A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Official State Cats of the United States

Maine coon cat, photo via Adobe Stock
The Maine coon is the state cat of--you guessed it!--Maine.
Photo via Adobe Stock.
 Our topic today is official cats, and specifically, cats that have been named as official symbols of states in the US. Only three states have named a certain type of domestic cat as their “state cat,” and only one of those is an actual breed of cat; the other two are cats with certain coat patterns. We don’t know why more states don’t have official cats, because a great cat is certainly something to be proud of. Interestingly, initiatives to name a state cat have often begun with schoolchildren (which just goes to show you who has their priorities in order).

Official state cats

The three states with official cats are Maine, Massachusetts, and Maryland. We guess it is a total coincidence that these states all begin with the letter M. (Or is it? Are you familiar with the M pattern that famously adorns the foreheads of tabby cats?)

Maine was the first state to name an official cat, back in 1985. It makes perfect sense that this state’s cat is the Maine coon, since this large breed “is regarded as a native of the state of Maine,” according to the kids’ section of the maine.gov website. The Cat Fanciers Association says that Maine was the first state to recognize these cats as a unique breed. Generally, Maine coons are known as sturdy, intelligent cats with a shaggy coat and tail, tufted paws, and large, tufted  ears. They appeared in cat shows as early as the 1860s, when Maine farmers organized a show at the Skowhegan Fair, which resulted in the winning cat being named “Maine State Champion Coon Cat.” In 1895, a Maine coon named Cosey won a cat show held at Madison Square Garden. You can see a picture of the silver collar she won in the CFA article “America’s First Show Cat—the Maine Coon Cat.”

You can also read more about the history of Maine coons in our post “Legends of the Maine Coon.”

Tabby cat, photo via Adobe Stock
Cats with a tabby coat pattern are the cat of the
commonwealth in Massachusetts.
Photo via Adobe Stock.
Massachusetts named the tabby the “official cat of the commonwealth” in 1988. “Tabby” is not a breed of cat; instead, the term describes a striped coat pattern that many cats have. Schoolchildren in the state pushed for the tabby to receive the honor of being the cat of the commonwealth. Why tabbies? We have so far not been able to find the answer to that question, so if you know, please tell us!

You can learn more about tabbies in our posts “Words with Webster: Tabby” and “Words with Webster: Mackerel and Blotched.”

In our home state of Maryland, the calico was named state cat in 2001. Again, “calico” is not a breed, it’s a coat pattern in which a cat has patches of black, orange, and white fur. The calico was chosen as state cat of Maryland because this coloring resembles the colors of other state symbols: the state flag, bird (Baltimore oriole), and insect (Baltimore checkerspot butterfly).

Calico cat, photo via Adobe Stock
We are partial to the calico, which is our state cat
in Maryland.
Photo via Adobe Stock. 

Official state pets

Several other states do not have a specific state cat, but they have named dogs and cats either in shelters or adopted from shelters in their states as the “official state pets.”

In Colorado, the effort to declare as state pet those dogs and cats who are shelter alumni started in 2013 with some middle schoolers from Peakview School in Walsenburg. The goal was to bring attention to shelter pets (and to see the state’s legislative process up close). Despite objections from those representing the interests of breeders and dog-show organizers, as well as those who thought the bill discriminated against other kinds of pets, such as reptiles and birds, the measure passed both the House and Senate and was signed by Governor John Hickenlooper on May 13, 2013.

Tennessee declared dogs and cats adopted from the state’s shelters and rescues as the official state pet in 2014.

California named “a shelter pet” as its official state pet in 2015. In making this declaration, the state’s legislature wrote that the aim of the measure was “to raise public awareness of shelter animals.”

Illinois declared shelter dogs and cats (whether adopted from or currently in shelters) as the official state pet in August 2017.

Leaping bobcat, photo via Adobe Stock
In New Hampshire, the bobcat is the state wildcat.
Photo via Adobe Stock.

Honorable mentions: Wildcats and extinct cats

So far, we’ve dealt strictly with domestic cats, but some states have gone to the wild side when choosing cats as symbols.

In Florida, the endangered Florida panther was named the official state animal in 1982.

New Hampshire named the bobcat as its official state wildcat in 2015, with prompting from fourth- and fifth-graders at the Well School in Peterborough. (North Carolina also tried to make the bobcat the official state wildcat in 2015, but the attempt failed in the state’s senate.)

Finally, one state, California, has designated the extinct the saber-toothed cat as the state fossil.

Did we miss any official cats of the US? Let us know in the comments!

Additional Sources

“State Dogs/Cats,” State Symbols USA https://statesymbolsusa.org/categories/dog

“Official State Cats,” Netstate.com, http://www.netstate.com/states/tables/state_mammals_cats.htm


  1. I love this post. Maggie is a Maine Coon polydactyl. I admit, I am very fond of them. I am surprised to read that IL has chosen any animal, much less shelter pets. There are so many problems here. It is a very politically corrupt and bankrupt state. Both people and animals are neglected while politicians live well. Thank you for your great work. Hugs.

  2. Well, how cool is this! I didn't know, so thanks for the info!

  3. Mudpie & Mommy Melissa think it's very cool that the 3 states begin with the letter M! Very fun information, thank you!

  4. Very interesting post. I didn't even know my state of Massachusetts had a state cat :)

  5. We have a state dog and a state horse, but no state cat. Dat are just WRONG!

  6. WoW! We don't have that up here in Canada! I am glad that my coat (Tabby) is the official cat of Massachusetts!

  7. Well, at least our home state (NH) did something, and I was also born in Mass., so glad to hear they're on the ball too! This was really interesting, because I actually didn't know any states had state cats....happy to learn that!