Why Do Maine Coons Have Long Tails?


Maine Coons are known for having long tails in comparison to other cat breeds, but why do Maine Coons have long tails in the first place?

After all, while the Maine Coon’s bushy, elegant tail certainly is beautiful, it’s not just there for looks!

The length of a cat’s tail is determined by how long its body is. Maine Coons are the largest domesticated cat breed in the world, and their tail is proportional to that large size so that they can properly balance. Their long, bushy tails are also useful to protect against cold weather.

A cat’s tail has numerous functions besides balance and warmth, and some are more surprising than others.

Read on to find out how your Maine Coon’s tail can actually help you figure out what emotions your cat is feeling!

Why Do Maine Coons Have Long Tails?

The Maine Coon is the largest domesticated cat breed in the world.

This cat breed developed naturally in the state of Maine, where their long, thick fur and impressive hunting abilities helped them to thrive in the cold, harsh climate.

These cats also have long, bushy tails that can be used for a wide variety of reasons.

Here is a comprehensive list of why Maine Coons (and cats in general) have long tails (source 1):

  • Balance: The most important reason that cats have tails is to maintain balance. Tails act as a counterweight, and they can move their tail to help keep the rest of their body upright. This also allows cats to be incredibly agile, walking on narrow surfaces or running through obstacles.
  • Landing: It’s believed that a cat’s tail can also play a part in smooth landings. However, it’s worth noting that even cats without tails (either due to genetics or injury) are capable of landing on their feet, as well. Still, it’s thought that a cat’s tail can make a difference in helping a cat land on its feet.
  • Displaying Emotion: Humans have complex facial muscles which allow us to display countless different emotions. Cats don’t have these same facial muscles, but their tails can often say just as much as a human’s face. The position and movement of a cat’s tail can indicate emotions like happiness, fear, and anger.
  • Keeping Warm: In the case of Maine Coon Cats, that bushy tail covered in long, thick fur is also helpful to keep these cats warm. Since they first originated in a climate known for its harsh winters, the Maine Coon’s tail is perfect for wrapping around their body and adding an extra layer of warmth.

How Long Is A Maine Coon Tail?

The average cat has a tail length of about 11 inches, but the Maine Coon tail length is much longer.

Maine Coons’ tails measure about 11 inches at the shortest, with the longest recorded tail in a Maine Coon reaching an amazing 16.3 inches in length (source 1).

Maine Coon Tail Growth

If you have a young kitten, but you don’t see any signs of that classic Maine Coon tail, you’re probably wondering, when do Maine Coon tails grow?

Maine Coons have a naturally slow growth rate and don’t reach their full size until they are about 3 to 5 years old.

Their tails grow during this same time period, although they may experience independent growth spurts from time to time.

Do Maine Coon Cats Have Long Tails?

The average house cat has a tail length of about 11 inches.

In comparison, do Maine Coons have short tails? The answer is, not at all!

The Maine Coon tail can vary from 11 to 16 inches in length, meaning that these cats have some of the longest tails of all domestic cat breeds.

Longest Maine Coon Tail

The longest Maine Coon tail ever recorded was measured at a total length of 16.3 inches.

The cat’s name was Stewie, and while he, unfortunately, passed away in 2013, he also held the record for the longest cat ever recorded, measuring a total length of 48.5 inches.

Do Maine Coon Cats Have Bushy Tails?

Maine Coons are known for having thick, long fur that makes their tails look bushy.

In fact, many Maine Coon tails have been described as looking like raccoons because they’re so bushy!

If this thought has crossed your mind, you might be wondering if Maine Coons are actually part raccoons? Find out the truth in my article.

Do All Maine Coons Have Fluffy Tails?

All purebred Maine Coons have thick, fluffy tails by the time they are adults, but do Maine Coon kittens have fluffy tails?

When they are first born, Maine Coon tails are thin and not at all bushy. In fact, their tails don’t become fluffy until they are about 4 to 5 months old (source 1).

Learn more about when your Maine Coon kitten will get fluffy, my article ‘When Will My Maine Coon Kitten Get Fluffy?‘.

Maine Coon Tail Not Fluffy

Maine Coons are supposed to have long, fluffy tails.

If your Maine Coon’s tail isn’t fluffy, it could mean that something’s wrong with your cat.

Here’s a list of reasons why your Maine Coon might not have a fluffy tail:

1. It’s Still Young

Maine Coon kittens aren’t born with fluffy tails. In fact, they usually don’t start to get their fluffy tails until they are between 4 and 5 months old.

2. It’s A Mixed Breed

Your Maine Coon might not be purebred if its tail isn’t thick and bushy. After all, the long, fluffy fur of a Maine Coon’s tail is a hallmark of the breed.

If you know for a fact that your cat is a purebred Maine Coon, however, then a tail that isn’t fluffy could be due to medical reasons.

3. Maine Coon Tail Thinning

If your Maine Coon is purebred, but its tail isn’t fluffy, it’s likely due to Maine Coon tail hair loss.

Your cat’s fur could be thinning due to a variety of reasons.

Below, we’ve listed some of the most common Maine Coon tail thinning reasons (source 1):

  • Allergies: Allergies can cause your Maine Coon to begin losing fur. Seasonal allergies to pollen, dust, or mold could be one underlying culprit, or your Maine Coon might be suffering from food allergies.
  • Stress: When cats are stressed, they might begin grooming themselves an excessive amount, or they might even begin chewing on their fur. This can cause unnatural amounts of hair loss. Some common causes of stress in cats include moving, introducing a new family member or pet, or some other big life change.
  • Parasites: Parasites such as fleas, mites, ringworm, or lice can cause your cat to begin losing hair. Check to see if you can find any bugs infesting your cat’s skin, or any irritation or inflammation. Take your cat to the vet straight away for treatment if you suspect any parasitic infections.
  • Underlying Illness: Finally, if your Maine Coon is losing fur on tail, it could be due to an underlying illness such as cancer or diabetes. If you notice any other worrying symptoms like weight loss or lethargy, make sure you take your cat to the vet straight away.

Maine Coon Tail Language

While balance and agility are the main reasons behind a cat’s tail, they can also be useful indicators of a cat’s emotion.

If you want to get better at reading your cat’s mood, here are some common tail behaviors to look out for (source 1):

Cat’s EmotionDescription
HappyA Maine Coon happy tail will be lifted straight up, and it will often be curved over at the end like a question mark. Many cats will greet their owners this way, as well. If your cat rushes to meet you at the door with its tail straight up, it means it is very excited to see you again!
ScaredIf a cat is truly scared, it will puff its tail up so that it looks larger. Fearful or nervous cats might also tuck their tail between their back legs
CuriousCurious or focused cats will often slowly twitch their tail from side to side.
IrritatedIrritated cats might twitch their tail back and forth quite quickly, and this will often be accompanied by growling or flattened ears
AngryAn angry cat will lash its tail back and forth aggressively. If you notice this behavior in a cat, particularly if it’s accompanied by flattened ears, then back away immediately! Your cat needs some space right now
Maine Coon Tail Language

Why Do Maine Coons Wag Their Tails?

Another important part of learning cat tail language is that, sometimes, the same body movement can mean different things.

When cats wag their tails, it indicates that they are feeling a strong emotion. However, that emotion can vary from positive to negative.

For example, a cat that is lashing its tail back and forth with its ears flattened is an indicator that it is extremely angry or fearful. Meanwhile, a cat that is wagging its tail while play hunting or climbing intently is feeling very happy, focused and challenged.

A key part of reading your cat’s body language is to look at more than just your cat’s tail. Instead, look at your cat’s body language as a whole, and think about your cat’s environment, as well.

There are a lot of clues that can help you piece together what your cat might be thinking or feeling.

Maine Coon Tail Shake

While not common in many cats, some Maine Coons might vibrate or shake their tail. This is another part of cat body language that can be interpreted in many ways (source 1):

a. Anxiety

In many cases, a vibrating tail indicates anxiety.

b. Overwhelmed

Cats might vibrate their tails when they are feeling overwhelmed by noise or if they are displeased by strangers in their house.

c. Restless

They might also vibrate their tails if they are restless about something.

d. Chitter

Some cats also vibrate their tails for the same reason that they “chitter.”

Have you ever watched your cat look out a window and make an odd chattering sound like a squirrel?

This is a sound that indicates your cat desperately wants to hunt something but is unable to pursue it.

It indicates a desire to perform, and a cat vibrating its tail might also be feeling the same emotion.

e. Anger / Irritation

In some cases, a vibrating tail can also indicate anger or irritation, although this is less common.

Again, look to your cat’s environment and other body languages such as ear position to determine whether your cat is vibrating its tail out of anger or something else.

f. Happy / Excited

Finally, some cats might vibrate their tails when they are happy or excited.

If your cat is pleased to see you come home or is rushing to eat dinner, it might vibrate its tail because it’s so exciting it can barely contain itself!

Maine Coon Tail Up

Oftentimes, a cat’s tail is held up in its default position. So why do cats hold their tails up? Most large cats in the wild actually keep their tails down or tucked between their legs, but domestic cats naturally hold their tails up while walking.

Maine Coons especially are known for keeping their tails high and proud while they walk, exuding confidence and grace. However, a cat holding its tail up might also be expressing happiness, friendliness, or greeting.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Flicks Its Tail?

A cat that is idly twitching its tail is often focused or playful. They might twitch their tails before pouncing on a toy, or when they’re feeling playful.

This often indicates your cat is focused, so you shouldn’t disturb a cat that is staring at something intently while flicking its tail.

Cats also flick their tail when they are simply alert and in tune with their environment.

A cat that appears to be sleeping, but is still flicking its tail, indicates that your cat is resting but is still paying attention to its environment.

More aggressive tail flicking can indicate irritability or aggressiveness.

If you pick up your cat when it does not want to be held, its tail might progressively flick faster and faster from side to side. If you notice your cat begins to flick its tail more aggressively when you do certain actions, then you should take this as a hint to give your cat more space (source 1).

Maine Coon Cat Tail Curled Over Back

Unspayed female cats in heat sometimes curl their tails over their backs. If your cat gets into a low position with her bum in the air while moving her tail from side to side, then this means she has assumed the mating position.

Another reason your cat’s tail might be curled over its back, however, is because its tail is hypermobile (source 1).

Hypermobile Cat Tail

A hypermobile cattail is a tail that is far more flexible than most cats.

Cats with hypermobile tails can curl their tails all the way over their back, and might even be able to touch their ears with their tails!

Many hypermobile cats choose to simply rest their tails over their backs because they find it more comfortable.

Maine Coon Greasy Tail

A Maine Coon oily tail is usually the result of a mild skin condition known as stud tail.

Maine Coon stud tail occurs most frequently in unneutered males, but it can occur in both fixed and unfixed males and females.

Stud tail is caused by clogged pores on a cat’s back, which leads to a greasy buildup that develops at the base of a cat’s tail.

Once a veterinarian has diagnosed a cat with stud tail, they will recommend washing the area and may provide topical ointments to put on the affected skin.

Maine Coon With No Tail

While tails are an important part of a cat’s body, they can also survive without their tails. Some cats may need to have their tails amputated due to injury, and some cats can also be born without their tails.

If your Maine Coon was naturally born without its tail, it is likely a mixed breed and has Manx Cat ancestry. There is also a rare gene that can cause a cat of any breed to be born without its tail.

Maine Coon Tail Vs Norwegian Forest Cat Tail

Both Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats have long, bushy tails. However, the Maine Coon’s tail is longer on average, and also has a thicker base.

Conclusion

If you’ve ever looked at your cat’s long, elegant tail, you might be wondering, why do Maine Coons have long tails? Maine Coons have naturally longer tails than other cat breeds due to their large overall size. Cat tail length is determined by the length of the rest of its body, so that they can have proper balance.

Cat tails are primarily used for balance, agility, and smooth landings. However, your cat’s tail can also be a useful indicator of body language. The position and movement of your cat’s tail can communicate the emotions that your cat is feeling. Learning to read your cat’s body language is a great way to strengthen your bond with your cat.

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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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