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Have you ever seen a cat with more than five toes on each paw? If so, you may have encountered a polydactyl Maine Coon cat, which means a cat with extra digits. Polydactyly is a genetic mutation that can affect any breed of cat, but it is especially common in Maine Coons, the largest domestic cat breed (see scientific study). In fact, some people consider polydactyly to be part of the original characteristics of Maine Coons, as they were often found among the early settlers of New England.
In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about polydactyl Maine Coons, from their history and genetics to their personality and care. We will also debunk some myths and share some fun facts about these amazing cats. Whether you are a proud owner of a polydactyl Maine Coon, or just curious about them, you will find this article informative and entertaining.
Table of Contents
The History of Polydactyl Maine Coons
The origin of polydactyly in cats is not clear, but it is believed to have occurred spontaneously in different populations around the world. Some researchers suggest that it may have been an adaptation to cold climates, as extra toes could provide better traction on snow and ice. Others propose that it may have been a result of inbreeding among isolated groups of cats.
One of the most likely sources of polydactyly in Maine Coons is the European sailors who brought cats with them to America in the 16th and 17th centuries. These cats were valued for their rodent-catching abilities and their companionship on long voyages. Some of these cats had extra toes, which may have given them an advantage in balancing on ships. These cats then interbred with the native cats of North America, creating the foundation for the Maine Coon breed.
Polydactyl cats were very popular in New England, especially in the state of Maine, where they were considered lucky and good fortune. They were also favored by fishermen, who believed that they could catch more fish with their large paws. Some even claimed that they could use their extra toes as thumbs to open doors and cabinets.
Polydactyl Maine Coons were also admired by many famous people, such as President Theodore Roosevelt, who had a six-toed cat named Slippers, and writer Ernest Hemingway, who had a colony of polydactyl cats at his home in Key West, Florida. Today, many of Hemingway’s cats are still living at his former residence, which is now a museum and a sanctuary for polydactyl cats.
Polydactyly in Maine Coons is caused by a single point mutation in the regulatory gene ZRS, which is responsible for the expression of the gene Shh, which determines the formation of the toes in the paws. This mutation is known as the Hemingway mutation (Hw), and it leads to different phenotypes and is very variable in expression.
(see Clinical characterisation of polydactyly in Maine Coon cats)
Polydactyly in Maine Coons is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with high penetrance, which means that only one copy of the mutated gene is needed to produce the trait, and that most cats with the gene will show it. However, the number and location of the extra toes can vary depending on other genetic and environmental factors.
There are also other mutations that can cause polydactyly in cats, such as the UK1 and UK2 mutations, which are found in British Shorthair cats. However, these mutations are not related to the Hw mutation, and they produce different types of polydactyly. There may also be more mutations that have not been discovered yet, as some polydactyl Maine Coons from Canadian lines do not have the Hw mutation or the UK1 or UK2 mutations.
The Types of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons can have up to eight extra toes, but the most common number is six. The extra toes can be located on any paw, but they are usually found on the front paws. The extra toes can also have different shapes and sizes, depending on how they are attached to the paw.
There are three main types of polydactyl Maine Coons, based on the appearance of their paws:
- Mitten paws: These are the most common type of polydactyl Maine Coons. They have one or more extra toes that look like thumbs on the side of their paws. They are also called thumb cats or Hemingway cats. They can use their thumbs to grasp objects or perform tasks.
- Paddy paws: These are less common than mitten paws. They have extra toes that are aligned with their normal toes, creating a wider paw. They are also called snowshoe cats or double-pawed cats. They can walk more easily on snow or soft surfaces.
- Pattyfoot paws: These are rare among polydactyl Maine Coons. They have extra toes that are not fully developed or functional. They may look like small bumps or claws on their paws. They do not have any special advantages or disadvantages.
The Benefits of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons have some advantages over regular Maine Coons, thanks to their extra toes.
Some of these benefits are:
- Better balance: Polydactyl Maine Coons can use their extra toes to stabilize themselves on uneven or slippery surfaces. They can also climb more easily on trees or furniture.
- Better hunting: Polydactyl Maine Coons can use their extra toes to catch prey more effectively. They can also hold objects or manipulate them with their paws.
- Better grooming: Polydactyl Maine Coons can use their extra toes to clean themselves more thoroughly. They can also scratch themselves or remove parasites with their paws.
- Better communication: Polydactyl Maine Coons can use their extra toes to express themselves more clearly. They can gesture or point with their paws, or tap or knock on objects to get attention.
The Challenges of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons also face some challenges that regular Maine Coons do not have, due to their extra toes. Some of these challenges are:
- Health issues: Polydactyl Maine Coons may be prone to some health problems related to their paws, such as infections, ingrown nails, arthritis, or deformities. They may also have other genetic defects associated with polydactyly, such as heart problems or kidney disease.
- Grooming issues: Polydactyl Maine Coons may need more grooming than regular Maine Coons, especially if they have long hair between their toes. They may need regular trimming and cleaning of their nails and fur to prevent dirt or debris from accumulating.
- Training issues: Polydactyl Maine Coons may need more training than regular Maine Coons, especially if they use their extra toes for mischief or destruction. They may need to learn what they can and cannot touch or play with, and how to behave appropriately.
The Care of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons are not very different from regular Maine Coons in terms of their care needs. They are generally healthy, low-maintenance, and easy-going cats that can adapt to any environment. However, they do require some extra attention and care for their paws, as they are more susceptible to injuries or infections.
Here are some tips on how to care for your polydactyl Maine Coon’s paws:
- Check their paws regularly for any signs of injury, infection, or irritation. Look for cuts, scratches, swelling, redness, or discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Trim their nails regularly to prevent them from growing too long or curling into their pads. Use a cat nail clipper or a file to gently trim the tips of their nails. Avoid cutting too close to the quick, which is the pink part of the nail that contains blood vessels and nerves. If you accidentally cut the quick, apply some styptic powder or cornstarch to stop the bleeding.
- Clean their paws regularly to remove any dirt or debris that may get stuck between their toes. Use a damp cloth or a cotton ball to gently wipe their paws. You can also use a mild soap or shampoo if they are very dirty. Rinse and dry their paws thoroughly after cleaning.
- Massage their paws occasionally to improve their blood circulation and reduce stress. Use your fingers to gently rub and knead their paws. You can also use some catnip or a toy to make it more fun and rewarding for them.
Polydactyl Maine Coons have the same personality traits as regular Maine Coons. They are friendly, affectionate, and loyal cats that love to interact with their owners and other pets. They are also intelligent, curious, and playful cats that enjoy learning new tricks and exploring new places.
However, some people believe that polydactyl Maine Coons have some unique personality traits that are influenced by their extra toes. For example, some people think that polydactyl Maine Coons are more adventurous, confident, and independent than regular Maine Coons. They may also be more creative, expressive, and mischievous than regular Maine Coons.
Of course, these are just generalizations and stereotypes that may not apply to every polydactyl Maine Coon. Each cat has its own individual personality that is shaped by its genetics, environment, and experiences. The best way to get to know your polydactyl Maine Coon is to spend time with them and observe their behavior and preferences.
The Popularity of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons are very popular among cat lovers and enthusiasts, especially in North America and Europe. They are admired for their unique appearance, history, and personality. They are also considered rare and exotic by some people, as they are not very common in some regions or countries.
However, polydactyl Maine Coons are not accepted by all cat associations and registries, as some of them consider polydactyly to be a fault or a defect that does not conform to the breed standard. For example, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) does not recognize polydactyl Maine Coons as a separate variety or category of the breed. They can only be registered as household pets or non-standard Maine Coons.
On the other hand, some cat associations and registries do accept polydactyl Maine Coons as a valid variation of the breed. For example, the International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes polydactyl Maine Coons as part of the breed standard since 2005. They can be registered and shown in all TICA shows and events.
If you are interested in getting a polydactyl Maine Coon as a pet or a show cat, you should do some research on the different cat associations and registries that accept them. You should also look for reputable breeders who specialize in polydactyl Maine Coons and who can provide you with health certificates and pedigree papers.
The cost of polydactyl Maine Coons can vary depending on several factors, such as the location, the breeder, the quality, the color, the gender, and the age of the cat. Generally speaking, polydactyl Maine Coons are more expensive than regular Maine Coons, as they are more rare and in demand.
The average price of a polydactyl Maine Coon kitten can range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the number and location of the extra toes, the color and pattern of the coat, and the quality and reputation of the breeder. The price of a polydactyl Maine Coon adult can range from $500 to $1,500, depending on the age, health, and personality of the cat.
Of course, the cost of a polydactyl Maine Coon does not end with the purchase price. You should also consider the ongoing expenses of owning a cat, such as food, litter, toys, grooming, vet bills, and insurance. These costs can add up to several hundred dollars per year, depending on the size, needs, and lifestyle of your cat.
Therefore, before you decide to get a polydactyl Maine Coon, you should make sure that you have the budget and the time to take care of them properly. You should also do some research on the breed and its characteristics, and find a reputable breeder who can provide you with a healthy and happy cat.
The Legal Status of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons are legal in most countries and regions, as they are considered harmless and natural variations of the breed. However, there may be some exceptions or restrictions in some places, especially if they are related to animal welfare or breeding regulations.
For example, in some European countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, it is illegal to breed cats with genetic defects or mutations that may cause health problems or suffering for the animals. This includes polydactyly, as it is considered a deformity that may impair the normal function of the paws. Therefore, breeders who produce polydactyl Maine Coons may face fines or penalties.
On the other hand, in some countries, such as Canada and New Zealand, it is legal to breed polydactyl Maine Coons, as they are recognized as a valid variation of the breed. However, there may be some rules or guidelines that breeders have to follow to ensure the health and welfare of the cats. For example, they may have to test their cats for genetic diseases or register them with a cat association or registry.
If you are planning to get a polydactyl Maine Coon from another country or region, you should check the local laws and regulations regarding importing and owning cats. You should also make sure that you have all the necessary documents and certificates for your cat, such as health certificates, vaccination records, microchip numbers, and pedigree papers.
The Famous Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons have been admired by many famous people throughout history. Some of them owned or befriended polydactyl cats themselves, while others wrote or spoke about them in their works or speeches. Here are some examples of famous polydactyl Maine Coons and their owners or admirers:
- President Theodore Roosevelt: He had a six-toed cat named Slippers who lived in the White House with him. Slippers was known for his large size and his habit of sleeping in inconvenient places. He even attended a formal dinner with foreign dignitaries once.
- Writer Ernest Hemingway: He had a colony of polydactyl cats at his home in Key West, Florida. He received his first polydactyl cat from a sailor named Stanley Dexter, who gave him a white six-toed cat named Snow White. Hemingway named his other cats after famous people, such as Pablo Picasso and Marilyn Monroe.
- Singer Taylor Swift: She has two Scottish Fold cats named Meredith Grey and Olivia Benson. She also has a Ragdoll cat named Benjamin Button who is polydactyl. She adopted him after meeting him on the set of her music video for “ME!”.
- Actor Chris Hemsworth: He has a black-and-white polydactyl cat named Jax who has seven toes on each paw. He adopted him from an animal shelter in Los Angeles. He often posts pictures and videos of Jax on his social media accounts.
- Author Stephen King: He wrote a short story called “The Cat from Hell” which features a black polydactyl cat who kills people by crawling into their mouths and eating their brains. The story was adapted into a segment of the horror anthology film “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie”.
The Myths and Legends of Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons have been surrounded by many myths and legends over time. Some of them are based on facts or observations, while others are based on superstitions or folklore. Here are some examples of myths and legends about polydactyl Maine Coons:
- They are lucky: Many people believe that polydactyl cats bring good luck and fortune to their owners and their homes. This may be because they were considered valuable by sailors and fishermen who relied on them for catching rodents and fish. They may also be associated with prosperity and abundance, as they have more toes than normal cats.
- They are magical: Some people believe that polydactyl cats have magical powers or abilities, such as seeing ghosts, predicting the weather, or casting spells. This may be because they were revered by some cultures and religions, such as the Celts and the Wiccans. They may also be seen as mystical or mysterious, as they have an unusual appearance and behavior.
- They are descendants of royalty: Some people believe that polydactyl cats are descendants of royal or noble cats, such as the Egyptian cats or the Turkish Angora cats. This may be because they were admired and owned by some famous or influential people, such as presidents or writers. They may also be seen as elegant or refined, as they have a large and fluffy coat and a graceful posture.
- They are aliens: Some people believe that polydactyl cats are aliens or hybrids from another planet or dimension. This may be because they have a unique genetic mutation that is not found in other animals. They may also be seen as exotic or strange, as they have extra digits that look like fingers or thumbs.
The Fun Facts About Polydactyl Maine Coons
Polydactyl Maine Coons are not only fascinating and adorable, but also full of fun facts that you may not know about them. Here are some examples of fun facts about polydactyl Maine Coons:
- They have nicknames: Polydactyl Maine Coons have many nicknames, such as polys, mitten cats, thumb cats, Hemingway cats, snowshoe cats, double-pawed cats, paddy cats, pattyfoot cats, boxing cats, and cardinals.
- They have records: Polydactyl Maine Coons hold some records in the cat world, such as the most toes on a cat (28), the most toes on a single paw (9), and the largest domestic cat breed (up to 25 pounds).
- They have variations: Polydactyl Maine Coons can have different variations of their trait, such as radial polydactyly (extra toes on the inner side of the paw), ulnar polydactyly (extra toes on the outer side of the paw), preaxial polydactyly (extra toes on the front paws), postaxial polydactyly (extra toes on the back paws), or hexadactyly (six toes on each paw).
- They have celebrities: Polydactyl Maine Coons have some celebrities among them, such as Jake, a Canadian cat who holds the Guinness World Record for the most toes on a cat (28); Paws, an American cat who holds the record for the most toes on a single paw (9); Stewie, an American cat who holds the record for the longest domestic cat (48.5 inches); and Lilieput, an American cat who holds the record for the shortest living domestic cat (5.25 inches).
Polydactyl Maine Coons are amazing cats that have extra toes on their paws. They are part of the Maine Coon breed, which is native to New England in North America. They have a rich history and a unique genetics that make them special and rare.
Polydactyl Maine Coons have many benefits and challenges that come with their trait. They also have many personality traits and characteristics that make them wonderful pets and companions. They are friendly, affectionate, loyal, intelligent, curious, and playful.
Polydactyl Maine Coons are popular among cat lovers and enthusiasts, but they are not accepted by all cat associations and registries. They also have different costs and legal statuses depending on where you live and where you get them from.
Polydactyl Maine Coons have been admired by many famous people and surrounded by many myths and legends over time. They also have many fun facts and nicknames that make them interesting and entertaining.
If you are looking for a cat that is unique, beautiful, and fun-loving, you should consider getting a polydactyl Maine Coon. You will not regret it!
How do I know if my Maine Coon is polydactyl?
You can tell if your Maine Coon is polydactyl by counting the number of toes on each paw. A normal cat has five toes on each front paw and four toes on each back paw. A polydactyl cat has more than that, usually six or seven, but sometimes more.
How common are polydactyl Maine Coons?
Polydactyl Maine Coons are not very common, as they are a result of a genetic mutation that is not widespread. However, they are more common in some regions or countries than others, such as North America and Europe. They are also more common in some lines or families of Maine Coons than others, such as the Canadian lines or the Hemingway lines.
Are polydactyl Maine Coons healthy?
Polydactyl Maine Coons are generally healthy, as their trait is harmless and does not affect their overall health or function. However, they may be prone to some health issues related to their paws, such as infections, ingrown nails, arthritis, or deformities. They may also have other genetic diseases or defects associated with polydactyly, such as heart problems or kidney disease.
Do polydactyl Maine Coons need special care?
Polydactyl Maine Coons do not need special care, as they are low-maintenance and easy-going cats. However, they do need some extra attention and care for their paws, as they are more susceptible to injuries or infections. They need regular trimming and cleaning of their nails and fur, and occasional massage and stimulation of their paws.
Can polydactyl Maine Coons use their extra toes?
Polydactyl Maine Coons can use their extra toes for various purposes, such as balancing, hunting, grooming, communicating, or playing. They can also use their extra toes to grasp objects or perform tasks, such as opening doors or cabinets. However, not all polydactyl Maine Coons can use their extra toes equally well, as some of them may have more functional or developed toes than others.