The Maine coon is the largest breed of domestic cat. Many assume that a cat as large as a Maine coon would be aggressive by nature. After all, they can grow to be the size of a dog and that majestic mane gives them the appearance of a lion. Surprisingly though, unless something is causing them distress, Maine coons are not aggressive at all. They are loving and docile creatures who, unlike a lot of cats, crave human attention and interaction.
Maine coons are known for being a calm breed of cat. In fact, they are often referred to as being ‘gentle giants’. As a result, they are a popular choice of family pet, getting on well with children, dogs and other cats. Maine coons are a great choice of cat for the beginner pet owner.
If you are considering adopting a Maine coon and aggression is a concern then please be reassured that in general this is not a problem. If you do have a Maine coon an they have experienced a change in behaviour and have developed aggressive tendencies then read on for advice. Maine coons who are experiencing distress of some sort they may start to show signs of aggression, which may include:
- Biting (they can often bite in a playful manner and this is usually just a soft little pinch of the skin. An aggressive cat will bite down hard and not let go, often aiming to break the skin and draw blood)
- Hissing or growling
- Destroying furniture
- Fighting with other household pets
Now, if you have a Maine coon kitten then they may display behaviours such as biting, scratching and fighting without it necessarily being in an aggressive manner. Biting can be a way of coping with teething and fighting is just their way of learning and playing. Let them know if they are causing you pain when they bite and scratch and they should soon learn to rein it in a little bit. This should not be severely punished as this can cause significant psychological damage for the future. If a kitten is hissing or growling then this might be more of a clue that something is wrong.
So if you have identified that your Maine coon is displaying aggressive behaviour then you need to try and work out what the cause is. The reasons for aggression in cats is quite varied but here are some which may relate directly to the Maine coon breed. These are explained below:
They are Stressed
Any changes in their living circumstances can cause a cat distress. If your coon is settled at home and a sudden change happens then this may trigger aggressive behaviour. Introduction of a new baby or a new family pet may leave a Maine coon feeling a bit put out. Remember, Maine coons crave human attention and affection. If there is something or someone who is distracting attention from them they may not like this and may act out to get your attention. Having said that, in general, most Maine coons react well to new additions to the household (see my previous articles, Do Maine Coons Get Alone With Dogs? And Do Maine Coons Get Along With Babies and Small Children?).
They are Unwell
Aggression can be a sign of illness in your Maine coon as they may not know how to express the fact that they are not feeling well. If you suspect that your Maine coon may be unwell then please consult your veterinarian, but here are a few specific things to look out for.
Be sure to keep an eye on how much they are eating and drinking. If you are concerned then keep a food diary of this over a period of time. If they are losing weight or go 24 hours without eating then seek advice for your veterinarian immediately. Have a lower threshold for seeking help if you have a kitten who you suspect may be unwell.
Also keep an eye on how often they are using the litter tray. Are they straining to urinate or open their bowels? When they do is there any blood present in the tray? These could be a sign that they have developed an issue with their kidneys, bladder or digestive tract. Furballs are another problem which are not uncommon in Maine coons. If they grow large enough they can cause a blockage in the stomach or bowels which can be really uncomfortable for your Maine coon. It will also prevent them from opening their bowels properly.
Is your Maine coon itching and scratching themselves a lot? It could be possible that they have picked up a parasitic infection such as fleas. This is less likely in an indoor pet but if you have other cats, or dogs, which go outside then it is possible that this could have been passed on to your Main coon.
Maine coons are prone to developing issues with their joints due to their genetics and their large frame. Osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia and patellar luxation are the most common joint conditions in Maine coons. These conditions are more likely to occur in Maine coons who are overweight or who have been bred from bloodline containing genetic mutations for these conditions. You can find out more about these conditions in my guide, Medical Conditions Affecting the Maine Coon Cat Breed.
They are in Pain
Maine coons have a lot of fur which is prone to becoming tangled. Tangles can easily turn into areas of matted fur which can be really painful for a Maine coon. Matted fur pulls on the surrounding skin causing inflammation and can quickly cause an infection. Your Maine coon will not be able to remove the matted fur themselves with grooming so you’ll need to attempt to help them out with this. For a guide to removing matted fur see my post, How to Remove Matted Fur From a Maine Coon: A Step-by-Step Guide.
If a cat has not been neutered then they can develop aggressive tendencies when they reach the age of sexual maturity. Indoor cats can begin spraying as a way of marking their territory. If kept inside they may become aggressive because they want to get outside and find themselves a mate. Unfortunately, they see you as being the one who is preventing them from achieving this.
Having your Maine coon neutered in a timely fashion is your responsibility as an owner. It’s a really important part of caring for your coon and a key factor in maintaining harmony at home. For more information on neutering you can read my previous article, At What Age Should Your Maine Coon Be Neutered?
Maine coons are very social creatures and they have been known to develop symptoms of depression if they are left by themselves for long periods of time. Many people suggest that Maine coons should be adopted in pairs to prevent them from getting lonely. This was certainly the right thing to do for us as our first Maine coon, Matt, really did not like being left at home by himself. To read about our experience and how we ended up buying a second Maine coon see my previous post, Do Maine Coons Need a Companion?
Aggression may be a sign that your Maine coon is simply bored and has taken to acting out in order to get your attention. This is more likely to if you are out of the house a lot or if you like to go away on long trips and leave your Maine coon at home by themselves.
As mentioned previously, loneliness is an issue in Maine coons and this may lead to boredom. Introducing a friend for them may solve the problem. Also, you should make sure that your Maine coon is well stimulated. Ensure that they have plenty of toys the entertain them and set aside time every day to play with them and groom them. Make sure they have access to a scratching post (this may be as part of a cat tree) so that they can sharpen their claws without destroying the furniture. For more information on how to stimulate and exercise indoor Maine coons please see the relevant section in my previous article, Should I Let My Maine Coon Go Outside?
Previous Traumatic Experience
If you have re-homed a Maine coon, especially a stray or one from a shelter, then you can never be sure of their history. A cat who has experienced previous trauma at the hands of a human may be aggressive towards you at first.
If this is the case then things will likely get better but it may take some time. Just remember that everything needs to be on their terms. Try not to fuss over them and give them plenty of space.
Create a safe space for your new friend, this may be a hidey-hole in the back of a cupboard or maybe you have a purpose-built cat cage/shelter you can let them retreat to when they are feeling stressed. Give them easy access to food, water and a litter tray as well as a comfy place to sleep. When they are ready, they will come to you. Once they have realised that you are not going to harm them and that you are the one that feeds them then of course they will want to be your friend.
How to Stop Your Maine Coon Being Aggressive
Well first of all you need to identify what is triggering their aggression. When you know the cause, you can then work towards addressing the issue.
When your coon carries out an aggressive behaviour such as biting or attacking another family pet be sure to let them know this is not an acceptable thing to do. You can do this in several ways and these actions should be carried out in the immediate aftermath of the behaviour. Your Maine coon will learn to associate this unpleasant action with their behaviour and it will deter them from the behaviour in the future. Here are a few ideas:
- Spray them with water – Using a spray bottle full of water, give a couple of sprays towards your Maine coon
- Blow air into their face
- Make a loud noise and clap your hands loudly
Clip their Claws
Keep their claws clipped so that they cannot use them to harm anyone in the household, and also protect the furniture. It’s also to protect themselves so that they don’t swipe and get their claws stuck, then end up ripping them out. You can find a step-by-step guide to cutting your Maine coon’s claws on my previous post, The Ultimate Guide to Bathing and Grooming Your Maine Coon. Along the same lines, keeping them well groomed to prevent matting of the fur will keep your coon nice and calm.
Sprays are now available with pheromones in them and these are designed to calm anxious and aggressive cats. Feliway is a popular product which comes in many forms: sprays, collars and diffusers. Most Maine coons are kept indoors and therefore you may find a Feliway diffuser helpful as it will release relaxing pheromones into the air. Click this link to check the current pricing on Amazon.
Collars may be challenging to get to fit around a coon neck ruff and may be uncomfortable. It’s likely a collar will make the situation worse as they will become frustrated when trying to escape from it.
If You Are Bitten or Scratched By Your Cat
If your cat scratches or bites you then check to see if they have broken the skin, this will be obvious if they have drawn blood. Wash the wound thoroughly and monitor it for signs of infection (these include pain, swelling, redness and pus coming from the wound). If you are not up-to-date with your tetanus jabs then seek medical attention. If you suspect infection then see your doctor as they may need to prescribe a course of antibiotics. If you have been bitten and the bleeding will not stop then go to the emergency room as you may need stitches to close the wound.
Maine coons are a very loving and gentle breed of cat. They are a great first pet for the unseasoned owner and a safe option to have around babies and young children. They get along with dogs and other household cats.
If you do see signs of aggression in a Maine coon then this is a sign that there is something wrong and you should make an effort to try and work out what this is. Once you have identified the cause you can work towards trying to remedy the problem. Maine coons crave human attention and will not push you away by choice. Aggression is a cry for help.