FRANKLIN — For the pet lover, looking for a cat that acts like a dog, the Manx breed may be the perfect match.
“We’re just head over heels for these cats,” said Kim Walker, who with her husband, Michael, are “fur parents” to three Manx. “They act more like dogs.”
This is due to their personalities, Kim explained, noting Marley, Piper and Kyra are very social, love being around people and like to play games.
The Walkers divide their time between their house in Franklin and work-in-progress home and gardens in Lamoine.
“I swear they have a sense of humor,” Kim said. “They love to play games.”
Originally from England’s Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, Manx are well known for not having tails due to a genetic mutation. As a result, the tailless cats’ hind legs are up higher than the front, which causes them to “hop” if they get running fast enough. Big-eyed with rounded ears, they have short and stout bodies.
Two decades ago, Kim was introduced to the breed when she and Michael were living in Harpswell. Encouraged by a friend, the Walkers adopted four half-Manx cats. The four lived to be about 18 years old. When the couple eventually moved to Franklin, they were ready for more cats and knew they wanted to go with Manx again. This time, they went with purebred cats from Manx Station Farm and Cattery in upstate New York at the recommendation of an employee at the Ark Animal Shelter in Cherryfield. The breed is nearly impossible to find in Maine, so the Walkers traveled seven hours to Greenwich, N.Y., to bring Marley, then Piper and then Kyra home one at a time.
“[You] have to be careful about the breeders,” Kim said, noting the breed’s genetic mutation.
A ceramicist, Kim is known for her high-relief art tiles while Michael is a retired bioinformatics analyst who worked at The Jackson Laboratory. Their “fur family” consists of two male silver and cream-colored tabbies, Marley and Piper, which both sport double coats. Their third Manx, Kyra, is a slender, long-haired cat. Called a Cymric, she has a white belly and brown and black markings.
Among the feline trio’s favorite toys are Troll dolls. The plastic, big-haired figures with round tummies have become like kindred spirits. The cats carry them around the house, sometimes placing them on furniture.
Since acquiring Marley, Piper and Kyra eight years ago, Kim started a Facebook page, Bottoms Up Manx Cattery, where she shares photos and videos that highlight the Manxes’ quirky personalities and adventures.
“The cats are so entertaining we like to share our experience,” she said.
The page now has over 700 followers.
Some of these adventures include Piper enjoying his daily serving of cantaloupe and ringing a bell when he wants a treat. Or, Marley and Piper dragging their leash across the floor when they are ready to go outside. Piper even sits still long enough to sport a pair of Kim’s sunglasses.
Kim calls herself “overly protective” and takes the cats outside on leashes so that they are safe from predators. Kyra prefers riding in her buggy to being leashed.
Kim and Michael decided to breed Kyra, who had two litters of her own, but then decided they did not want to pursue it further.
Female Manx typically give birth to smaller litters of two or three kittens, Kyra’s recent and last litter resulted in three playful puffballs. Two kittens went home with a man from New York City and one went to a Hancock household.
“They went to all really good homes,” Kim said, noting that she remains in touch with the owners.
“I get pictures from them every month,” she said. “They say the same things we do” about the “amazing breed.”
The love she shares for her fur babies rings through Kim’s voice as she describes their adventures and time spent snuggling the “companion cats.”
“I can’t say enough good things about my cats,” she said.
While Manx may be difficult to find in Maine, another breed of cats also described as “dog-like” by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) is Maine’s own coon cat. The Maine coon cat is the Pine Tree State’s official feline.
Maine coon cats “will offer you hours of enjoyment with their antics,” according to the CFA website. “Without question, they want to be part of everything, and your privacy may require a closed door between you and your cat.”
The long-haired breed is characterized by its friendly demeanor and intelligence, as well as its mousing talents, tufted paws for walking on snow and “well-furnished tail.”
Just like the people of Maine, the coon cat is described as “sturdy” and hard-working, “suited to the harsh winters and varied seasons of the Northeast region.”
Along with its down-to-earth nature, the Maine coon cat also performs well at cat shows and was the first cat chosen as Best Cat in 1895 at the first major cat show held in the United States. Held at Madison Square Garden, Best Cat went to “Cosey,” a brown tabby.
Decades ago, the Maine coon’s popularity waned as other long-haired cats were introduced to the public. By the 1950s, the breed became scarce and at one point was even thought to be extinct. Eventually, the felines made a comeback thanks to dedicated breeders. Nowadays, “sometimes the largest number of entries in a CFA show will be Maine coon cats.”
To follow Marley, Piper and Kyra’s antics, visit the Facebook page, Bottoms Up Manx Cattery. To learn more about Manx, Maine coons and other cats, visit the Cat Fanciers’ Association at cfa.org.