Bringing home a Maine Coon kitten is for some owners like bringing home a new baby. You want to provide the new kitten everything they need to live a long, healthy life, and there is a lot you can do to ensure that.
Maine Coon Kittens Should NOT Be Treated Like Adults
Kittens have very different care requirements than adults do, from diet to socialization. You wouldn’t assume that an infant or teenager should be treated the same as an adult, and you shouldn’t assume the same for a Maine Coon kitten.
Phases of Maine Coon Kitten Development
Most Maine Coon kittens are sold around 12 weeks of age to give them time to develop physically and socially and receive all the necessary care from the breeder. Although you won’t likely ever have a Maine Coon younger than that age, we’ll still go over the general kitten phases of development so you can gain a better understanding of the monumental growth your Maine Coon kitten must go through before reaching full development.
8 Weeks of Age and Under
Maine Coon kittens before 8 weeks of age are very vulnerable and unable to survive without their mother. They cannot yet regulate their own body temperature and rely on the body heat of their litter mates to stay warm. These kittens are still developing leg coordination and their vision is improving. Kittens separated from their mothers before 4 weeks of age must have very special care, including bottle feeding and help with peeing and pooping.
8-12 Weeks of Age
After 8 weeks of age kittens are weaned off their mother and able to eat a special kitten diet, which we’ll discuss later. These kittens will also start their voracious kitten play, developing motor skills as they run, jump, leap and explore.
Kittens don’t yet understand the dangers of their environment, though, and must have a safe area for them them play without risk of high falls, sharp objects or ingesting poisons.
12-16 Weeks of Age
This is probably the age range that you’ll receive your Maine Coon kitten from the breeder. Expect a very high energy, playful kitten as they’ll have much more energy than an adult cat. They’ll also need plenty of food in their diet to sustain their growth, and should be fed 3-4 meals per day.
16-24 Weeks of Age
Around this age range your Maine Coon kitten will be approaching adolescence and should be spayed or neutered. Regular vet checkups will determine exactly the right time for this procedure.
Maine Coon Kitten Diet
The optimal diet for a kitten will be different than for an adult. If you get your Maine Coon kitten from a breeder, ask them about that diet or brands they recommend; they might even send you home with some kitten food when you first pick up your Maine Coon.
Because kittens have smaller bellies they’ll need to eat smaller meals more frequently. Expect to feed them 3-4 meals per day, spread out throughout the day.
Because they’re growing so rapidly (kittens can double or even triple their weight in just the first few weeks of life), you’ll need to provide extra food for your kitten.
Their need for fats and most vitamins are the same as for adult cats, but they have higher requirements of protein, amino acids, minerals and some vitamins. Maine Coon kittens should get about 30% of their energy from protein. Since dry foods generally have more carbs and less protein than wet foods, it’s advised you mainly feed your kitten a wet food diet. Many companies have special wet foods just for kittens that will provide the right amount of nutrients for their growing bodies. Your vet and breeder are great sources of information on the best foods to buy your kitten.
Many owners also swear by feeding only a raw food diet, but this is not advised for kittens as their not as well equipped for such a harsh diet. Raw foods can sometimes contain bacteria that a kitten doesn’t have the immune system yet to defend against, and it’s difficult to determine if they’re getting all the nutrients they need from this diet. Wet foods are specially formulated and enriched with vitamins and minerals, and are easier to guarantee the right amount of nutrients.
Training Your Maine Coon Kitten
If you want a well-behaved Maine Coon then you must begin training when they’re a kitten. Teaching them young will instill habits they’ll carry for the rest of their lives. While it’s not impossible to teach an old cat new tricks, it’s certainly more difficult and you can save yourself the hassle later by putting in the effort while they’re still young and impressionable.
Litter Box Training
Most kittens will instinctively start using the litter box, but you can help encourage their usage of it so they don’t see your potted plants as a backup litter box. Reinforce litter box usage by placing the kitten in it after meals and playtime. Remove any deterrents of usage by making sure it’s always clean and available; a dependable place to take a poop. You might even consider leaving it in a more obvious place at first and then move it to a more discreet location once you feel they have a good hold on it.
Many cats do not like grooming, especially having their nails trimmed. It’s a great idea to get them used to the brush and clippers from a young age so they don’t associate it with discomfort as an adult. Groom your kitten weekly, even if it just means a few soft brush strokes.
Leash or Carrier Training
Take your Maine Coon kitten outside on a leash or in a carrier to get them used to being transported in these ways. You’ll have to at the very least get them to the vet twice every year, so you might as well get them used to the carrier now.
Maine Coons love being outside when they can be, but it’s highly recommended you keep them on a leash or supervise them closely when they are. Get your Maine Coon used to wearing a leash young so they can have a safe experience outdoors.
All cats need to scratch something even now and then to keep their claws healthy, so you might as well train them to avoid the couch and carpet. Provide a good scratching post and reward them for using it with a treat or praise.
Tricks and Commands
Teach your kitten cute and useful tricks, such as “sit”, “paw” or “come”. Being able to summon your kitten from any area of the house will a command can be helpful later when you want them to appear for any reason.
Use treats and a clicker to help reinforce good behavior, and with frequent, short training periods your kitten will master these new tricks.
Socialization for a Maine Coon Kitten
Maine Coon kittens are not only growing rapidly, but they’re also quickly learning how to socially navigate through the world. They will already have learned a lot of socialization from their mothers, but you must continue to teach them good habits as they grow into adulthood.
Kittenhood is where a Maine Coon learns whether to trust people and how to interact with humans and other animals. Even something as seemingly small as a loud television can scare your kitten and make them more nervous as an adult.
Handle Your Maine Coon Kitten Frequently
You can get your kitten used to being handled by petting and touching them often. Holding and carrying your kitten will help them trust being in your arms. Do keep in mind, though, that any animal won’t want to be handled too much, so respect their boundaries and leave them be if they start to squirm too much.
Have Other People Play with and Handle Your Kitten
You can get your Maine Coon kitten to trust other people by having positive interactions with strangers. Start by having your friends and family pet and give treats to the kitten when they come over, reinforcing trust.
Provide Diverse Toys
Your kitten will have a lot of energy and playfulness and need toys to keep them occupied and help developing motor skills. They’ll also need to learn what items are toys (and can be played with) and what items are NOT toys (shoelaces, jewelry, headphones, etc). By providing this distinction, your Maine Coon will grow up knowing what they can chew to bits and what they shouldn’t touch.
Do not Allow Biting or Scratching During Play
Teach your Maine Coon kitten that biting and scratching are not an okay way to interact with people. You can simply redirect their attention to a toy if they start attacking your hand.
Expose Your Kitten to Other Cats, Kittens and Pets
After making sure your Maine Coon kitten is up to date on all their vaccinations, you can expose them to other pets to help them learn how to interact with other animals. This is important if you ever want to adopt or buy another pet when the Maine Coon is older. Learning early how to interact with other animals will help ease the transition of bringing home a new pet.
Always Be Patient
Remember, it takes time for a rambunctious kitten to adopt good behavior and habits. Never reprimand her if she is bad, simply ignore unacceptable behavior and do not interact when they’re being naughty. Getting attention alone can be a reward for a kitten.
Consistency is key if you want to train your kitten to be a well-adjusted adult, and changing your tactics can seem erratic and confusing to a kitten. Always using one method of training and socialization and having patience with the process is the pathway to success.
Preventative Care For Your Maine Coon Kitten
Prevention is the best medicine, and the same applies to your Maine Coon kitten. There’s a lot you can do to ensure they stay healthy and have everything they need to grow up strong and healthy.
Schedule an Appointment with the Vet In the First Week
Don’t wait to have your first checkup with the vet, schedule an appointment within the first week of bringing home your Maine Coon. This will help establish a baseline of health and your vet will conduct some examinations to determine if there is anything you need to know to better care for your kitten.
Keep Up to Date on Vaccinations
Before you let your kitten socialize with other cats and animals, make sure they’re completely up to date on all their vaccinations. These will include vaccines for feline leukemia, rabies and distemper. Kittens will begin receiving their shots around 8 weeks of age, but will need boosters until around 16 weeks of age. After that your vet will probably set your kitten on a regular schedule of vaccinations throughout the rest of their life.
Intestinal Parasites, Fleas and Heartworm
Your vet will conduct regular checks for certain parasites and provide prescriptions as necessary. You might want to consider applying topical flea preventatives to your kitten to ensure they don’t get this nasty bug; but always ask your vet first before administering any sort of medication.
List of Items You Should Have For your Kitten
- Food/Water bowls (stainless steel is less likely to harbor bacteria)
- Scratching Post
- Cat bed
- Cat carrier
- Grooming Brush/Nail Clippers
- Litter Box
- Optional: Collar with a Bell (kittens are great at hiding)