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Kitten Care

When purchasing a Maine Coon kitten from Wind River Coons, you should first educate yourself on the breed.
To be sure you will be able to meet the requirements that go into caring for your new pet.

Nutrition

In the Main Coon world nutrition is everything! A well-balanced diet, fresh daily water, and proper dental care is the only way to achieve longevity. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this care. It is crucial in the development of bone growth, as they grow rapidly! They will eat a lot and will need to be fed frequently to obtain the amount of food to support their growth. Maine Coon kittens are not born big…they grow big, their tummies can’t hold the amount of food they need during the kitten stage, hence frequent feedings.


Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they rely on nutrients found only in animal tissue and animal products Their diets should consist of protein, fats, moisture, and very little carbs if any. The high levels of the correct types of protein that cats need can only be found in animal tissue. Cats have no requirement for carbohydrates. Diets based solely on plant protein are harmful or even fatal if fed as the only source of protein. The plant protein isn’t digested as efficiently they contain inappropriate levels of certain critical amino acids, especially taurine. Cats must have taurine in their diets. These critical amino acids are called essential amino acids because they must be supplied in the diet; there are 11 amino acids their bodies need which cats can't produce or synthesize and must be obtained directly from their diet. These essential amino acids arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, and taurine the protein in animal tissue has a complete amino acid profile. Plant proteins do not contain all the amino acids critical for the health of carnivores.


If a plant-based-only diet is fed for long enough, these nutrient deficiencies can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible medical conditions. A lack of any essential amino acid in the diet will eventually lead to health problems. Vegan and vegetarian diets are far too high in carbohydrates for an obligate carnivore. Cats cannot be vegetarians; feline satiety is signaled by the ingestion of sufficient amounts of animal protein. If their food is lacking in animal protein and is high in carbs instead, their bodies will become depleted of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, reducing the efficiency of protein absorption. This causes them to overeat consistently, resulting in more carbs that turn to fat. When your cat’s diet is made from meat and fat and contains less than 6% carbs, your cat will not overeat.


Balanced nutrition + joyful heart = very happy coon


Unbalanced and poor nutrition can be the underlying causes of bad health in your cat. Balanced, complete meals are one of the foundations in preventing heart disease. Essential amino acid taurine is the key player in the prevention of heart disease. Heart disease in cats can be either congenital or acquired: Congenital heart disease in cats is present at birth and can be inherited from the parents. Acquired, or adult-onset, heart disease in cats often occurs in middle-aged to older animals. This is due to bad diets, wear and tear on the heart structures, injury, or infection.


While cardiomyopathy is the most common form of acquired heart disease, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common type of congenital heart disease, for which there is no cure. Changes to the size and structure of the heart muscles are irreversible. So, whether it is acquired or congenital heart disease, proper diet plays a huge role in your Maine Coon’s overall wellness. Nutrition is everything!

What to feed your Main Coon

I suggest feeding Maine Coons a properly balanced raw diet. Providing a balanced raw diet is just that “Balanced”. Otherwise raw is not a healthier option. Properly balanced raw is the healthiest option for your cat. I order my raw cat food from Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. It is delivered to my door packed in dry ice. There is a special introductory offer for first-time customers. The site is very informative on how the food is made, and how to introduce it to your cat. Premium meat is Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, they recommended all three and have great customer service, seriously they can answer all questions!

 

Feeding raw is a controversial topic with pros, cons, and a lot of myth. Don’t be surprised when your vet won’t endorse a raw diet. There is a veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker, on Facebook and YouTube who puts out valuable videos on animal care. I’d suggest watching the few on a raw diet. She is knowledgeable and communicates her information in a way that answers all of your questions. Her evidence will help you make a decision of whether you want to feed raw or not. She also explains why it’s not popular among vets. 

The calcium source in a raw diet is ideally from bone, not a supplement, as bone provides other minerals such as copper and zinc, along with collagen. Rawbone is highly digestible, and the marrow is nutrient-rich. Raw cat food diets try to balance the meat to bone ratio to match that of a wild diet. A raw diet that is NOT rendered for human consumption will have bone ground into a powder and small bone chips added. Applying any type of heat, such as running it under hot water, warming it up in the microwave, or boiling/blanching to kill bacteria will cook the bone immediately. Forming them into sharp shards equivalent to broken glass causing irreversible damage which could be fatal.


A good quality kitten food has advantages over adult cat food since it has been specially formulated for a kitten's demanding nutritional requirements. Because of their rapid growth, any nutritional mistakes made during kittenhood will have severe, even irreversible, consequences. Maine Coon kittens will thrive better feeding kitten food two years of age instead of one year. This is the standard for kittens at WRC along with wet or raw or both and kibble always available for them.


For the past year, I have done loads of research and talked to pet food distributors to understand what pet labels are really saying and reading.  I have made some changes to what is fed at WRC.

The kittens are started on:

  • Young Again, Lil Bits until they’re 10 to 12 weeks, then switched to Young Again Original 50/22. Which is a grain-free kibble. 

  • Darwin’s Raw Diet chicken and turkey, this is a lifetime diet at the cattery.

  • Earthborn WET cat food, adult and kitten, three chicken flavors only

  • Tiki Cat and After Dark Tiki Cat because of the high moisture content and is made with white and dark meat and organs in Chicken, duck, and turkey

  • Fromm bird recipe because every cat here likes it and I do have finicky eaters and prefer this food.

If you only want to feed raw a few times a week you can still get the benefits that raw has, but only if the food you incorporate with it compliments raw diet, not work against it. It is recommended to not feed raw if your cat is put on antibiotics, as it can interfere with the drug.

 

Kittens are fed 3 to 4 times a day, raw and wet food as their main diet. Kibble is available 24/7. Feeding your kitten kibble ONLY will not sustain good growth, nor will they be able to consume the amount needed. Remember they still have baby teeth; their mouth and gums are sensitive.


Adults are fed 2 to 3 times a daily raw/wet and kibble. Mature Health formulated for adult cats is not fed until they are no longer growing bone.


There are so many choices of quality food that meets the requirements for Maine Coons. Along with that, you need to make sure your coon agrees with your choice. This is probably the only factor that puts a hole in your newly designed diet. It meets all the requirements, only to find out they don’t like it and yes, they may eat if they get hungry enough, but really how sad is that? So, make sure your cat likes the food. 


Please, please please do not feed your Maine Coon dog food. It’s sad to say how many times I see dog owners adding a kitten to the mix assuming this is okay or out of convenience to feed dog food. This will destroy your cat’s health and the damage is irreversible and fatal. Like dogs, cats also need the proper food fed to them. That is a high protein, fat, low carb, and taurine, which isn’t in dog food. Otherwise adding a new puppy instead of a kitten would probably be a better choice.

Nutrition
Maine Coon Food

Taurine

After that being said, here is one example that supports why dog and cat foods are specially designed for them.
It is probably safe to say any species with canine teeth is a meat eater and requires a high protein diet containing animal tissue and amino acid taurine. A key player in this diet, and very crucial in the cats’ diet.


Taurine is undoubtedly one of the most essential substances in the body. It is vital in humans because of its functional significance in cell development, nutrition, and survival. Taurine is an amino acid found mainly in meat. Taurine’s importance was discovered when taurine deficiency started to have a major impact on cats. At alarming rates, cats were going blind and dying from a heart condition DCM (dogs) and HCM. This was a result of pet companies making an ingredient substitution.

They substituted more and more plant proteins, such as soybeans or corn gluten meal, in place of real meat. This is a poor source of sulfur-containing amino acids with zero taurine. Unlike dogs and humans, which produce their own taurine, cats must consume taurine in the diet and cannot produce their own. So, pet companies started supplementing all cat foods with taurine. Since taurine is not an essential amino acid in dogs like it is in cats pet food makers saw no reason to add taurine to dog foods, they chose not incur the added expense. 


Not taken into consideration is any animal can have a taurine deficiency, whether they have the ability to produce it or not. Instead of addressing the taurine deficiency, they took a different approach. A number of processed pet food advocates tried using the link between grain-free dog foods and DCM to push pet parents back in the direction of grain-based diets. The problem with grain-free formulas is not the lack of grains! It's the high level of starchy carbohydrates coupled with the extreme high-heat processing methods used to produce these diets. Taurine production relies on adequate methionine and cysteine in the diet. Therefore, the problem may be a deficiency of those amino acids, rather than a lack of taurine itself. The microbiome plays a major role in taurine deficiency. This turned out to be the primary factor in cats.  The taurine from bile is reabsorbed in the colon, but bacteria can “steal” taurine and prevent this crucial recycling. That is why all the essential amino acids are crucial to a cat. Everything listed on the pet’s food labels, each ingredient, and the amount added will not stand true to what the label says once it has been processed. It's important to note that heat processing in any form destroys anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of taurine present in raw food. In addition, extended periods of storage of processed pet foods, and freezing, thawing, and grinding of raw pet food also depletes taurine content. Grain-free/"low-protein" commercial diets are extremely high in carbohydrates, which displace amino acids. They also contain anti-nutrients (e.g., saponins, trypsin inhibitors, phytates, and lectins) that may interfere with taurine absorption. When you add in the high-heat processing used to manufacture kibble, it's hard to rely on these diets to be an adequate source of taurine for cats or dogs. 


I found this disturbing, so I had my taurine level checked. The results showed the taurine levels in the diet I was feeding met the requirements for cats. The vet contributed these levels to the raw diet.

Taurine

Dental care is the key to longevity

Here are several ways to ensure proper cat dental care. All of them involve diligence and commitment from you. Your feline will not tell you if they need dental care, so it is up to you to proactively address their needs.


Good nutrition is the foundation for good dental health. When possible, establish a teeth cleaning routine when your cat is young. Brushing is the gold standard of home dental care. Use a toothbrush and paste design for cats/kittens. Do not use baking soda. Watch for signs of possible dental issues such as bad breath. Check their gums and teeth often. It only takes a few seconds to check and make sure their gums are not inflamed, no lesions in the mouth or tartar buildup. There are many other dental hygiene products and methods available. If brushing their teeth is everything but pleasant for you and your cat, you can schedule semi-annual exams for your coon, or at the recommendations of your veterinarian for a proper cat, teeth cleaning. This is pricey compared to home dental care but there is an advantage should you choose this method. This will consist of an oral exam and x-rays under anesthesia in order to clean and properly diagnose any dental disease, that may be present, earlier than you could by just looking in their mouth. Much of the dental disease in cats is under the gum line. Early prevention is essential to minimize serious dental issues. Other dental issues in cats include gingivitis and periodontal disease that may require medication and/or dental work to alleviate the pain. The importance of annual exams cannot be understated. 


Gum disease has four stages

  1. Early gingivitis

  2. Advanced gingivitis

  3. Early periodontitis

  4. Established periodontitis

 

Gum disease in cats is only reversible if caught early on, and only the early gingivitis stage is considered fully reversible. These dental issues are something you should trust to your veterinarian.


Regardless of signs or symptoms, or method of care, your cat should have a dental checkup annually at a minimum. While you should be looking at your cat's teeth periodically yourself, it is easy to miss the types of problem signs that a trained and experienced veterinarian will pick up on. It is significantly easier to address and resolve dental issues that are spotted early, not to mention its best for your cat’s health. Therefore, a proactive approach to feline dentistry is recommended.
 

Common cat dental issues and what you should look for

  • Plaque build-up

  • Gingivitis

  • Periodontal disease

  • Tooth loss

  • Mouth sores and ulcers

  • Feline Resorptive Lesions

  • And, like in humans, kidney, liver, and heart disease

 

Cats are very adept at hiding symptoms of pain and illness. Bad breath is the only symptom of dental problems that you are at all likely to observe in your cat. If your cat has noticeably bad breath, you should schedule an exam with your veterinarian.

 

In severe cases you may also notice one of the following symptoms:

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Drooling

  • Problems eating, loss of appetite

  • Red, swollen, bleeding gums

  • Loose, broken, missing teeth

  • Blood in saliva or nasal discharge

  • Lesions in mouth

Your cat may very well have dental issues that require attention and not be showing any of the symptoms listed above. However, if any of the above symptoms are observed. Call your vet

Dental Care

Water

Maine Coons have some really funny personality traits and their obsession with water is one of them. Whether it's strange drinking habits or jumping in the shower with you, most exhibit some interesting quirks when it comes to water. It’s not uncommon to see them playing in their water bowl until all the water is on the floor or until they manage to tip it over. They tend to prefer running water to still water. Therefore, you might find them turning on taps! They are very intelligent creatures and will not be phased by the challenge of turning the water on. It may be that they prefer drinking running water or it may be that they just want to play! The desire to drink running water is from the basic survival instinct that running water is less likely to harbor bacteria than standing water. Clearly, that does not apply when they have a well-maintained drinking bowl of water down in the kitchen. Some coons love water so much that they will climb into the shower with their owners. It’s the perfect example of both their love for running water and their inability to leave their chosen human alone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stainless steel or ceramic water fountains are an excellent way to offer fresh running water. Running water also entices the cat to drink more. If you feel that your coon is not drinking enough, or is using odd techniques to drink you might want to look at the size of the bowl you’re using. Cats, in general, don’t like their whiskers bumping into the sides of the water bowl or food bowl. This is called whisker stress, also known as whisker fatigue. It is caused when a cat’s whiskers brush against the sides of their dish while eating or drinking. If you’ve noticed your cat pulling food out of the bowl, throwing it next to the bowl and then proceeding to eat, using their paw to get food out of the food bowl, or often dipping their paw into the water bowl and then licking the water off their paw, your cat is actually trying to tell you something. Most likely whisker stress. This stressor has a simple fix. By changing the size of the bowl. When a food or water bowl is too narrow and too deep, a cat is forced to put their face all the way into the bowl to reach food. This causes their sensitive whiskers' discomfort. In extreme cases, cats will even stop eating out of narrow bowls because it’s just too painful for them. This is one of the most overlooked issues for cats and because of it, most cats will live their entire life with whisker stress.

 

There are a lot of pet companies that now sell water and food bowls for this, but every household will have a bowl that will do the very same thing. I have the Jackson Galaxy eclipse bowls and they are perfect. I like that they have pedestal feet. Putting their food on a plate works just as well.  I always love it when I come across a product that you visually see the results in your cat’s happiness and health. 


Starting the raw diet, adding wet food, making some changes in kibble, adding stainless steel water fountains and whisker stress bowls has made for much happier coons at WRC. Since Maine Coons are infatuated with water and constantly playing in it, it could go unnoticed. I would start with a feeding and water/fountain dish that accommodates the whiskers once you’re home with them.

Water

Grooming

All Maine Coons are renowned for having long luscious hair. Their thick mane really sets them apart from other cat breeds, making them extremely distinctive. In order to keep their impressive fur in great condition though, you need to make grooming a top priority, so their fur doesn’t become matted. Grooming promotes bonding, and when done right it can increase the trust that your cat has in you.  Although, with a large number of grooming tools available on the market it’s easy to get confused as to which brushes work best for your coon. All cat breeds are known for being very clean. When their fur becomes dirty, or matted, they are unable to keep their fur clean, and this causes them significant levels of distress. If the fur becomes too matted, a Maine Coon cat may even start ripping out their own hair, leaving bald patches of skin where the matted hair had gathered. If you witness this, you need to work quickly to free their fur from knots, matting, and tangles, since this will cause stress for them. 

 

A stress-free cat is a happy cat


Not all brushes are the same. They range widely in terms of quality, suitability, and durability. Not all brushes work. Some can do more harm than good. You want grooming tools that won’t injure the skin or damage the fur.


Top five Maine Coon brushes

  1. Hertzko Self-Cleaning Brush: This is great for loosening thick tangled fur.

  2. The FURminator: does an amazing job of de-shedding cat hair, reducing shedding by 90%.

  3. Cat grooming gloves: ideal for nervous cats, or regular grooming requirements.

  4. The Hertzko Comb: will plump your coons’ fur, creating the perfect ‘finished’ look.

  5. At Ease Dual-Sided Pin Brush: is a great all-around brush, perfect for regular brushing.

 

A Maine coon’s coat consists of three layers. Two of the layers are undercoat. It is insulating and will thicken during cold months. In the summer, your Maine coon will shed some of the undercoat to help keep cool.


As a Maine Coon grows older, it develops a third layer, called a guard coat.  This fur is long and thick. It is water-resistant, perfect for running around in the snow.  In addition to grooming, it is important to maintain a proper diet to keep your coon’s coat in good condition. A diet consisting of omega fatty acids is essential for a healthy shine. Feeding raw will also give the coat a healthy shine. Proper hydration is necessary as well. A dehydrated cat’s coat will be lackluster. Maine Coons are recognized for their glossy coat that is water-resistant. However, this only should be seen as glossy, not greasy. Even though their coats are more “greasy” than other breeds of cat, it should not be obvious, dirty, or cause matting. If your cat has a greasy coat, you might want to investigate different causes. Greasy fur can be a sign of health issues or nutrient complications. Unhealthy coats will collect dirt and dust which makes its way through the layers. It is better to remove this dirt with a bath instead of brushing it out. This is a double edge sword because you can easily damage the fur when it is dry and when it is wet.


Products, methods, advice, and tips on degreasing and cleaning their coat is from a respected Maine Coon breeder. Iveta is a friend I admire and I value her knowledge. Thank you, Iveta!


You need to take the utmost care when addressing the tail. Because of the sebum glands, you can damage the tail and tail fur, especially if any signs of stud tail (heavy grease, with stringy, oily fur) are seen. you should not do this with a brush! There is a special degreasing paste for grooming cats. It should be applied to dry hair. Massage well and gently to dissolve as best as possible, then hold it on the cat for about 10 minutes. Next, add water and again massage the fattest places to achieve the best effect. Apply this to the dry fur on the most polluted places, massage, and wait for time, and only then when you massage with water, you can distribute the composition throughout the cat. Then rinse well with water. While waiting, make sure that the cat does not lick this paste. If necessary, repeat the procedure. The main thing is not to comb out the greasy fur, but gently wash off this plaque layer by layer.


Of course, the tail should be treated and monitored, if the condition is too serious, inflammation can begin, as this secretion from the gland irritates the skin and causes serious discomfort to the cat. If the procedure is successful and you feel that you have washed away. Then you can comb the tail with a comb with wire teeth against the direction of hair growth as you dry a little with a hairdryer. Be sure you have thoroughly rinsed all of the paste and shampoo completely off the cat. This may require 3 or more rinses. Not doing so can cause skin irritation and your end results will be less than satisfactory.


Be aware that there are different shampoos available for different situations (sensitive skin, fleas, furball prevention) and also that kittens require a special kitten formulation due to their sensitive skin and eyes. Do NOT use shampoo designed for humans. Cats have a different pH balance for their skin and human shampoo will just cause irritation.

 

Here are some recommended products

 

  • Groomers Goop with vitamin E and Aloe vera degreaser

  • The secret is out groomer’s goop, non-toxic puppy and kitten safe

  • Jerob pre-cleaning paste

  • Jerobs' herbal shampoo


Your Maine Coon will need to be given a bath periodically. Yes, they are fascinated by water but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all coons will take well to being bathed. Bathing doesn’t need to be done unless needed. Every few weeks or months will keep the coat looking lustrous. This also will largely depend on whether they are being kept indoors or not. Outdoor cats will inevitably accumulate more dirt. Getting them used to bathing from a young age is key. Every kitten at WRC has had at least one maybe two full baths and probably a dozen bottom washes. Even though they take quickly to a litterbox, their technique and skill are clumsy. Playing in their so loved sandbox which is actually their litterbox creates much-needed bath time for these silly babies. Successful bath time is determined by how you approach it, going through the baby steps, making the preparation for a calm kitty, not forcing it on them, and having patiences for your kitten to accept it. Reassure them in a calm voice, if they are stressing take a break play with them, don’t forget treats and a lot of kisses. They need to know you still love them even though you’re making them take a bath.


Do not cut or trim any of their whiskers, ear cuffs, or lynx ear tips or fur between their toes. These are Maine Coon traits and they also serve a purpose. 


NO DECLAWING at any time. 

Grooming

Litterbox

Your kitten will leave here litterbox trained. At their new home show, them where their box is. They are babies and may forget or get lost trying to get to their box in their new surroundings, especially if they are two rooms away from the box. If this is the case the litter box should follow the kitten to the area, they are going to be playing in. The litterbox should be accessible and within their site. Setting your kitten up to fail will only send mixed signals of what you’re asking of them. Kittens at a very young age imprint what they learn. So, leaving my house and going with you to their forever home, is their first big step, for them and you. Introducing their litterbox should be first in a room with a door. The only familiar things at that point is their box, their own space, food, water, a bed, and reassurance from you. This is an important step for you because this is when the kitten will bond and trust you, by giving back the comfort zone it was pulled from.

 

Once litterbox trained, you shouldn’t have problems. This is the natural way for cats, they want a litterbox, they don’t like not using a box as much as you don’t like it. But in the event that they start going outside the box or elsewhere in the house, there is always a reason for this. They are trying to tell you there is something wrong and because cats are smart, they pick the one thing that humans can’t tolerate cat urine! As effective as that it is for getting our attention, picking something less offensive would be fine with me. 


The first thing you need to do is take them to the vet, 9 times out of 10 they have some sort of infection or health issue needing medical attention. Once treated they should be back using the litterbox. If your coon has no health issues from the vet exam, then you might have a behavior problem. Getting to the root of that may not be as easy to do. Cats are creatures of habit; change is viewed as risky or unsafe. Something that would never cross your mind, can cause stress in your coons’ life. The first place I would start is the litterbox. Did you move it or change the litter? Cats take pride in their hygiene; an unclean litterbox may be the whole problem. Because of the size of Maine Coons, this breed is less tolerant of this and a lot of times the box isn’t big enough for them anyway, having to put up with a dirty box can easily result in this behavior. Having multiple cats or aggressive cats in a multiple cat family, lack of attention, or owner being away for two or three days (if this is the cause, your curtains will be on the floor also). Maine Coons will sit all day by the door for your return, or watch for you out the window, they love their humans. Always greet your coon, they don’t like to be ignored. Over time this can cause behavioral out lash, this list can go on, and can be the littlest thing bothering them. Behavioral problems are not something you punish for; it can make it worst. They are problems that have to be fixed, to stop. If you haven’t been able to fix this you may need a professional that deals with cat behavior… and the answer may surprise you.


When it comes to litter and the box, you’re going to need an x-large box, anything smaller won’t work well. A lid off a plastic crate works well if you find your coon cat is just too big. Clumping and scented litter is not recommended with kittens. They go through a stage where they eat everything including litter. Clumping can cause tummy problems and isn’t digestible and the chemical for the scent isn’t good for any cat really. If clumping is your choice wait for this stage to pass in kittens. The recommended boxes per household is one box for every cat plus one. So, if you have 3 cats you would need 4 boxes. At first, I thought, that’s just crazy, in order to support that many boxes in a cattery, I would have to buy a bigger house! As time went on, I found that the rule made a world of difference in the cattery. The best litterbox is a clean box and I recommend cleaning on a daily basis and rinsing the box at least once a week. This seems like a lot of work, but it is actually easier and the results are a happy cat!

Litterbox