Mina the Maine Coon is not your typical cat.
At one-and-a-half years old, the famous feline has more than 500 social media followers and was billed as one of the celebrity guests at Canberra’s recent cat festival.
Her human, Canberra-based veterinarian Isabella van Veen, tours Mina around the capital about once a month to see the sights and meet her adoring fans.
“She comes out primarily to markets, but also to Bunnings, cafes and things like that. The reason is just to make people’s day,” Isabella explains.
“You see dogs everywhere, but then when you see a cat, it’s pretty exciting. She’s also a pretty striking cat, so I think it helps that she stands out a bit.”
Maine Coons are known for their massive size (Mina weighs in at 6.5 kilograms) and thick, dense coat and brush-like tail, said to resemble that of a racoon (hence the ‘Coon’ in Maine Coon).
But Isabella says it’s the breed’s outgoing disposition (Mina loves water and playing fetch) that attracted her to the Maine Coon – and she’s not alone. A 2022 analysis of Australian Google searches by Hill’s found the Maine Coon took out the top spot in every Australian state and territory, with more than 1.1 million total searches that year for the large, dog-like cat breed.
Mina’s cat side does, however, come out in her choice of transport.
Although she has her own harness and lead, Isabella says Mina prefers to travel over her shoulder or in a specially designed, breathable cat backpack with a viewing window.
Braddon’s Haig Park Village Markets is one of her regular haunts, along with Bunnings, where Isabella socialised Mina as a kitten by letting her ride around in a cardboard box.
In the biggest test of her social skills yet, Isabella says Mina also remained equally at ease while in the spotlight as one of the celebrity cats at Canberra’s Cat Fest in July.
“I was really surprised with how well she did,” Isabella says.
“Normally, when we go out, it’s probably about 10 per cent cat people that are excited to see her and that was 100 per cent cat people that were excited to see her.
“So pretty much everyone wanted to come up and hold her and pat her and she was fine just being passed around and held by everyone.”
Isabella also uses Mina’s minor celebrity to start conversations about keeping cats entertained in the context of the ACT’s rules requiring certain cats to be kept indoors.
“A lot of people ask how I got her used to [going places] and I just say, start young and do it frequently, and even if they’re not young, you can do it. It just takes time,” she says.
“If you take cats places like you would with a dog, then they get used to it … and that way they get that enrichment without the risks of being out on the street. ”