Training a Maine Coon—top tips and tricks
You may have every aspect of life with your Maine Coon sorted, from diet and healthcare to indoor and outdoor play areas and a grooming regimen. One step remains, though—finding out whether your kitty will respond to training.
Is training a Maine Coon viable, or should you rather let sleeping dogs lie? Read on and get the best tips and tricks on how to teach your fur companion new tricks!
Is training Maine Coon cats a good idea?
Maine Coons are intelligent enough to enjoy as much interaction with their human parents as possible.
Similarly to dogs, Maine Coons value contact, but they also retain a strong independent streak that will lead them to spend long hours outdoors hunting or playing.
Training your Maine Coon doesn’t involve simply teaching them to do tricks. If your Maine Coon is an avid explorer, but you feel the environment isn’t safe enough for them to be left unsupervised in the great outdoors, you can use training methods to:
- Help them burn energy with interactive games instead of hunting
- Get them to take walks with you
If your Maine Coon has a tendency towards plumpness, you can also use training to get Maine Coons off their backsides and into energetic games. Maine Coons that lead a sedentary lifestyle can easily pile on the pounds, and a combination of exercise and diet is the best way to combat this.
Caring for your Maine Coon can be a time-consuming job, but the more effort you invest in training, the easier it will be to keep your feline healthy and happy.
How to train Maine Coon cats—top techniques
The best way into Maine Coons’ heads is through their stomach. The most effective training techniques for this breed involve rewarding your feline for doing what you want.
Whereas older training methods involved using discipline to punish bad behaviour, Maine Coons don’t react well to punishment, and disciplinary teaching methods could easily lead to stress, the symptoms of which could be your cat:
- Hiding away from you
- Refusing to eat
- Shedding or grooming obsessively, possibly causing them to suffer from hairballs
- Developing allergic reactions or food sensitivities
- Becoming fussier in protest and turning their nose up at the wet or dry food they usually love
Some cat trainers swear by clickers—small instruments that emit an audible click when pressed, used in conjunction with an immediate food treat—but you may find that the food treat is enough for your clever Maine Coon. Training them involves three steps:
- Getting your cat’s attention
- Rewarding correct actions
- Teaching more complicated behaviour
Getting your Maine Coon’s attention
Step one in training Maine Coons is to get them to respond to their name. While this is an easy task with dogs, cats tend to be more reticent when called.
Armed with a plate of your feline’s favourite food, you should place yourself in an easily accessible location. Your cat’s natural curiosity—plus the food smell—will mean they will probably come to investigate, but you should repeat their name until they look at you. Only then should you reward them with a tasty treat.
After four or five tries, your Maine Coon will equate hearing their name and looking at you with getting food. This lesson will stay with them for life.
Rewarding correct actions
The second step is probably the most difficult for you, but not necessarily your Maine Coon.
If you want your Maine Coon to learn how to sit, shake hands, or give you a high five, you should reward them every time they do exactly what you want. The difficult part is not accepting half-correct responses before demanding totally correct ones. Your Maine Coon will get confused about what exactly triggers a treat unless you are utterly consistent in what you ask for.
As an example, if you want a high five, you should not reward your cat for placing a paw on the back of your hand but rather remain hard-hearted until you get palm-on-palm contact.
Regardless of how frustrating this may be—it could take your Maine Coon some time to get it right—you have to stick to your guns and not be satisfied with anything less than perfection.
Teaching more complicated behaviour
Handshakes, high fives, and sitting are normally the first tricks to teach your Maine Coon. You can go considerably further with complicated manoeuvres, such as:
- Jumping on a chair (or even through a hoop)
- Rolling over or playing dead
The sky’s the limit, as Maine Coons are capable of learning most tricks you can imagine. You should be careful and limit the training time to around 15 minutes. You don’t want to stress or bore your cat, so if a trick has not been learned within that time, it’s better to try again tomorrow.
“What does ‘fetch’ mean again?”
When should you start training Maine Coon cats?
The earlier in your Maine Coon’s life you start, the easier the training will be.
Maine Coon kittenhood can last up to the age of around 4 years, but their physical and psychological characteristics mature at different times. While they grow physically from birth, through weaning, past their kitten months, and into adulthood over a much longer period than other breeds—such as Siamese, British Shorthairs, or Russian Blues—they mature psychologically by the age of about 18 months.
Kittenhood is one big learning curve for Maine Coons, and social skills—such as playing, interacting with other species, and hierarchy—are among the last skills to be assimilated.
The timelines for kitten development are as follows:
What is developing
Basic organ functions, muscles, eyesight, hearing
Immune system, muscles, digestive system, milk teeth
Independent immune system, hunting instincts, muscles, senses of smell and hearing, social skills
Muscles and skeleton, behavioural traits, digestive system
Over 4 months
Reproductive system, adult behavioural traits such as hierarchy
This would suggest that the best time to start training your Maine Coon is from 2–4 months onwards—they will be at their most receptive and able to assimilate new habits and information.
There’s no need to worry if you miss this window, though. Maine Coons retain many kitten-like qualities throughout their lives, so training them is still possible as adults. The only word of caution is when dealing with older Maine Coons.
The challenge of training a senior Maine Coon
By the time they reach an advanced age, many factors could limit their ability and willingness to learn new tricks, including:
- Deafness, smell, or eyesight problems—These can make it difficult for a Maine Coon to hear their name when called, smell the treat you’re offering, or see what you’re trying to train them to do
- Mobility issues—Hip dysplasia and arthritis are common problems for Maine Coons, and older cats may find too much movement painful or impossible
- Muscle wastage—Many older cats lose muscle mass, making strenuous manoeuvres more difficult
- Other health niggles—If senior cats are having to deal with constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or are suffering from urinary tract infections (UTIs), like cystitis or struvite stones, they may not feel comfortable enough to concentrate for the length of time necessary for training
“What do you mean? I AM hiding!”
Using the right food as a training tool
Food plays a major role in any training you undertake with your Maine Coon. This being the case, you should make sure that whatever you offer as an incentive is healthy.
Although Maine Coons are usually not sensitive, many cat treats are less than ideal for them, deriving their taste from:
- Artificial additives
- Flavour enhancers
- Vegetable fats
They offer little in the way of protein, and most do not claim to be complete and balanced. Using too many unhealthy treats as training incentives can lead to the following problems:
- Digestive issues, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, or nausea
- Weight gain—Maine Coons are big enough without needing extra fat layers
- Dental problems, including tooth loss
- Food allergies or reactions to lower-quality components in the treats
How to choose the right food for your Maine Coon
- Animal protein containing the amino acids, like taurine, that a cat needs
- Animal fat
By law, any cat food—treats included—has to list its ingredients in descending order by volume.
If they are absent, or if you see large amounts of plant protein—such as soya, wheat, corn or sweetcorn, peas, rice, or carrots—you should rather steer clear of rewarding your Maine Coon with that product.
“Bet you can’t get this off me!”
Can Untamed help your highly trained Maine Coon?
If you want to treat your Maine Coon by offering the healthiest rewards, you can’t do better than Untamed!
- Packed with twice as much purely animal protein as you normally get in commercial cat food. Whether you choose the recipes in rich cat jelly or gravy, you can be sure your Maine Coon will wolf Untamed down
- Developed by vets to ensure that even the fussiest or most sensitive of Maine Coons gets all the nutrition they need in a great-tasting, tailor-made form
Untamed isn’t just great as a treat or a main meal—it’s also kind to your Maine Coon’s planet. Using 100% recyclable packaging, working with cruelty-free and sustainable suppliers, and making sure all our operations are carbon-neutral, you can’t do better for your cat or the environment.
Ready to start training your Maine Coon? Try Untamed and give them a real treat when they get a trick right!
Great nutrition and the perfect rewards for new tricks learned!
Image (c) Untamed
Get Untamed delivered—teach your Maine Coon to play “hunt the postie”
Ambushing the postie should be rewarded with the best, so Untamed makes the game easy and worthwhile! All you need to do to get our cat food delivered to your door is:
- Give us some info about your Maine Coon
- Select the recipes you wish to receive
- Order your first trial pack
We will keep the treats coming so you never run out. Our many successful Maine Coon trainers tell us what you can expect to see after choosing the Untamed cat food service:
The Untamed effect
Within a week
After 2 months
Within 4 months