In the last decade there has been a trend around the Maine Coon breed, of certain breeders who no longer keep the breed standard as a guideline, but are creating a whole new look. The characteristics of the Maine Coon are increasingly magnified to the extreme, in such way that harmony and balance is completely lost. Think of extremely large ears, extremely thick ear tufts, extremely pronounced muzzle, extremely large and heavy physique and so I can go on for a while.
Many buyers like these looks, perhaps because it is different than usual? Maybe because it stands out because the extremity is immediately visible? Maybe because the breeders have good marketing strategies? Such as posting very professional photos where the cat is presented as attractively as possible for an optimal WOW-effect, so that these cats often go "viral" on social media and appeal to many people? These extreme cats are shown so much on social media that people start to think a Maine Coon "should" look like this. The normal type is dismissed as the "old type" and thus becomes in the minority and oblivion. After all, you have to move with time and that's with the modern type, right?
The enormous (international) demand for these extreme looks ensures that more and more kitten factories are popping up to make a profit here. Because the demand is high worldwide, you see that more and more breeders all over the world are importing these extremely typed cats from these kitten factories in order to meet the high demand. In the Netherlands too, more and more breeders can be found participating in this trend, unfortunately.
Everyone has their own preference, right?
Yes, everyone is free to buy whatever he want or likes. A breeder is also free to breed for whatever the breeder likes, even though there are international agreements about the breed standard. Not everyone wants to stick to the breed standard (not even some judges). Moreover, a breeder has his own responsibility in this and is not stopped by anyone. But what are the possible long-term consequences for the breed?
In any case, the appearance of the Maine Coon is changing enormously at breakneck speed and the "original look" may no longer exist in the future. There are many "kitten factories" that "produce" these kittens on an assembly line with 6 litters at the same time and kittens all year round. These breeders sell to anyone around the world who deposits money (often with worldwide shipping, sometimes even ordering online). Whole litters are sold in breeding (that makes more money). As a result, these lines spread very quickly all over the world.
The inbreeding coefficient of the average Maine Coon is going to increase much further in a very short time. This trend comes with a high inbreeding coefficient and often the same lines, as a result of which the genetic diversity within the breed will become much narrower. This makes the breed much more vulnerable to new diseases and conditions. The breed is thus genetically weakened.
The changes to the skull but also the body are applied so quickly that it is unknown what the consequences will be in the long term. Inside, the cat cannot adapt so quickly to the major changes in appearance that are brought about within a few generations. What we are already seeing is that the cats with deep-set eyes are more likely to get entropion. We also see that due to the extremely long snouts and large muzzles, the jaws no longer fit together properly, with all the consequences that entails. We see that some cats develop sagging backs due to rapid growth (which is clearly visible in the show position). And what about joint problems such as HD and PL?
Due to all of their adaptations, these Maine Coons will have a hard time surviving in the wild, especially in the cold regions where they originally come from. For example, consider the long, large ears that will freeze in a cold environment rather than be functional. A breed stays healthy as long as it is functional. The Maine Coon is a working cat. When breeding for "design", the breed often goes in an unhealthy direction. We have already seen this in many other dog and cat breeds that have been bred for more extreme traits for a longer period of time.
View examples of dog breeds that have changed in appearance over 100 years, which is inextricably linked to health problems.
Check out an example of the Persian cat and how it has changed in appearance over the past 120 years, with its transformation inextricably linked to health concerns.
This article is not about one cat being better than another. Every cat deserves a good home and all the love in the world. It is more about the breeder and the breeders breeding program and the future of the breed. This article is intended for awareness and information. As a fancier you can have a positive influence on the future by buying a cat from a breeder who does not participate in these unhealthy trends. After all, demand also determines supply.
Where will the Maine Coon be in 10 or 25 years? Can we make a similar video and find that the breed has become so unhealthy that it becomes a controversial breed that will sooner or later be banned from breeding? I hope not, but the future is in our hands. Choose your new pet with care. Choose a healthy cat with a harmonious type without extremities. Opt for the long-term health of the breed.