M is for Maine
Does an M on the forehead mean Maine Coon?
Does an M on the forehead mean a cat is a Maine Coon? This comes up in our Monthly Photo Albums regularly. I am surprised at how many people have heard this, especially since I hadn't heard it! It's time to set the record straight!
Jenny in Vermont asks: I was under the impression that Maine Coons had the "M" on their forehead. Any truth to this?
It's a very, very common myth that if a cat has the M, it's a Maine Coon. No, it's not true. The "M" does not indicate that there is any Maine Coon in a cat. But, there is some basis to this theory.
It's true that a Classic Tabby Maine Coon will have the "M" marking. It's a tabby marking and it's desirable in tabby purebred cats such as Maine Coons, or tabby cats of no particular breed.
But, Maine Coons can be virtually any color, including Tortoiseshells, "Torbies" even Solids or "Tuxedos." Those cats would not have the Tabby M, but are just as much purebred Maine Coons.
For example, up at the top of this page on the left is Leo, a Cameo Classic Silver Red Tabby. He has the M, although it's not as distinct as it is in some Tabbies. And on the right of him is Alice, a Black Smoke. No M in sight! There are quite a few Maine Coons throughout our pages with no M.
On the other hand, any cat at all can be a Tabby and have an "M" on their forehead. Many short haired domestic house cats have nice sharp tabby markings, complete with an M on their forehead.
This is a major way that cats and dogs are different. Whereas most dogs are "a breed" and few are "mutts," (I hate that word! Mixed breed animals are just as wonderful as any others!) Most cats are intermingled and intermixed to an extent that there isn't a particular breed dominating their DNA. Remember, this is a question of DNA, and not of style.
Historically, when a geographical region (think Maine Coons), or group of people (think Ragamuffin) produces a very unique style of cat, keeping the bloodlines monitored, this style may become recognized as a breed, then breeders keep track of the bloodlines through pedigrees.
Of course mixes happen, but this is the main difference between "style" and "breed."
At any given time, only about 2-3% of pet cats are specifically "a breed" such as Maine Coon, Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Siamese, Bengal, Sphynx, Savannah, Persian etc. As you can imagine, only a portion of this small percent happen to be part of the Maine Coon breed.
The vast majority of cats, some 97-98%, are considered Domestic Shorthair, Longhair, or Domestic Medium Hair - DSH, DLH & DMH. This simply means that they are very, very mixed! Imagine what people may be like in a thousand or more years, and that's the general idea with cats. In unusual circumstances a purebred cat intermingles with a DSH, DLH or DMH. The kittens would then be "mixes."
As for telling whether a cat is a Maine Coon, the only way to know for sure is to check their pedigree, just like a Siamese, a Persian, or Himalayan.
Somehow I don't think this phrase would have caught on if the breed developed in Connecticut or Rhode Island for example. It's just more catchy when the mark looks like an M and the breed start with an M.
Lots of folks are wondering about this, so thanks for bringing it up! Any tabby cat can have a beautiful M! A Tabby Maine Coon will have one, lots of Coonies don't have one.
Rather than "M means a cat is a Maine Coon" it would be more accurate to say "A Tabby Maine Coon has an M".
Identifying Mixes, Breeds, "How Do You Know?"
Average Life Span Of A Maine Coon