The so-called gentle giants of the cat world, Maine coons are prized for their friendly dispositions and social natures. But, like all cats, Maine coons can develop bad habits and dominance issues. Figure out the cause of the problem, and you're halfway to figuring out the solution.
Meet the Maine Coon
Maine Coons are big, furry, friendly cats who're native to America. They're highly intelligent and trainable, according to the Cat Fancier's Association, but can sometimes be intrusive. It's not unusual for Maine coons to follow their owners around the house. Some even insert themselves into every situations -- from the donning of shoes to dusting. Some Maine coons walk a fine line between sociability and assertiveness, which is why they may appear to develop dominance problems. If your cat's behavior is unacceptable, you need to figure out its root cause and address it.
Cats are creatures of habit. They get used to routines and may act out if they're disrupted. If your Maine coon is used to eating at a certain time of day, for instance, and you abruptly change his feeding schedule, he may follow you around, baying and meowing. Try adjusting the time by an hour, supplementing with treats or getting a free-feeder device so your cat can eat when he wants without bothering you. Remember, Maine coons are big cats with big appetites -- they were originally working mousers before they were bred by fanciers -- so mealtime is probably a big deal for them. For non-food habit problems, try changing your cat's schedule gradually, reinforcing new activities and timings with praise and affection.
Cats are territorial by nature. If your Main coon feels threatened by another cat or animal, either inside the house or at the window, he may assert his dominance over everyone and everything in his environment. In-tact male cats, notoriously, spray urine as a primal way of claiming "dibs." The easy fix is to get your Maine coon neutered (or spayed). Isolating your cat from his source of distress doesn't always work -- smells and other indications can trigger similar reactions to the original stimuli. In the case of multi-cat homes, you've got hard work ahead. You'll have to accept that cats establish their own dominance hierarchy -- and a Maine coon probably comes out on top when it comes to commanding your attention. Making sure they have equal access to food, litter boxes, toys and other resources can help quell dominance problems, according to The Ohio State University.
Solving dominance problems with Maine coon cats involves a lot of trial and error. Because they're a social breed, it's tempting to assert dominance to gain the upper hand with your Maine coon, but you need to weigh whether that's appropriate or not. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, asserting dominance in response to your pet's behavior can cause unintended consequences -- it might even exacerbate unwanted behavior. Plus, in some cases, it's cruel. Talk with your vet about your Maine coon; seek the advice of professionals, suss out the root cause of unwanted behaviors, and use positive reinforcement whenever possible.
- Cat Fancier's Association: Maine Coon
- American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior: Position Statement on Use of the Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals
- The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Conflict Between Cats
- The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Spraying and Marking
- PetStyle: Dominance in Cats
- West Wood Animal Hospital: Fighting Tooth and Nail -- A Look at Some Common Types of Feline Aggression
- Val Heart & Friends: Animal Behavior Problems -- Taming the Wildcat Within