In That Yankee Cat: The Maine Coon, Marilis Hornidge passes on a breeder’s summary of the sex-differentiated temperament of the breed:

The females are matriarchs-in-the-making, full of charm and affection and implacable, quiet determination to have their own way. They are also excellent hunters. The males, on the other hand, are little boys. If they were cast into human form, they would have frogs in their pockets, freckles and dirt on their faces, and complete confidence that the world revolves around them.

Cleo and Yeti were very true to breed type. Cleo was a little fluffy princess, ever dignified, who had to be on the edge of sleep to roll over and request that her belly be petted; Yeti is a jock who, in his youth, would run past a walking human, flop on his side, and roll over to demand attention to his belly.

After Cleo passed away, we adopted Yelena from Ttcats Cattery, and she had all the imperious quality we had seen in Cleo, and a zeal for life that left the typical dignity of a Maine Coon girl stumbling in her wake. She had a soft purr, a loud meow, and a hairball cough that she must have appropriated from a mountain lion. She had a penchant for giving “kisses” (whether or not the humans had asked for them) and exfoliating our noses. And if you weren’t fast enough to pet her when she asked, she would pet herself against your hand.

We were used to the normal Maine Coon love of water, and had learned to put the water fountains on plastic mats with raised edges because of the tendency of the cats to splash their paws in the water, and to trim mats off the cats’ fluffy britches when they sat down in the puddles in the floor of the shower. Yelena took it to a whole new level, joining her humans in the shower to drink droplets out of the air, lick from the faucet, or even yowl at me (or swat Mara with a velvet paw) to demand that we take time out from our ablutions to turn into a human drinking fountain. This got her very wet indeed, and once I was out of the shower, she would usually zoom up to stand on Mara’s chest to encourage her to wake up and dispense more water.

She wasn’t shy about demanding affection when she wanted it. Mara works from home, and while Yeti usually spends the day lounging in a sunbeam or the loveseat in the parlor (occasionally coming over to photobomb the daily videoconference in the afternoon), Yelena would walk right over Mara’s keyboard to insist on petting. Mara eventually worked out a routine of keeping the kitten tucked at her side, and providing the requested fussing while waiting for load screens and other “hurry up and wait” parts of the QA engineer’s day.

Yeti was dubious about the addition of a kitten to the household, but he warmed enough to Yelena that he would occasionally groom her ears. One of her most common royal decrees was that I should get out the prey-on-a-string toys and play with her (the Cat Fishin’ rod-and-reel was a particular favorite), and that would always tempt Yeti to come out and get in some hunting time as well; the human equivalent would be a teenager tempting an eighty-year-old to join in a vigorous game. (Yeti, being more experienced, kept possession of the mouse for longer and was more efficient in his swats and captures. Yelena, full of energy, would skid across the hardwood floors as she pounced.) If an interloper cat approached outside, they both immediately put aside their differences to present a unified, bristling front to a potential invader.

Her favorite snuggle time was early morning; most days, bedtime saw her in the top of the cat tree and dawn saw her between the humans on the bed. I have a few photos from the times she started out the evening right next to us. In the summer, her favorite kitty TV channel was the smell-o-vision at the screen door, and in the evening, she would make a pocket out of the curtains behind the sofa to curl up and watch the night go by. In the winter, she had a favorite fuzzy blanket on the bed and would curl up there until I came home.

On Thursday, she showed an unusual lack of appetite, but could still be coaxed to eat by adding liver sprinkles to her food. When that persisted on Friday, we decided this was enough of a trend to take her to our local vet and made an appointment for Saturday. He found some contradictory symptoms and sent us to the experts at Sage to follow up his initial tests with an ultrasound. The result was grim: effusive feline infectious peritonitis, fast and incurable. We let the Toulzes know and they came down to the Sage facility in Campbell. Yelena was able to depart the world on her favorite blanket, her belly full of her favorite treats, adored by the humans she had known all of her life.

Yule 2016
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