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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.