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European Maine Coon vs. American Maine Coon: What’s the Difference?

Maine Coon cat breeds are known for their massive size, heavy bones, long coats, and laid-back temperament. But there are two varieties of the Maine Coon: European and American. The differences between them are slight and mostly physical but may mean one is the better choice for you.

European Maine Coons are a little wilder looking and have distinctive physical characteristics, while the American Maine Coons are bred to look more refined. Learn more about the differences between the European Maine Coon and the American Maine Coon, so you can pick the best one for your needs and lifestyle.

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Visual Differences

european vs american maine coon visual differences
Image Credits: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock; Aleksei Verhovski, Shutterstock

At a Glance

European Maine Coon
  • Average height (adult): 10–16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 13–18 pounds
  • Lifespan: 13–14 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Intelligent, loyal, eager to please
American Maine Coon
  • Average height (adult): 10–16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 13–18 pounds
  • Lifespan: 13–14 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Intelligent, loyal, eager to please

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European Maine Coon Overview

maine coon looking away
Image Credit: Pixabay

The European Maine Coon is distinguishable from the American version for its distinctive physical characteristics. These cats are bred to have wilder, more natural appearances and a lion-like look, giving them a stronger and squarer muzzle and signature lynx-like ears with big tufts. These cats also have higher cheekbones and look more feral, which is the intent of the breeding programs. Their eyes are typically almond-shaped and somewhat piercing, compared to the gentler look of the American Maine Coon’s eyes.

Though it’s generally the same size as the American Maine Coon, the European Maine Coon is more formidable in appearance. This could be due to the perception of their feral looks rather than an actual size difference. European Maine Coons also come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, including solid black, white, gray, or red, calico, and tortoiseshell. Like its American counterpart, the European Maine Coon is intelligent, curious, loyal, and loving.

The different breed characteristics are influenced by the breeder association. European Maine Coons are affiliated with The International Cat Association (TICA), the world’s largest genetic cat registry, and the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFE), an organization that spans South America, Asia, and Europe. These breed standards govern the breeding of European Maine Coons everywhere, not just in Europe specifically.

Personality / Character

The European Maine Coon is a loyal, friendly, and sociable cat. They get along with other cats and dogs in the household and are comfortable around new people. Though they like to have their own space, they can live in multi-cat households without conflict. Maine Coons are playful and affectionate to their owners and get attached to one person.

Training

The intelligence and laid-back nature of the Maine Coon make them easier to train than some other cat breeds. They aim to please, much like dogs, and can be taught tricks. Owners may teach their Maine Coon basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “fetch.” It’s important that these cats are trained using only positive and negative reinforcement—never punishment.

Health & Care

Maine Coons are hardy, though they’re prone to some genetic health conditions. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a common heart disease in cats, is prevalent in Maine Coons. This is due to a genetic mutation that can be tested prior to breeding, so it’s important to look for reputable Maine Coon breeders that show genetic testing records. Hip dysplasia may also be common in Maine Coons, as well as spinal muscular atrophy. Both conditions can lead to mobility problems, but there are genetic tests to remove them from breeding lines.

Suitable for:

The European Maine Coon is a sociable cat that’s highly loyal and suitable for everything from families with children to single owners. These adaptable cats can adjust to most living situations with proper care. The European Maine Coon has more of a feral-looking appearance that may appeal to some owners.

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American Maine Coon Overview

maine coon cat lying on the floor
Image Credit: Remark_Anna, Shutterstock

American Maine Coons get their name from their purported origins in the state of Maine during the colonial period. Their true origin is shrouded in mystery, however, since it’s unclear how they arrived in Maine and where their ancestors came from. Because of this, the Maine Coon has a lot of legends and myths, some indicating that it’s a hybrid of a cat and a raccoon or a descendent of a bobcat. These origins are genetically impossible but give the cat a fun background.

Another prominent legend suggests that Maine Coons were brought from Viking ships to America by Captain Charles Coon, which is a bit more likely since sea captains often brought cats along to control the rodent population on long voyages. However, the Maine Coon arrived in America, though they’ve been around since the late 1800s to early 1900s and remain a popular breed today.

The American Maine Coon differs from the European Maine Coon in its appearance. Though large and heavy-bodied, the American Maine Coon has a more refined look than that of the European variety. The ear tufts are absent, and the cat’s coat is smoother and less wild-looking. Its eyes are also more oblique and less striking than the European Maine Coon’s eyes.

The differences in appearance are governed by the American Maine Coon’s breed affiliation, The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). This association was established in 1906 and is currently the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats. The American Maine Coon standards are consistent wherever it’s bred, even if it’s not in the US.

Personality / Character

Like its European counterpart, the American Maine Coon is a friendly and loyal cat that enjoys the company of humans and other animals. If the Maine Coon is given its own space, it can coexist with other animals without incident. These cats are also good choices for families with children, since they’re large, hardy, and tolerant of rambunctious kids.

Training

Maine Coons are known for their “dog-like” personalities and high intelligence that makes them easy to train. Along with basic behavior modification, Maine Coons can be taught tricks and commands, just like a dog, and have a strong desire to please their owners. Like the European variety, American Maine Coons must be trained using positive methods and consistency. Avoid punishing your cat with methods like spray bottles or swatting, which aren’t effective.

Health & Care

American Maine Coons are an overall healthy breed, but they do have hereditary health conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, and spinal muscular atrophy. Fortunately, breeders can test for these genetic conditions and remove positive cats from the breeding line, lowering the risk of kittens developing them.

Suitable for:

The American Maine Coon is similar to its European counterpart and gets along well with other pets, people, and children. These cats can enjoy just about any living situation, provided they have the care they need. People who prefer a more refined look for their cat may enjoy the American Maine Coon.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

The European and American Maine Coon cat breeds have more similarities than differences. They mainly differ in their appearances, which are governed by different breed associations and breeding standards. If you prefer a more refined cat, the American Maine Coon may be the better choice, but if you prefer more lion-like looks, the European Maine Coon is perfect for you. Otherwise, these cats share desirable personality traits like loyalty, agreeability, and friendliness.

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Featured Image Credit: Left – European Maine Coon (Lita Keire, Shutterstock) ; Right – American Maine Coon (Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock)

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