How To Tell A Maine Coon From A Tabby


Have you ever thought about how to tell a Maine Coon from a tabby cat?

Well, while the “Maine Coon” and “Tabby” are two entirely different subjects, it is not uncommon to hear people asking about how a Maine Coon differs from a tabby cat.

Tabby cats refer to a collection of cats with a certain coat pattern. In comparison, Maine Coons are popular large breed cats with a rectangular-shaped body, long, thick fur, stocky legs, large ears, and expressive eyes with big personalities, while tabby cats are cats with distinctive ‘M’ shaped markings on their forehead.

If you are a first-time owner trying to decide between buying a Maine Coon or a tabby cat, this post will help you determine which cat is best suited for your family.

How To Tell A Maine Coon From A Tabby

Maine Coon cats have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to their exquisite looks, sheer size, luscious shaggy coats, but also as a result of their amazingly friendly personalities.

The beloved Maine Coon cat comes in an overwhelming multitude of colors and patterns, 74 in fact! I have included an in-depth list of Maine Coon colors for you to choose from, right here.

When you hear someone talk about Maine Coon colors, you will notice this breeds coloring are classified as:

  • Solid
  • Bi-Color
  • Tri-Color
  • Smoke
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Shaded
  • Tabby

The tabby pattern is prevalent in the Maine Coon cat breed, and the choices are literally endless.

That said, in the world of felines:

“A tabby cat is a term used to describe any domestic cat with a distinctive ‘M’ shaped marking on its forehead”

As such, tabby is not a particular breed of cat but a coat pattern in cats.

Tabbies come in many variations, ranging from:

  • Striped
  • Dotted
  • Lined
  • Banded
  • Flecked
  • Swirly Patterns

All patterns have their own names, and the tabby pattern can be seen across a vast range of purebred cats and mixed breed cats.

Considering that tabby Maine Coons are very popular among pet owners and breeders, it is not unconventional for people to confuse and mistake a Maine Coon for a tabby cat, and vice versa.

That said, how can you tell a Maine Coon from a tabby cat?

The most important thing that you need to remember when comparing a Maine Coon vs Tabby cat, is that any cat of any breed (including the Maine Coon cat breed), can be a tabby cat.

Maine Coon Cats

A Maine Coons’ physical attributes are unique, making it easy to distinguish them from other domesticated cat breeds. For example, purebred Maine Coons will have substantial, medium-long legs that are in proportion to their body.

Besides their physical attributes, you can also tell a Maine Coon from a tabby cat by examining the personality of your cat. This is because Maine Coons are well-known for their friendly, relaxed personalities, along with dog-like traits.

They also love water and are fascinated with almost everything that relates to water.

If we look a little closer at the Maine Coons physique then you will instantly see that they differ from other tabby domestic cats in quite a few ways.

Here are some simple ways that show how you can identify a Maine Coon:

1. Rectangular Body

One of the most notable characteristics of Maine Coons is their physical build.

Purebred Maine Coon are identifiable with their strong, rectangular, muscular bodies.

The other parts of their body are also in proportion, which creates a well-balanced rectangular appearance with no parts appearing exaggerated.

2. Large Size

Relative to tabby cats of other breeds, Maine Coons are a lot bigger. In fact, the Maine Coon is the largest domesticated cat breed in the world!

A Maine Coon will therefore be visually large, bulkier, and can weigh up to 25 lbs. You can discover more about this large cat’s sheer size and proportions, by reading my article ‘How Big Will My Maine Coon Grow?‘.

3. Distinctive Fur Coat

Another unique feature that makes it relatively easy to identify Maine Coons is their long, shaggy fur.

While their coat might look somewhat similar to that of other long-haired domestic cats, a Maine Coons has a distinctive, much shaggier coat.

These large cats also have a ruff around their chest, where the fur is extra-long reminiscent of the lion’s mane.

Some owners like to style their Maine Coon cat’s furry coat. If this is something you have thought about, make sure you read the warnings about Maine Coon lion cuts, first.

4. Maine Coons Are Fluffier

Besides having a rugged and fluffy coat, the Maine Coon will also have a fluffy tail and tufty lynx-like ears.

Although not all Maine Coons have very long ear tufts, most cats of this breed have large, pointed ears that are often fluffy.

Their paws are also well-tufted.

Learn why some Maine Coon cats never develop lynx-tips, as these are lovingly referred to.

5. Distinctive Head Shape

Purebred Maine Coons have medium-wide heads that are slightly longer than wide.

They are well-known for their square muzzles that are proportionate to the rest of the head and tend to have prominent high cheekbones.

6. Expressive Eyes

Typically, Maine Coons have large, expensive, oblique (slanted) eyes.

Their eyes can be green, gold, or blue.

Here are some important Maine Coon eye facts that you should be aware of.

7. Longer Whiskers

Relative to other domestic breeds, the Maine Coon tends to have longer whiskers, that give their faces an exquisite look.

These longer whiskers combined with the solidity of their heads, broad faces, and strong angles give the Maine Coon a bulkier appearance.

There’s more to a Maine Coons whiskers than you might first suspect though, click here to find out why.

8. Long Distinctive Tails

It is hard to confuse a Maine Coon’s tail with that of “normal” cats. This is because Maine Coons usually have long (about sixteen inches), immensely fluffy tails that are wide at the base, and taper off to a point.

These large cats’ tails aren’t just there to look beautiful though, they actually serve a purpose. Find out why the Maine Coons tail grows to such an incredible length, in my article.

Tabby Cat

In order to distinguish the Maine Coon from tabby cats, it is also imperative to learn how you can identify a tabby cat.

You can easily tell how they differ from their unique appearances.

Notably, there are five different tabby coat patterns:

  • Classic
  • Mackerel
  • Spotted
  • Patched
  • Ticked

Most importantly, all tabby cats will have the exclusive ‘M’ shaped making on their foreheads (sources 1,2,3).

Below is a list showing how you can know you have a tabby cat:

1. Distinct ‘M’ Shape Marking

The feature that distinguishes tabby cats from all other cats is their unique ‘M’ shaped making on their forehead.

As such, all tabby cats, including tabby Maine Coons, will have a clearly visible ‘M’ shaped marking on their foreheads.

Don’t forget to read my article ‘Do All Maine Coons Have An ‘M’ On Their Forehead‘ to learn additional information about this fascinating topic.

2. Eyes

Tabby cats usually have green eyes, and around their eyes, you will find a lighter color eyeliner-looking fur.

Although the shape of the eyes will vary from one breed to another, a domesticated cat with green eyes is likely to be a tabby.

3. Shape

Although any cat of any breed can be tabby, tabby cats tend to have solid and robust body shapes.

4. Fur

It is common knowledge that cats have wildly varied coats in terms of looks, length, and colors.

That said, most commonly, tabby cats are brown, orange, and grey, with stipped or whirled fur.

Maine Coon Vs. Tabby Similarities

The first Maine Coons to have appeared in Wiscasset, Maine, in the nineteenth century are thought to have had a tabby pattern.

At its core, tabby is a coat pattern common in domesticated cats.

That said, a tabby cat is a cat that has developed a tabby pattern, usually caused by the dominance of the tabby gene. The term is often used to refer to cats having this pattern.

The Maine Coon shares some personality traits with other tabby cats. For example, whether your tabby cat is a Maine Coon or from another breed, both cats tend to be naturally cuddly.

It is with noting, however, that all domesticated cat breeds will have unique traits that make them great family members. Therefore, if you will need to look a little deeper to decide between the Maine Coon or a tabby cat.

The good news, however, is that you are more likely to get a feline with a great personality. This is because neither Maine Coons nor tabby cats have a reputation for acting aggressively, which makes them a great addition to any home.

Here are fascinating similarities between Maine Coons and tabby cats:

Robust Shape

While Maine Coons are generally known for being muscular, and large, tabby cats are often strong and tend to be visually larger than other cats too.

Both Maine Coons and tabby cats have solid body shapes, stocky legs, and proportionate bodies that give them a bullet look.

Loving Personality

According to many pet owners, tabby cats are fun, loving, and bond well with their owners.

Like Maine Coons, tabby cats from other breeds are affectionate, playful, highly sociable, and act very cutely.

What’s more, both Maine Coon cats and tabby cats are outgoing – they are not scared by strangers. They tend to be independent but will bond well with their human companions and give them company.

Good Hunters

While different cat breeds have anatomical differences, both Maine Coon and tabby cats tend to be great hunters.

They have stocky, medium-long legs, flexible backs, and sharp claws which are handy in hunting. These cats also possess instincts that lure them to stalk and take down prey.

Tabby and calico Maine Coons, as well as other cats with tabby coats, will often hunt birds and mice. It is instinctual, plus they find it fun.

Playful

Domesticated felines are generally playful. However, Maine Coons and tabby cats tend to be more playful than other cats. This is probably because they bond strongly with their human companions. Maine Coons also have a reputation for staying kitten-like well into their adult lives.

With this in mind, you need to make sure your Maine Coon has plenty of toys to play with, that also stimulate their minds intellectually. I recommend these 5 cat toys, as they are ideally suited to the Maine Coons intelligent mind, and desires to hunt and play.

What Is The Difference Between A Tabby And A Maine Coon?

The key difference between a tabby and a Maine Coon is that the former describes a coat pattern while the latter describes a cat breed.

However, considering that the term “tabby cat” is commonly used to describe all cats that have developed the tabby pattern, it makes perfect sense to compare the tabby cat vs Maine Coon cat.

The most important characteristic that denotes a genuine tabby, regardless of the breed, is an M-shaped mark on their forehead.

By comparison, a Maine Coon is easily distinguishable, thanks to its following features:

  • Sheer Size
  • Rectangular-Shaped Bodies
  • Wedge-Shaped Heads
  • Square Muzzle
  • Large Ears
  • Lynx-Like Ear Tufts
  • Stocky
  • Medium-Long Legs
  • Large, Oblique-Shaped Eyes

Relative to tabby cats from other breeds, Maine Coons tend to be:

  • Muscular and visually larger
  • Have long, shaggy coats
  • Have longer tails
  • Highly intelligent and trainable
  • Have dog-like dispositions
  • Have distinctive personality traits and loving characteristics
  • More expensive
  • Long, luscious, uneven fur
  • A slow growth rate

Despite the fact that Maine Coons are different from tabby cats, it also holds that Maine Coons are a pedigree cat breed. Whereas tabby is simply a coat pattern that can be applied to any cat breed, including the Maine Coons.

Considering that tabby Maine Coons are common and very popular among pet owners, it seems unreasonable to compare Maine Coons vs tabby cats directly, because “tabby” refers to the markings, and Maine Coons themselves can be tabbies (source 1,2,3).

How To Tell If You Have A Maine Coon

During the last few decades, Maine Coons have become one of the most popular cat breeds to adopt or buy. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering that Maine Coons have stunning looks, gentle character, and are highly sociable.

However, their ever-increasing popularity and demand have led to the growth of backyard breeders, often referred to as ‘BYB‘. Read our complete guide on Buying A Maine Coon Cat so that you learn how to spot a scammer before they take your money.

So, how can first-time buyers and seasoned pet owners be certain that they have, or are looking at a Maine Coon cat? This is a very popular question and one I hope I have helped address below.

Here are some common Maine Coon physical traits that will help you determine if you are looking at, or own a purebred Maine Coon cat, or not:

Size

Maine Coons are the largest domesticated cat breed in the world.

They are usually visibly larger than the average “normal” cats and can grow up to 40 inches long, and 8-16 inches tall.

In terms of weight, Maine Coons can weigh anywhere between 8 – 25 lbs.

Female Maine Coons tend to be on the smaller side. For more details read my article ‘How Big Can A Maine Coon Cat Grow?‘.

Tail

Purebred Maine Coons usually have impressive, long, bushy tails which are large at the base, and tapering.

As the story goes, a Maine Coon’s tail resembles that of a raccoon.

One funny folklore tale claims that the Maine Coon is part raccoon. Click here to discover more about this quirky tale.

Body Build And Frame

Maine Coons are large-breed cats with a muscular frame and proportionate body parts that form a well-balanced rectangular shape.

Eyes

Purebred Maine Coons have large, wide-set, slightly oblique eyes.

Kittens usually have blue eyes, but their eye color will change as the cat matures:

  • Gold
  • Copper
  • Green
  • Yellow

Here are some important Maine Coon eye facts to be aware of.

Fur

Another physical trait that makes Maine Coons distinguishable is their long, thick, shaggy coat.

A purebred Maine Coon’s fur is also semi-water repellent to allow the cat to swim and endure frigid conditions. This is likely why Maine Coon cats love water so much!

Here are a few other reasons why this breed is obsessed with water.

Mane

The ruff of fur around the neck of a purebred Maine Coon is one of the remarkable features that distinguish these cats from other breeds.

The mane gives them the look of a little lion.

Ears

Purebred Maine Coons have ear tufts reminiscent of those of lynx. This has led a number of people to ask if Maine Coon cats are actually part lynx! Here’s the answer.

Their ears are also sizable.

Legs And Paws

Even as a kitten, a purebred Maine Coon will have substantial medium-long legs and large paws compared with “normal” cats.

Their large paws and thick coats help them survive cold winter climates.

Personality Traits

While the physical traits provide you with insights into whether you have a Maine Coon, or not, it is worth the effort to study the breed’s character traits as well.

A purebred Maine Coon is usually:

  • Obsessed with water
  • Likes following its owner
  • Looks for alternative roots instead of jumping
  • Uses chirps and trills to communicate
  • Exhibits dog-like traits

If you are among the owners wondering if their cat is a purebred Maine Coon, watch your cat more closely and determine if they love water, or exhibit dog-like traits.

A purebred Maine Coon cat will have all the pedigree paperwork.

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Half Maine Coon

If you have been wondering how to tell if your tabby is part Maine Coon, or not, the surest way to determine the cat’s ancestry is by getting a DNA test.

Before investing money in a DNA testing kit though, there are several characteristics that you can match with your tabby to determine if the feline is part Maine Coon.

For starters, a tabby that is half Maine Coon will likely copy some traits e.g. love of water, or vocality, from the Maine Coon and other characteristics from their other breed. Watch your cat closely, as it is perfectly normal for cats that are part Maine Coon to possess a few key Maine Coons traits.

If you cannot spot any telltale Maine Coon cat characteristics with your beloved cat, another way of knowing whether you own a Maine Coon mix, or not, is by asking the breeder who sold the cats to you. In most cases, your chosen breeder should be able to clearly explain whether the cat is a purebred Maine Coon or part Maine Coon.

Considering that reputable breeders usually provide pedigree paperwork for purebred cats, a lack of paperwork could be a dead giveaway. However, before concluding that your cat is half Maine Coon, make sure to evaluate its personality relative to that of Maine Coons thoroughly.

All in all, if it turns out that genetic testing is the only surest method of determining whether your cat is a mixed Maine Coon or not, then you should research this route carefully, before investing.

Before you dash off to buy a DNA test for your cat, make sure you review these factors that may hint as to the likelihood that your cat is a part Maine Coon tabby:

1. Size Variance

While Maine Coon are usually large, a tabby from a mixed lineage will be large but obviously will not reach the massive length and weight of a purebred Maine Coon.

2. Legs

Tabbies are generally robust.

As such, a tabby that is half Maine Coon will have a solid body build.

3. Muscled Body

A Maine Coon mix cat will usually have a long, muscled neck and chest.

4. Large Ears

Another telltale sign of a Maine Coon mix is the presence of large ears, which taper off to a point.

Although a cat that is half Maine Coon might not possess the famous Maine Coon’s well-tufted ears, it is likely to have visibly large ears.

5. Facial Profile

A Maine Coon mix that has inherited the Maine Coon shape and build will have a face that is proportionate to the head, and free of bumps.

The face should also be smooth with a slight concavity.

6. Friendliness

The personality of a Maine Coon is a dead giveaway.

If you already know that your cat is not a purebred Maine Coon, and it is pretty loyal, sociable, and loves your company, along with exhibiting some dog-like traits, it is likely that you have a Maine Coon mix.

Crossbreed cats between Maine Coons and other domestic cats tend to have a great personality, just like Maine Coons.

Maine Coon Eyes Vs Normal Cat

One of the best ways to identify a Maine Coon is by looking at their eyes.

If you compare a Maine Coon Vs regular cat eyes, you can note a few differences.

Firstly, the purebred Maine Coons have expressive, large, wide-set eyes that are slightly oblique in shape. Their eyes come in a range of shades, including:

  • Green
  • Gold
  • Green-Gold
  • Copper

Blue and odd-colored eyes are acceptable only for white Maine Coons, or kittens.

Maine Coon Tabby Mix Personality

Are you thinking of buying a Maine Coon mix? If yes, you should consider a tabby Maine Coon kitten!

Essentially, a tabby Maine Coon kitten is a Maine Coon that has inherited the tabby gene from one of its parents.

Thankfully, the Maine Coon tabby mix cats are not rare. Instead, they are popular crossbred cats that many people love because they have large bodies and affectionate personalities.

The main benefit of owning a tabby Maine Coon kitten is perhaps the personality associated with them since they take on the characteristics of their parent breeds.

You can therefore expect them to be:

  • Intelligent
  • Highly Sociable
  • Friendly
  • Playful
  • Gentle Temperament

It is apparent that some of the Maine Coons personality and affectionate nature is passed to the tabby Maine Coon during breeding.

Conclusion

If you are a first-time owner contemplating how to tell a Maine Coon from a tabby, the bad news is that the two cannot be compared directly.

The Maine Coon is a breed of cat, whilst a tabby actually refers to a coat pattern in cats.

Hopefully, after reading this post, you can easily differentiate a Maine Coon from the crowd.

Related Question

Maine Coon Vs Norwegian Forest Cat

The Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat are two separate breeds. Both breeds have great personalities, but the Norwegian Forest Cat will lend its loyalty when given attention. Learn more.

Maine Coon Central

Hello! My name is Katrina Stewardson, and I’m a self-confessed CRAZY CAT LADY! I've been in love with the Maine Coon cat breed ever since we welcomed an adorable male Maine Coon kitten into our home 9 years ago. We called him 'Pippin', but he also goes by the name ‘Pipsteroo’! Our enormous, kind-hearted cat genuinely thinks he's a dog and has convinced me that cats are Man's True Best Friend!

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