not show any signs of the condition until at least 3-4 months of age.
There are also several questions you’ll want to ask about the health of the kitten and the veterinary care they have received so far.
Will the kitten have had two sets of vaccinations by the time we take them home?
Kittens require two sets of vaccinations. The first set takes place at around 9 weeks old. The second set are ‘booster’ vaccinations which happen at 12 weeks old. Kittens should be kept inside until they have had both sets of these vaccinations. Cats are usually vaccinated against cat flu viruses, feline leukaemia virus and feline infectious enteritis. Annual ‘booster’ vaccinations will then be required once a year.
When adopting a kitten you should inquire about which of these vaccinations they will have prior to the kitten coming home with you. You should also request a record of these vaccination which you can later pass on to your veterinarian.
Will the kitten be micro-chipped?
This is easily fixed through your veterinarian but do inquire about it before you bring your kitten home. You want to plan your expenses for medical care and insurance beforehand.
Has the kitten been neutered?
Technically Maine coon Kittens can be neutered at as early as 12 weeks but it is commonplace to wait until the age of 6 months. Aside from the obvious benefit of avoiding unwanted kitten production, neutering reduces the chances of hormone-driven behaviours such as spraying. You will want to know the status of the kitten you are adopting so that you can plan the cost of your vet care and appointments in advance.
Will proof of a clean bill of health be provided?
Again you do not want to be supporting unhealthy breeding practices. You want to see that both the parents and the kitten are in good health. You’ll also need to know the medical history of your kitten in order to be able to get pet insurance for them.
How does the kitten react around humans?
You want to be sure that you are buying from a breeder who treats the cats well. If you visit a breeder and the Kittens seem afraid of humans then you have to ask yourself what might be happening behind closed doors.
I hope that you now understand what you are looking for when choosing a Maine coon kitten. Here is a list that you can print and take with you to the breeder to ensure that you do not forget to ask any these important questions.
|Has the kitten been with the mother for 12 weeks?|
|Does the mother have no more than 3 litters every 2 years?|
|Have the parents been screened and graded for hip dysplasia?|
|Do the parents have a history of polycystic kidney disease?|
|Have both parents been screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?|
|Have both parents been tested for spinal muscular atrophy?|
|Will the kitten have had 2 sets of vaccinations by the time you take them home?|
|Will the kitten be micro-chipped?|
|Will the kitten be neutered?|
|Will you be provided with evidence of a clean bill of health for the kitten?|
|Does the kitten react normally to people?|