Our Maine Coon Ragdoll: Cross-Breed Cats, Greebo and Dippy
Big Brother Greebo and His Little Sister Dippy
This is our adventurous story of two Maine Coon half-breed Ragdoll cats, Greebo and Dippy his sister, portraying their antics and typical Maine Coon and Ragdoll traits as they work paw-in-paw to make our house their home.
Greebo and Dippy (Maine Coon Ragdoll crossed bred Moggies) are brother and sister with very different characteristics and personalities. Each lovable in their own way, although Greebo with his puppy like eyes, appealing personality and gentle soft nature tends to take the limelight.
As a natural born cat lover I've had pet cats all my life; all moggies, with perhaps the exception of two Persian blue sisters (Tiptoes and Fred), although even then I don't think they were thoroughbreds.
Although their parents are moggies and not purebred, their father being a typical Maine Coon and mother a typical Ragdoll both breeds are distinctive with many characteristics quite different to other domestic cat breeds; so even as half breeds they're not your typical Moggy. A Moggy is an affectionate British term for a mixed breed house cat, the cat equivalent to a mongrel dog.
It was a few years ago when we became the proud owners of our two half-breed Maine Coon Ragdoll cats, Greebo and Dippy. And it was the start of an adventurous journey as, I was soon to learn. As Maine Coon cats are not part of the same breeds as your everyday moggy, but quite separate with very distinctive features, it's been quite a new experience for us in owning these two most wonderful cats.
Maine Coon meows are often quite different to the ordinary cats; they can make a trill like sound, like Dippy does, or a chirping type noise rather than the meow. But most notable is Maine Coons being much bigger, heavier and noticeably more intelligent than you're your average moggy and other domestic cat breeds; as detailed in this article.
Interactive Time with Our Cats
Playtime on the Cat Tree with Their Toys
Below is a short video I made as we spent 20 minutes playtime with Greebo and Dippy and their cat toys on their cat tree, followed by giving them a few treats and letting them settle down for their catnaps, after which Dippy is offered a little cream as a special treat.
Greebo, Our Star Pet and His Dippy Sister
Greebo Takes After His Father and Dippy After Her Mother
Greebo's father is a typical Maine Coon, as is Greebo and his mother (like his sister) are typical Ragdoll. Greebo was named by my son after the famous cat in DiscWorld, and Dippy got her name not because of her black tail (which looks like it's been dipped in black paint) but because as from a kitten (in comparison to Greebo) she is; although occasionally she'll surprise us.
Maine Coons who evolved a few centuries ago from a natural evolutionary selection of feral cats in Maine, America with ship board cats brought over from England are very large and very heavy for domestic cats, they are very placid with a double thick fur coat and exceptionally intelligent and well suited for the environment in Maine. The Ragdoll is a more recent American breed, selectively bred by a cat breeder in the 1960s. Their main traits are they too much bigger than the average domestic cat and they also have a very placid and gentle nature, and a quite thick fur coat. Although they're not as bright as Maine Coons and, like Dippy, when picked up go all limp just like a rag doll.
Greebo and Dippy's Close Relationship
The two have been together since birth and in spite of their difference in size and intelligence are inseparable; they live, eat, sleep and play together, and occasionally will work together to solve problems. Usually, being the brighter of the two Greebo will lead the way but being the big gentle brother will share willingly. The first time we witnessed this was when still kittens and Greebo (already quite strong and heavy pushed) put his weight on his front pawls on the foot peddle of the peddle bin in the kitchen while Dippy jumped in the waste bin to forage for tasty scraps and bring them back out in her mouth to share with Greebo on the kitchen floor. We only became aware of this when we heard rustling in the kitchen and went to investigate.
On another occasion, after we had our weekly shopping delivered a month's supply of cat biscuits were temporally left on the dining room floor while by son was taking other groceries down to our food store shed. I heard rustling from the living room and on investigating found that within just a minutes or two Greebo had bitten through and ripped a gash in the side of one of the bags of cat biscuits and was contently sitting back while his sister was tucking into a quick free meal.
In fact we have to lock their biscuits away at all times now. At first we kept their biscuits to hand in a large square biscuit tin until Greebo worked out how to open it. When we started feeding them using cat biscuit distributor balls (which they love) my son would place the biscuit tin on the floor near their feeding time to open the tin and fill their interactive food dispenser toys (food distributor balls). Each time Greebo would be watching, and after only a few occasions decided he would have ago at opening the biscuit tin. We sat back and watched with interest, at first Greebo made the obvious but understandable mistake of sitting on the biscuit tin to try to pull the lid off but quickly learnt (within two days) that he needed to sit next to the biscuit tin and pull the lid upwards with his claw. Once he learnt that it took him about five minutes the first time but with practice over just a few days got it down to less than a minute.
Now for the real challenge; by leaving their biscuit tin on a shelf in plain sight Greebo would just help himself and share with Dippy. So we started to keep their biscuit tin in a kitchen cupboard only to find that overnight Greebo would raid the cupboard and feast on the rewards with his sister. We then moved their tin to a kitchen wall unit, but it made no difference, Greebo would still get up and open the wall unit cupboard overnight, and help himself. So now we keep their biscuit tin shut away in a cupboard locked away in a separate room where the cats get to.
Time for Pet Flap Big Enough For Maine Coons: Small Dog Flap
Making It More Secure To Prevent Greebo Undoing the Lock
When we had Greebo and Dippy we already had a cat flap to let them out into our garden, which at first was fine, but within a year Greebo had learnt how to open it. As pet lovers who get attached to our pet cats, although I'm sure they'd be fine, we do worry if they are out on a night and consequently can't settle to sleep until they are in and we know they are safe. Therefore we let them out during the day and call them to come home at dusk. That's something that's remarkable about these two lovable cats, is that (like a dog) they come when called. Unlike all the other cats I've had who'd could only be enticed home with food, and even then only in their own time.
The cat flap was operated by a dial with four settings, open, closed, open inwards only or open outwards only. When they were about a year old Greebo worked out that by pulling down on the dial with his claw he could turn the dial until the open position was reached and then he could let himself out. Endeavouring to combat this security breach I made a door from thin plywood that fits in front of the cat flap and bolts shut with a door-bolt that slides into the side wall. Greebo has since learnt (through trial and error) that he can undo the door bolt provided he can lift and keep it horizontal (the bit we hold to slide the bolt) and then push it sideways before it drops back into the down position. However, this is a frustrating task for a cat because he doesn't have an opposable thumb to hold the bolt in position while he pushes it sideways, so it takes him about five minutes to get the bolt across and let himself out. Consequently he doesn't do it too often, only about twice a year, although he has another trick up his sleeve. He's over three feet tall when he stands on his hind legs (almost a foot taller than his sister) so he can easily reach door handles and if we forget to lock the backdoor once we've let them in for the night he'll just open the backdoor and let himself out again when he wants to.
The other problem we had with the cat flap is that by two years Greebo was too big to fit through it so we had to replace our cat flap with a small dog flap; unlike other domestic cats Maine Coons continue growing for the first four years before they reach their full adult size. Greebo currently weighs about 17 lbs. which makes him quite a weight to lift.
They Both Love Milk in a Mug
And Dippy Loves Tea
They're happy drinking water from their water bowl, a dripping tap and our wildlife pond but they're not keen in drinking milk from a cat bowl. When we have milk with our evening meal they both pester us for their own mug of milk served to them on the coffee table (just like we have our milk); if we put in the floor for them they're not that interested. They both love cereal, especially cornflakes and wheatabix, but again they insist on having it on a tray on our laps (just like we do when having cereal in front of the TV), so we have to make sure we leave a little for them to finish off; again, as with the milk, if we put the bowl of cereal on the floor they're not really interested.
Greebo also likes porridge but unlike his sister he not keen on vegetables; whereas Dippy loves vegetables. Although she doesn't like coffee (which is what I drink) she loves tea and if she finds a cup that's been left will lap it up once it's cool enough for her to drink.
Being Maine Coons they're fascinated by water and can play with it for hours, especially if you leave a tap dripping. In the summer months Greebo will sometimes sit by the wildlife pond ages, staring at it and occasionally putting his paw in. Dippy has on occasions followed my son into the shower unnoticed and ends up getting a quick soaking before he's spotted her, by which time she's drenched; but she which doesn't seem mind.
When in the evening it's feeding time Greebo will sit in front of your and stare at you with puppy like eyes until you feed him; or if you ignore him he'll come up to sofa, stand on his hind legs and gently kiss you on the lips before going back to where he was sitting to give you his appealing look. Dippy on the other hand, when she's hungry will make a serious of soft meows that sound more like a trill than a meow; which apparently is common with Maine Coons.
They'll also occasionally watch TV for the odd minute but their concentration span is short so they soon lose interest.
Playtime with Our Pet Cats
Both Love Dangly Things on Sticks
We always try to keep our cats entertained. The most fruitful is their interactive feeding toys; cat balls designed to be filled with cat biscuits so that the cats can chase them around the room with cat biscuits being dispensed a few at a time each time the ball is knocked. This is exactly what Dippy does, she'll knock and chase the ball all over the living room to get her reward; but Greebo has learnt that if he just sits there with the ball between his feet knocking it from one paw to the other he can still get biscuits without too much effort.
The other successful toy, and one which saves our furniture and carpets from getting scratched is their scratching posts and platform. I've noticed Dippy uses it the most, often chasing herself around the post and through the tunnel and then settling to sit on the platform and lookout through the French doors onto the garden for a while before going outside and playing on the lawn. If Greebo uses it he's content in just sitting on the platform and looking out over the garden; although he prefers to sit on the settee or comfy armchair.
Recently we replaced their scratching posts and platform with a proper cat tree and Dippy loves it. She spends a lot of time sitting on the top platform looking out into the garden and then periodically throughout the day she'll clamber up and down the polls and chase herself around them playing with the dangly ball for a few minutes. Greebo isn't so energetic, he'll jump onto the top platform, causing the whole tree to momentarily wobble because of his weight and then sit there for a few minutes admiring the garden before either going outside for a while or settling into one of his favourite spots on the settee and having a catnap.
They also play tag with each other quite often, Dippy often comes off worse because her brother is a lot bigger than her but more often than not Dippy starts it by whacking Greebo as she rushes past him so that he chases her.
But the big winner is the dangly things on sticks. We recently watched an American TV series featuring a cat physiologist who treated problem cats (and their owners), and he always used these dangling things on stick toys to great effect. So we bought a couple of these dangly cat toys on sticks, which proved an instant success with both Greebo and Dippy; so much so that recently Dippy jumped up to where we kept them and picked one up by the stick in her mouth to bring to me to play with her.
The other cat toys that they had as kittens, the usual balls and toy mice etc., they lost interest in when they got older so we've since put them into a toy box (to keep the room tidy) which is where they stay most of the time; although occasionally Greebo will get one out and play with it for a few minutes before going off to do something else or have a catnap.
And Dippy Loves Her Cat TreeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cats’ Highway Rest and Play Centre
The cat tree has proved to be their most favoured rest and activity centre; especially for Dippy. So on recently building a conservatory adjoining our Livingroom we relocated the cat tree out there and expanded it into a cats’ highway.
On moving their cat tree to the conservatory, as well as adding additional wall mounted platforms to create a cats’ highway I also modified and strengthened the cat tree to make it more suitable to take the weight of a Maine Coon cat.
I strengthened the cat tree by adding a 2x2 inch support post right through the centre column and replaced all the half inch thick MDF platforms with 3/4 inch plywood; also using the same plywood for the wall mounted platforms forming part of the cats’ highway.
Greebo and Dippy as CatsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Greebo as a kittenClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dippy As a KittenClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Origin of the Domestic Moggy
The Journey from Wildcats to Domestic Cats
Being a cat lover I was keen to understand the origins of our domestic moggies which I've always known as feline and part of the cat family which includes the big cats such as lions and tigers. However, it's not as simple as that, but a lot more interesting, and took some research because everything I wanted to know wasn't neatly laid out in one website and lots of Latin names kept cropping up without adequate explanation to the significance of the Latin name used.
Briefly, the wildcats that our domestic cats descended from, although bigger than today's moggies, are not the big cats like lions and tigers, they are much smaller and from what I can gather closer to the size of a Maine Coon cat.
Here is my article on the 'Origin of the Moggy' which pulls together all the relevant information I've learnt into what I hope is a cohesive and compressive summery of where our moggies originated from and how they got here. If you get lost in the next few paragraphs don't worry, it's all Latin to me too, and it did my head in trying to get the correct Latin cat species names in the correct chronological order to make better sense of it.
The first thing to tackle is the Latin. Feline basically means "part of or belonging to the family of Felidae", and Felidae means 'All Cats'. The Latin word we're most interested in for our domestic fury friendly cats is Felis e.g. the small cats.
Felis is the genus (family) of the small cats (as opposed to the large cats like lions and tigers) in the family Felidae which our domestic cats belong and which includes the wildcat ancestors to the modern day moggy. The Felis cat family dating back to about 12 million years ago gave rise to many of today's small cat families including the Felis lunensis (Martelli's cat) who first appeared in Europe over 2 million years ago.
About 50,000 years ago the Felis lunensis wildcat migrated from Europe to the Middle East to become the steppe wildcat (Felis silvestris ornate). Then around 10,000 years the steppe wildcat migrated east into Asia and southwards to Africa. And back in Europe at around 9,000 years ago (at the end of the last ice age) the Felis lunensis made it across into Britain. Based on genetic evidence it would seem that the modern moggy (Felis silvestris catus) is a direct descendant of the wildcats in Africa (Felis silvestris lybica) and were domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East.
From archaeological evidence dated at 9,500 for a burial of a human and cat together in a Neolithic grave in Cyprus, and given other supporting evidence it is highly likely that the Felis Silvestris from Africa and domesticated in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago were beginning to play an important role for humans in the region around Turkey by 9,500 years ago. Wild wheat became domesticated in Turkey about 12,000 years ago, which is the time humans in the area switched from being hunter gatherers to farmers to settle down and farm the wheat. The wheat stores from the harvest would have attracted a lot of rodents, so the introduction of domesticated wildcats 9,500 years ago to protect the wheat harvest from rodents would have been a great asset to humans and hence would have been instrumental in forging strong bonding between humans and cats; eventually leading to the moggy we all know and love today.
Origins of the Maine Coon
The Big Cat with the Big Heart
The precise origin and history of the Maine Coon is unclear. What is known is that Maine Coon cats are native to the state of Maine and are descended from local short-haired domestic cats breeding with long-haired cat breeds from Europe (possibly England). The long-haired cats being introduced to the region by shipping a few centuries back.
This accidental union of two breeds of cats have produced a unique oversized, affectionate and intelligent breed of cat that Americans should be proud of.
The original cats tended to be brown tabbies but these days with their variations in colour and pattern combinations no two Maine Coon cats are the same; although their long and flowing tail tends to give a bit of a raccoon like look from the back.
Initially they lived as American wildcats, predominantly on farmsteads where they were a welcome asset to farmers because of their natural hunting abilities and large muscular bodies making them ideal for catching unwanted vermin. Maine Coons with a long shaggy waterproof top coat and soft undercoat are ideally equipped for the cold climate from whence they originated.
But best of all is their high intelligence and their warm affection; making them the perfect gentle giant for any welcoming cat loving family. In fact, from Greebo photos you can see the intelligence in their eyes.