The Maine Coon Cat

First and foremost, I am an animal lover. I have always loved all animals since I was a little girl. The only type of animal I was allowed to have while growing up was a dog. That is the only animal my mother would tolerate. My father was raised on a farm so, of course, he loved animals also.

After my father’s death my mother came to live with me for financial reasons. Her income was so small she couldn’t afford to live by herself. At that time I was in the market for a cat. I had never been allowed to have a cat as a child because my mother hated them. But now as an adult, I vowed to have one in my home.

On Halloween, 1986, I went to the local strip mall and happened to pass a pet shop. In the window sat a large cage with a litter of short-haired kittens playing on the floor and a small bundle of fur curled up on one of the top perches. I went in and inquired about the long-haired kitten and was told it was on hold. A man had gone home to ask his wife if he could have the kitten. I told the clerk to call me if he changed his mind and gave her my home telephone number.

I went home and told my mother I was thinking of adopting a kitten. Of course, this did not sit well with my mother so I reminded her I paid two thirds of the rent and if I wanted a cat I was going to have one. It was the first time I had assertively stood up to her on this issue.

Two hours later the pet shop called. The man’s wife didn’t want the kitten; was I still interested? I flew down to the mall and bought the kitten for $12.95 grabbing a litter box, scoop, litter and food. And back home I went with my purchases.

The kitten came with a free vet check and well it did because it was very ill. He spent his first night at the vet’s office and I was told he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. The vet thought he had feline leukemia. Disheartened, I went home and waited for a call all through the night.

In the morning, the vet office called and said the kitten was much better, it was only the flu and I could come and pick him up. I was overjoyed. As the kitten’s health began to improve, he began to eat and grow. And grow. He grew into a beautiful young brown mackerel tabby but a kind of cat I had never seen before. He had very interesting traits and a unique voice. I went back to the pet shop to find out where the kitten originated. I was given the number of a breeder in the next town.

The breeder told me the kitten was a Maine Coon cat and she had pet shopped him because he was the runt of the litter. When I told her he had grown up to weigh 16 pounds, she laughed; so much for the runt. But that is small for a male Maine Coon whose weight can range from 20 to 30 pounds. He was purebred she said and she was willing to sell me his papers for $150. Since I had no intention of breeding him or showing him, I declined.

We had named the kitten “Atreides” after the protagonist in the novel Dune. I began to read up on Maine Coon cats and found that they are the only indigenous breed of long-haired cat to North America. They were brought over to Nova Scotia by the Vikings and then migrated into Maine. They were called Maine Coons because their natural coloring, brown mackerel tabby, reminded Maine settlers of raccoons.

Maine Coons have some unique traits. They are almost dog like in their devotion to their owner; they learn to fetch, open doors and cabinets and ask to go outside; they have a unique sound they make when playing or hunting; they are highly intelligent; they are not lap cats but prefer to sit next to their owners as equals. They are very loving and can be affectionate. They can also be a little vindictive and stubborn.

Atreides was my constant companion for over 18 years. When he left me on December 24, 2004, I was a basket case. I sat outside the vet’s office crying all Christmas Day because I knew he was probably still there. His passing left a huge hole in my life that has never been filled. I have his ashes and shrine dedicated to his memory in my home that will always be there.

After waiting over 35 years for my first cat, he was well worth the wait. And his love and devotion was worth more to me than gold. I will never have any other breed of cat; a Maine Coon stole my heart.

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