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Maine Coon Cats: Health Problems Owners Must Know About

Even at the young age of six months, this Maine Coon cat is already a big, big kitty.

Even at the young age of six months, this Maine Coon cat is already a big, big kitty.

Health Problems to Be Aware of in Your Maine Coon

The Maine Coon cat is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America and generally regarded as a native of Maine. They are able to adapt to environments with harsh and very cold climates because of their long-haired, heavy and water-resistant coats.

As for their temperament, they are sociable creatures that prefer to stay close by their owner observing their activities. They are also playful and active, and get along well with children, dogs and other cats.

Although they are easy to manage, Maine Coon cats can pose some concern for their owners, particularly when it comes to their health. These cats are prone to some medical conditions that can be quite serious if prompt attention and treatment are not provided, including:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease

Learn more about the common Maine Coon cat's health problems, and get some tips on how to handle each disorder.

Hypertrophic Cardimyopathy (HCM)

Commonly termed as a "silent killer" because it is difficult to diagnose, this heart disease is usually present in Maine Coon cats, particularly in adult and male cats of this breed.

HCM occurs when the muscle walls of a cat's heart thicken, which causes the heart to pump less efficiently. This disorder can progress or worsen rapidly even without medication.

A complication of this heart disease can lead to congenital heart failure, a build-up of fluid around the heart and the lungs, and a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood to the hind legs, thus resulting in paralysis.

Although symptoms do not typically occur, these warning signs may be experienced:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Paralysis
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Severe weight loss

How Owners Can Help

Cats that experience these symptoms should be given prompt medical attention. An echocardiogram is the only means of detecting and diagnosing HCM. If an HCM is proven to be present, beta-blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors may be prescribed as treatments.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia, which is another of the common Maine Coon cat health problems, is a genetic defect where the hip joint develops abnormally. This occurs when the hip joint does not fit well into the hip socket.

Eventually, the hip joint becomes damaged because of the constant knocking of the femur head against the socket. As the cat ages, this can lead to osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease.

This health condition can occur in cats of different ages, and the most common signs of hip dysplasia are stiffness when walking, reluctance to jump or run, and lameness. Although it is not fatal, it can be very painful to cats. In fact, hip dysplasia can be crippling when proper treatment and therapy are not given.

How Owners Can Help

To prevent further damage to the hip joint, cats are put on a weight management diet. Extra weight can add pressure on the hips, thus worsening its condition. There are also certain exercises that a veterinarian may recommend as therapy such as walking on a leash, walking on a treadmill, and going up and down the stairs.

Proper massages can also help alleviate the pains, as well as keeping the cat warm since cold weather can induce arthritis. In addition, the veterinarian may also prescribe medications to treat this health condition such as NSAIDs, glucosamine and vitamin C.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD, is a genetic disease in Maine Coon cats where small cysts in the kidneys develop.

The cysts are present at birth, and they multiply and grow in size as the cat ages.

As the cysts develop, they tend to replace normal kidney tissue. The kidneys increase in size, and this leads to a decline in renal function. A complication of this illness is chronic renal failure.

Because this disorder progresses slowly, a cat suffering from it may not show symptoms. Normally, warning signs are evident when a cat is already an adult or about seven years of age.

Be alert for any of the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss

How Owners Can Help

To diagnose PKD, a genetic test and ultrasound may be recommended by a veterinarian. Although there are no means of slowing down and removing the cysts in the kidneys, therapy may be recommended such as medication and a prescribed diet.

An ideal diet for cats with PKD includes foods with low protein but less phosphorus content than normal cat food. Since a damaged kidney is not able to remove phosphorus from the blood, cats suffering from this disorder need to control their intake of this mineral.

Hormone therapy such as erythropoietin may also be advised. This particular hormone enables the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Kidney failure in cats results in a decreased production of red blood cells, thus it is important for cats to have this hormone to normalize the levels of red blood cells.

Maine Coon cats are typically healthy cats, but they are susceptible to certain diseases that can be serious and even life-threatening. However, with prompt treatment, proper medication, and an appropriate diet, the discomfort brought about by these disorders can be alleviated. Monitoring your cat's activity and overall appearance in combination with regular visits to your veterinarian are the best ways to keep your cat healthy and happy for its lifetime.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the normal respiration rate range for a five-month-old Maine Coon cat?

Answer: It's probably a good idea to consult your vet to see if your pet's respiration rate is within normal limits.

© 2011 Donna Cosmato

Share Your Love for Maine Coon Cats

Sherry Shearer on July 09, 2020:

I have 5 maine coons 3 females 2 males who are brothers girls are 2 yrs old sisters Miah and Anja and Elektra star is 3 the boys Theo and Harry are 18morhs old amazing cats i also have 2 persians one long haired exotic one short haired both boys now 12 yrs old all get on so well together .i find ur page very interesting only came across it today

Betty on July 02, 2020:

My husband and I have had 2 beautiful Maine Coon cats. The first died at 10 years of age from cancer of the lower jaw. The other just recently died at 8 years old of cancer of the small intestine. Both were inoperable. I have heard that Maine Coons are susceptible to cancer but it isn't mentioned in this article.

Holly on July 09, 2018:

I've got twin maincoon Timothy just passed today he suffered from colon cancer.

John Doe on November 08, 2017:

If your vet says your cat is fine, I'd trust them. They have to have a doctoral, they must know something.

Julie Gray on July 26, 2017:

My cat is about 6 years old and is such a sweetie I say my "cat" but it is my partners cat and he is in love with him as I am,

he is having some issues about lethargy and he is not eating well. We took him to the vet and he said his blood work was good and wanted to hydrate him but I just am scarred they want money except he still doesn't seem like his old self. What do you think I SHOULD DO I love this baby and he isn't dehydrated. I checked his skin by pulling up around the shoulder and his skin snapped right back.

Ranchqueen on May 23, 2017:

Can and are the above genetic issues with the Maine coon cats tested for?

Dave on February 17, 2017:

My 13 yr. old male Maine coon went to the vet after he stopped eating. The vet said it was a problem with his pancreas and could clear it up but further tests showed bleeding around the heart so he had to be put down. What a great companion. Very loyal like a dog. He even watched over our two dogs. Very smart and a great friend. I will miss him.

Michele Minicozzi on January 18, 2017:

I had a female Maine Coon, Shea, 3.5 y/o who died suddenly on Superbowl Sunday last year - I believe it was a case of undiagnosed HCM :( I was devastated because she was such a great girl and still so young, quirky and funny yet in hindsight I missed some small signs that probably could of saved her if I had known about the disease. My regular Vet had never even mentioned it to me during any visit, I was so mad and felt terribly guilty she died such an awful death. Augh - I hate remembering that day and ho wit could of been avoided! Now that I know what to look for and have adopted a new Maine Coon, Holly...please tell me at what age or how often along after the age of 3 should I have the Vet administer a Sonogram or ECG? -Michele

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on February 19, 2012:

Thanks Ricky! I'm glad you liked this article and found it to be helpful. Enjoy your weekend as well:)

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on February 18, 2012:

Voted up, useful, and awesome. This is a great article Donna. So much useful information that many will need to know. Quite impressive actually. A class "A" article for sure. I had never heard of these Coon cats before now. Great article and hope you have a great weekend.

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on February 07, 2012:

Thank you, thank you for the sweet comments, friend Eddy! It's always grand to hear from you, and I hope Rocky is adjusting well to his new home:)

Eiddwen from Wales on February 06, 2012:

A great hub Donna which I am sure would benefit many cat lovers who read.I'll link back to my FB page.

An up up and away here;

Take care;


Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 19, 2011:

Thank you for your vote of confidence and continued support of my work, Deborah:)

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 18, 2011:

such beautiful cats.. and I love the video.. great HUBS..

i voted up and beautiful

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 18, 2011:

Hi, esmeowl12...they are awesome looking cats, aren't they? It's amazing how big they can get, and their facial expressions remind me of the cats from the musical "Cats" because they contain so much personality. Thank you for your feedback:)

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on December 18, 2011:

Main Coons are so beautiful. I've always loved them. Thanks for sharing this important info.