It’s no surprise if you question whether Maine Coons and raccoons are related – after all, they share the latter part of their name, and there are certain similarities in their intelligent, quick movements. There’s a long-standing myth that raccoons are the ancestors of Maine Coons.
Is A Maine Coon Cat Part Raccoon?
Maine Coons are not part raccoons. These two animals are not related, and science has now proven that this is a biological impossibility. Maine Coons do not have any raccoon blood in them. The two species are completely separate, although domestic cats have sometimes been known to mate with raccoons. The two species cannot interbreed.
Where Do Maine Coons Come From?
It might surprise you to learn that nobody knows where these beautiful cats originate from, which may be part of what has given rise to the myth about raccoon ancestry.
However, Maine Coons are not related to raccoons, and this has now been proven beyond doubt.
Maine Coons are a much-loved and very distinctive breed of cat, so it seems odd that we don’t know where they came from – but we don’t. They are the official state cat of Maine, and many people believe they originate from there, but this hasn’t been proven.
There are quite a few myths to explain their existence, which we’ll explore so you can decide for yourself which (if any) seems the most likely.
Theory 1: Maine Coons Are Part Raccoon
As stated, there has been a long-standing and surprisingly popular myth that Maine Coons are related to raccoons. According to MaineCoonCentral, it was thought that a semi-wild feline bred with a raccoon and produced the first litter of Maine Coon kittens.
This theory has likely been strengthened by the similarities between a Maine Coon’s coloring and a raccoon’s tabby coat. As well as the business of a Maine Coon’s tail. Both animals are also excellent climbers, highly intelligent, and similar in size. Unlike most domesticated cats, Maine Coon’s love water, some even love to swim.
However, science has concluded that cats and raccoons cannot create a hybrid species. This is because they are incapable of breeding, even if they mate with each other; such a pairing will not produce offspring.
This demonstrates that Maine Coons are not part raccoons; the two are incompatible and cannot produce babies. There are reports of domestic cats raising the babies of raccoons successfully. Still, more study is needed to understand the relationship the two animals have, and in the meantime, it has been concluded that Maine Coons are certainly not part raccoon.
There is a similar theory in existence that Maine Coons are descended from Bobcats, but again, it has been proven that these two species are distinct from each other. Maine Coons are not a result of breeding between domestic cats and Bobcats.
Theory 2: Maine Coons Are Descended From Ship Cats
MaineCoonExpert lists this as the most compelling explanation for the existence of Maine Coons, and like the raccoon theory, it does explain how their name may have come about – which we’ll look at shortly.
The theory goes that Maine Coons are descended from the cats kept aboard European ships to deal with mice on board. Maine was a common anchor point for these ships, and many sailors ended up settling in Maine, bringing their cats with them.
A particularly compelling version of this story is that of Captain Charles Coon, who sailed in the 1800s and often brought his cats ashore with him when he landed in ports, including in Maine. His cats then mated with domestic shorthairs and produced long-haired kittens, which were known as Coon’s cats.
However, it isn’t known whether this is the origin of the popular Maine Coons, or just another folktale to explain their existence with a convenient historical link dropped in.
Theory 3: Maine Coons Come From Scandinavian Ships
This theory has some similarities with the above one but fixes Maine Coons as a much older species. It suggests that the cats were brought to the US by Scandinavian vessels, which came to the US much earlier than other explorers. Again, these cats would have been kept on board to control mice.
This links the Maine Coon with the Norwegian Forest Cat, which could help to explain the cat’s size, long fur, and tolerance for the cold. Both this theory and the above one seem to explain how the Maine Coon came to the US, but there is no actual proof behind either of them; they are purely conjecture.
Theory 4: Maine Coons Come From Mary Antoinette
Another possible explanation for the existence of Maine Coons is Mary Antoinette. This is considered the most exciting theory, but it is again speculation, with no proof behind it.
It is known that the French royalty around this time kept many domestic cats, including Persian and Turkish Angoras. Mary Antoinette may well have had several of these cats herself.
When her escape from France was planned because of rising hostility, Maine became their intended destination. Her ship’s captain and her supporters planned to take her to safety there.
Many of her belongings were loaded onto a ship destined for Maine, and it is possible that her cats were included in this. It was planned that she and Louis the XVI would be freed from prison, transferred to the ship, and transported to Maine.
Unfortunately, the attempts to free them failed. After their execution, the ship still sailed for Maine, and the house they were intended to reach is still standing – Marie-Antionette house. Certainly, this part of the story is true, but whether the cats were involved or not is unknown.
If the cats were truly on board the ship and reached Maine safely, it is believable that they would then have bred with other cats and created the Maine Coon we know today, but there is no documentation to prove this, so it is entirely speculative.
None of the above theories can be proved one way or another, but the raccoon one has been thoroughly disproved by science.
Why Can’t Raccoons Breed With Cats?
You might be wondering what prevents raccoons and cats from breeding if they are capable of mating. Both cats and raccoons come from the same kingdom, phylum, class, and order, so it might seem that they share enough similarities to carry off a successful pairing.
However, they are from different families, genera, and species, and therefore they cannot possibly interbreed. They may, at times, mate with each other, but the eggs will not be fertilized, and there is no such thing as a raccoon and cat hybrid – no matter how much the internet might claim there is.
This barrier to mating is known as the mechanism of reproductive isolation, and it is specifically in place to prevent different species from mating with each other. As a result, even animals capable of creating offspring with each other will not produce fertile offspring in most cases.
We can see this with the mule, the result of a donkey and horse mating.
Overall, therefore, it is clear that raccoons and cats cannot breed.
A Maine Coon is not part raccoon, and the two are not related in any way. It is more likely that the Maine Coon is descended from the cats on visiting ships or crossed the sea when Mary Antoinette was executed.
None of these theories have been proven, but they are possible, whereas the theory about the raccoon heritage is not.