Maine Coon cats are a joy to live with. Just as you furnish your home to suit yourself, your Maine Coon needs a few things of his own. Several products are named here which you may want to acquire; read Resources to find out where they can be found.
The health and safety of a Maine Coon is preserved foremost by keeping them indoors unless they are on a halter and leash and closely supervised or in an enclosed run. Maine Coons appreciate window seats—a wide sill is fine—and fresh air, but they do not miss what they don't know (being loose outdoors).
Plates and bowls should be glass or ceramic. A plastic placemat to go under them makes cleanup easier. Have several of each so you can use clean ones daily without having to wash the dirty ones immediately.
A bed should be cozy (small enough for the cat to curl up in and feel it around him), private, quiet, with bedding that can be laundered. What works best for me is an old cotton towel inside an old cotton pillow case; it is very easy to remove cat hair from the sheeting fabric (a lot easier than from toweling). Avoid polyester fabrics.
Toys can include balls—Maine Coons are great soccer players. Provide a variety of ping pong balls and noisy balls for a variety of feline moods. Knitted objects are frequently appealing as well as catnip mice. Wands that encourage leaping in mid-air are great. Paper bags on their side, a cardboard box with egress holes cut in the top and sides. Remember, more is better.
Exercise equipment should include a sisal scratching post and at least one multi-level freestanding device on which the cat can climb and jump. I do not have a problem with cats scratching my furniture, probably because I have a scratching post in every major room of the house.
Grooming utensils should include a metal comb (one with rotating teeth is good), a flea comb, nail clippers, and a wire slicker brush. A natural bristle brush is also nice. Choose a natural shampoo for people (no sodium lauryl sulfate) for regular baths; I use Dr. Goodpet Pure Shampoo because it has no synthetic or toxic ingredients. When you want to remove a build-up of oil in the cat's hair, use Dawn dishwashing lotion. If your male cat has "stud tail" (a very greasy condition at the base of the tail), apply Goop hand cleaner to dry hair and rinse before using Dawn (a non-petroleum product is important).
Always use two hands to lift your cat. Place one hand on the tummy just in front of the hind legs and the other hand either between the front legs or just behind them. For a kitten or small cat you can put the first hand on the back of the hind legs.
Fleas happen. They can enter your house on your clothing. While you may not be able to prevent their entrance, you can discourage their stay. Fleas can be reduced by regular baths (say monthly) and flea combing (daily). Admittedly, using a flea comb on a Maine Coon takes attention, patience, and time, especially because their hair is so thick and fine. Perseverance is effective. It is also helpful to use an herbal flea powder like Natural Animal Cat Powder once a week. Excellent nutrition is the best defense against an infestation of fleas.
Some years ago we were plagued by fleas that resisted all efforts to eliminate them. We resorted to applying Advantage on the cats because we felt that having the fleas was worse.
Mats can quickly form in the long fine hair of Maine Coons. Weekly combing and brushing will prevent mats from forming and reduce the quantity of old hair shed on your furniture and floors. The New Natural Cat has a thorough description of how to do this. Most cats enjoy being combed and its attendant handling by you.
Clip claws every three weeks. Clip each claw halfway between the tip and the "quick" (the area which has a nerve and visible blood). This will minimize damage to furniture by scratching and jumping.
A litter box is best placed in a bathtub/shower where it is easy to clean and away from the cat's and your regular living space. A litter box should be washable and about 15" x 18" (much larger is unnecessary). Do have at least two boxes per cat—one for use while the other is being cleaned. Don't use a cover which concentrates the odors for the cat. Use a litter like Field Fresh (made from corn) or Cedar Lite (made from cedar) which is light (in weight—you have to carry it), soft to the touch (your cat has to step on it and dig in it), biodegradable (you can put used litter in your compost pile or on your garden as mulch—but not in the trash), and scoopable (best for puss—poop may be unsightly to people, but urine is stinky to cats). Don't use scoopable clay litter; when eaten it tends to clump in a cat's stomach and can cause death. Don't use a litter box liner.
It's a good idea to have at least one litter box on each floor of a multi-storey home. And to have one box per cat in a multi-cat household.
Use a finely slotted spoon to remove poop and urine clumps from the litter.
8-2005: My favorite litter was Field Fresh, made and sold by the Andersons in Ohio. It is made of ground corn cobs, clumped, and could be put in the garden (although I did this last on my own). I just learned that while this litter is still made by the Andersons, it is now being sold as "Cobby Cat" under the Sun Seed Company label.
It's a good idea to be aware of the hazards of toxoplasmosis. Read my essay.
The key points to remember are that cats are fastidious, groom themselves with their tongues, are repelled by bad odors, and are low to the ground. Any toxic substance that a cat walks on, like residue on your floor left by a cleaning product, will end up in the cat's stomach—where it may cause illness or death. A clean, sanitary environment free of toxins will safeguard your cat's health.
Avoid the following toxic substances:
My favorite cleaner is Super Pine Cleaner made by Olde Tyme 1881 Company in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It is a natural product made from genuine pine oil. It cleans and disinfects, and smells good. I use it on litter boxes, floors, and walls. I think of it as feline-friendly.
Sanitize floors, litter box and scoop, and eating utensils with a 1:32 bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach in 1 pint water). Rinse well so no bleach odor remains. Let litter box dry in the sun for the additional disinfectant and deodorizing benefit of ultraviolet light. A dishwasher at high temperature is adequate for eating utensils.
On a weekly basis, clean your cat's bedding and litter box, and the floors in your home, especially the cat's eating area. Groom your cat.
On a daily basis, scoop the litter box. You can flush the poop. Even though a litter says it is flushable, I do not recommend flushing any more than you have to—discard the urine clumps outdoors or in its own garbage bag (I keep one in a 5-gallon bucket in my back patio and replace it when it is full).
Removing cat hair from fabrics: the best way I've found is to use a rubber glove. Put on the glove, then slide your hand across the hairy fabric. When the hair builds up on the glove, pick it off.
An indoor-only cat that does not come into contact with other cats that go outside is generally safe from contagious feline diseases. However, be aware that you can be an agent in disease transmission when you pet an outdoor cat, then pet your own cat without washing your hands in between.
Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is a treat for many cats, although some cats react poorly. If you can, grow a catnip plant! It provides a year-long (well, maybe not in locales with really cold winters) source of fresh catnip leaf. Snip off the tips of branches, one to two inches worth. One tip per cat. Thank the plant for the gift. Weekly is a nice frequency for gifting your cats with catnip. And for special occasions.
Cats respond to catnip in different ways. Ours eat it and roll on it, then act foolishly playful.
But catnip is more than a treat for our feline companions. It is a genuine remedy that is good for humans, both children and adults. Because it is calming and antispasmodic (meaning muscle relaxing), it is an effective treatment for sleeplessness, anxiety, hyperactivity, diarrhea, and intestinal gas. It also lowers a fever and reduces the eruptions of measles and chickenpox.
Catnip can be administered as a tea. Steep 1 ounce cut leaves and flowers in 16 ounces just-boiled water for 10–20 minutes, covered. Strain and keep the infusion covered. In most cases this yields the correct amount for one day; it can be divided into three doses.
There is another method for preparing catnip tea, described by Juliette de Baïracli Levy in The Illustrated Herbal Handbook for Everyone. Add the herb to cold water, cover the pot and heat over a gentle flame until almost boiling and keep it at that point for three minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least three hours, even better overnight. Keep covered; it is not necessary to strain the herb. Do not refrigerate.
Catnip can also be administered as a tincture, an herbal extract in alcohol. An average dose is about a quarter teaspoon, or half a dropperful, two to four times a day. If desired, you can dilute a dose in an ounce or more of water. Tinctures can be made in advance and have a shelf life of at least six years when kept in a cool, dry place. They are the best form for keeping on hand for future use.
Should you have a windfall of catnip growing in your garden, you can easily convert it into a tincture. The first step is to dry the catnip leaves. Cut stalks at the base of the plant. If dusty, rinse them off, then shake off the residual water. Remove leaves that are yellowed, faded, mottled, or insect-bitten. Group stalks into bunches of four to eight, tie each bunch together near the base with twine, and hang upside down in a cool dry place. I use my garage and wine cellar. When the leaves are thoroughly dry, snip them from the stalk and store them in glass jars or tins.
To make the tincture, chop the dried leaves finely with a knife and put them in a clean glass jar; do not pack tightly. Cover the herbs with enough 100 proof vodka to provide room to slosh around in a little. Seal the jar with a tight lid and store it on a dark shelf for two weeks at room temperature. Shake the jar 1-2 times a day. After two weeks, strain it thoroughly; I use a fine mesh strainer followed by an unbleached coffee filter. Store the tincture in a covered glass jar/bottle in a dark place.