Taking a fancy to Maine Coon cats Owners set to show 'all-American' breed this weekend

January 02, 1993|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Staff Writer

Maine Coon cat lovers think that their breed is the cat's meow. Don't try to tell them otherwise.

"A Maine Coon is just a good, all-American cat," said Karen Thompson of Annapolis. She should know. Ms. Thompson is president of the Mason-Dixon Maine Coon Fanciers association. She and her husband, Jim, have eight Maine Coons -- three males and five females. "They're very laid-back animals," she continued.

Her friend, Jennifer Hawkins, agreed. "They're real easygoing," she said. Ms. Hawkins also belongs to the Mason-Dixon Maine Coon Fanciers. She and her husband, Ray, also have eight Maine Coons, kept at their cattery, called Francoonia.

The cat club, along with the parent association, The Cat Fancier's Association, is sponsoring an all-breed cat show today and tomorrow at Goucher College. More than 300 cats and their owners are expected to show up. The Hawkinses and the Thompsons will be showing Woofie, a cat that the couples co-own. They expect Woofie, whose proper name is Neami's Lone Wolf of Francoonia, to do very well. At 1 1/2 years old, Woofie is at a good age to be shown. His long red and white coat has never looked better.

Cat Fanciers take their kitties very seriously.

You can see it in the owners themselves -- cat jewelry, sweat shirts, "I Love My Cat" bumper stickers and vanity license plates.

You can see it in the way they take care of their pets.

In an average year the Hawkinses use:

120 cases of Friskees 6-ounce cans, 10-12 cases of Sheba cat food, 10-12 20-pound bags of Science Diet Light dry food, 10-12 8-pound bags of Iam's kitten dry food, four 6-pound bags of Max Cat dry food, 2-2 1/2 tons of cat litter, 150 pounds of baking soda and 6 gallons of Listerine as disinfectant.

Getting ready for show day is an event in itself. The day before, Ms. Hawkins bathes the cat. She says that the cat doesn't mind the water -- Maine Coons tend to like water. "They love to play in water and throw it around . . . I had one cat who used to stand in the water dish and drink at the same time," she said. Her cats also like to jump into the kitchen sink and drink from the faucet.

After the bath, the cats are patted dry with a towel and then blow-dried. Some cats can't stand it, others beg to have the dryer put on them. Then their long hair is brushed and they're all ready to strut their stuff.

Maine Coons are certainly beautiful. They're different from most cats, in appearance and in temperment. Maine Coons have long, soft, silky hair. Their fluffy tails are as long as their bodies and look like ostrich feathers swishing through the air as the cats walk and shake their behinds. Pet these animals once and you won't want to stop. The cats have a square muzzle, large, rounded paws and well-tufted ears that sit high and well apart on the head. Maine Coons are larger than most cats. A female can weigh 10 to 12 pounds and a male 12 to 15 pounds. The Hawkins' cat, Pedro, is 16 1/2 pounds, and all muscle.

"Delicate" is not a word used to describe these big-boned felines.

"They're not graceful," Ms. Hawkins said. "They swish their tails and knock things over. We've learned not to leave glasses out on the ends of tables."

Maine Coons are not necessarily gregarious creatures, but they're not prone to the random acts of violence that are attributed to felines. Visit the Hawkins' Towson home and not a claw will be raised in anger nor will you hear a single hiss from any of the well-behaved cats.

You won't hear much meowing, either. "They kind of chirp," Ms. Hawkins said. It's kind of a "mrrrrrp" sound.

Owners and breeders say it is the cats' unique qualities that make it such a popular breed. When the Mason-Dixon Maine Coon Fanciers began two years ago, members worried they wouldn't find 10 people to make the club official. Today, the group has almost 100 members, most in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Members get together at the cat shows and show off their pets. Many breeders like to see how a kitten they sold two years ago is doing today. They also say that the cats enjoy visiting their feline relatives, as many parents, sons and daughters, cousins and nieces and nephews will be at the same competition.

The shows are more than just a lot of cats primping and posing for judges. There are also exhibits, vendors and other displays of cat-related items. It's more of a cat convention than a cat show.

Besides the cats, the Hawkins' also have two sons, 14 and 16, who don't seem to mind having nine feline siblings sharing their parents' attention. Jokingly, Ms. Hawkins points out that "the cats don't talk back, they don't have to be driven anywhere except the shows, and they don't ask for money.

"They're show cats, but they're also pets," she said. "If I had to stop showing them, I would be unhappy, but I would still love them."

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