The polydactyl Maine Coon cat has always struck me as a fascinating subject, since these stunning large cats have quirky looking paws. Whether you love the look, or don’t, these Maine Coons are no less loving and affectionate, than the common Maine Coon with five toes on their fore paws, and four toes on each hind paw.
Polydactyl Maine Coons are born with extra toes, due to inherited genetic anomaly. They’re nicknamed ‘double-paws’ due to their double width paws. Polydactyl stands for multi-toed. Physical anomaly commonly found on East Coast of North America. Maine Coons born in Wales and South West England (UK) also have a higher chance of having polydactylism.
We look to the polydactyl Maine Coon cats genetics to explain why some Maine Coons are born with extra digits, and others are not. For those of you passionate about owning one of these rarer Maine Coon polydactyl cats, check out our specialist breeder list below.
What Is A Polydactyl Maine Coon?
Maine Coons are one of the most famous cat breeds in existence. They are loved for their friendly, approachable, loving and gentle personalities. Their docile nature also makes them a great fit for families with young children, and many owners find their quirky behaviour to be quite amusing.
Having originated in Maine (US), the Maine Coon cat has a mysterious heritage. Whilst no one truly knows where they came from, many folklore myths link their true lineage to that of either Norwegian Forest ship cats, or Marie Antoinette’s Turkish Angora cats. What we do know however, is that these hardy felines are excellent hunters, having survived for decades on their own in the wilderness, and extremely cold New England Winters.
Before delving into the answer of this question, it is important to note that the mutant gene (Pd) responsible for some cats being born with extra toes, is not actually specifically related to the Maine Coon breed. Instead, all cat breeds can be affected by this genetic mutation.
What Are Polydactyl Maine Coons?
When you think of a Maine Coon cat, you most likely assume that they all have 18 toes on their paws, just like other cat breeds do. In the majority of cases you would even be correct with this line of thought, since the majority of Maine Coons that you come across today will have five toes on each of their fore paws, and four toes on each of their hind paws. But did you realise that this wasn’t always the case?
Polydactyl Maine Coon cats (otherwise known as ‘Hemingway cats’) are born with extra digits on their paws. Yes, you did just read that right, some Maine Coons really do have a sixth or seventh toe on their paw, or even a ninth!
The number of extra toes on each paw is ultimately determined by each individual cats genetics, and levels of polydactylism. This is evident, because some Maine Coons only have a seventh toe on their fore paws, whilst other cats have extra toes on all four paws.
Here is an amazing video of a polydactyl Maine Coon kitten. I challenge you to not start counting how many extra toes the first gorgeous little Maine Coon kitten has!
Difference Between Maine Coon And Maine Coon Polydactyl
Maine Coon cats are loved throughout the world, for their great personalities and stunningly handsome looks. Therefore, if you are worried that a polydactyl Maine Coon might not share the same character traits as the more commonly seen Maine Coon cat, don’t be.
The polydactyl Maine Coon cat is exactly the same as the Maine Coon cat, except for one very visible factor, those extra toes! Yes their paws might be double the size of the other Maine Coons you have seen, but having extra toes will not have any impact on these rarer cats affectionate, loyal personality natures.
Number of toes:
- Polydactyl Maine Coon cats: Usually have between 6-7 toes on each paw. If a cat has extra toes, they will always have the same number of extra toes on each side. Nature definitely doesn’t create lopsided polydactyl Maine Coon cats!
- Maine Coon cats: 5 toes on their fore paws, and 4 on their hind paws.
It is more common to find the extra toes on the polydactyl Maine Coons fore paws. Ultimately though, the number of extra Maine Coon toes will be determined by the dominance of the Pd mutant gene within each individual cat.
What Is The Personality Of A Polydactyl Maine Coon Cat?
All Maine Coon cats, whether polydactyl or not share the following key personality traits:
- Good with children
- High Intelligent
For more information on the personality of the Maine Coon cat, read my article: ‘Personality of the Maine Coon Cat‘.
Do All Polydactyl Maine Coons Have Mittens?
Some polydactyl cats have extra toes in the middle of their paws. These toes make the cat look like they have a thumb, and are cutely named ‘mittens’. These cats ‘thumbs’ are not opposable.
Not all polydactyl Maine Coons will have a set of ‘mittens’. Ultimately, the existence of ‘mittens’ will come down to each cats unique genetics. For example, an adult Maine Coon cat with mittens is genetically more likely to produce kittens with ‘mittens’ too.
Why Polydactyl Maine Coons Are Called Hemingway Cats
One interesting fact about the polydactyl Maine Coon cat, is that they are also called ‘Hemingway cats’. This is in honour of Ernest Hemingway who became obsessed with this specific strain of the Maine Coon breed, after being gifted a white polydactyl Maine Coon cat by a ship’s captain.
Over time, Ernest Hemingway’s love for the Maine Coon polydactyl only grew stronger. He owned many polydactyl Maine Coon cats, and after his death in 1961, his home in Key West (Florida) was turned into a cat museum! To this day, the museum still houses Maine Coons cats, 50 of which are thought to be direct descendants of Hemingway’s polydactyl Maine Coon cats pack (source).
Are Polydactyl Maine Coons Lucky?
Sailors used to keep polydactyl Maine Coon cats on their ships since they were well known for being excellent hunters and ‘mousers’, so played an important role in keeping the ships mouse population at bay.
The polydactyl Maine Coons extra toes helped these cats catch and hold prey more easily, and were considered to be very lucky for sailors.
Their wider paws helped these large cats balance, even when the ships were rocking to and throw, at sea.
Why Are Some Maine Coons Polydactyl?
There are a number of different explanations for why Maine Coons are born with polydactylism.
- Evolution: The Maine Coon cat breed naturally evolved many decades ago, to adapt to the cold Winter climates of New England. Their extra toes made their paws ‘double-sized’, which helped these ‘snow giants’ walk on top of the cold snow without sinking in. Fluffy tufts of hair also grew on their paws to help protect these cats paws from the harsh Winter climate.
- Hunting: These fabulous snow giants survived for many decades in the wilderness. Many cat specialists think part of their success in the wilderness, they adapted, growing extra toes to help them hunt. Extra toes offered these large cats greater balance, and made them more agile.
Are Polydactyl Maine Coons Rare?
During the 1950’s polydactyl Maine Coon cats accounted for approximately 40% of the breed. Over the years though, many breeders actively took steps to remove this multi toed genetic anomaly from the cats they bred. Consequently, there are far less Maine Coon polydactyl cats today.
According to this website, the registered cat body known as CFA still disqualifies pedigree Maine Coon cats that have extra toes.
What Percentage Of Maine Coons Are Polydactyl Today?
According to Beth Hicks, a study was conducted by a University in the 1950’s, aiming to ascertain the percentage of Maine Coon polydactyl cats in existence. She quoted from this study, that “40% of the Maines were polydactyls”. However, then went on to note that this percentage had decreased as the Maine Coon cat breed re-entered the show circuit.
The reduction in polydactyl Maine Coon cats is considered to have a direct correlation with breeders actively ‘breeding out’ the extra toes on their show kittens, to comply with show rules (source).
After extensive research, I have not found clarity regards the exact percentage of polydactyl Maine Coon cats in existence, today.
Genetics Of The Polydactyl Maine Coon
Maine Coons that are born with extra toes on their paws are often called polydactyl Maine Coons. This condition is completely harmless, and also known as polydactylism, and hyperdactyly (source).
All polydactyl Maine Coons carry the genetic anomaly known as the Pd gene. This is a dominant mutant gene which causes extra toes to grow on a cats paws. Extra toes are usually be found on the cats fore paws, rather than their hind paws.
Do Polydactyl Maine Coons Always Produce Polydactyl Kittens?
Polydactyl Maine Coons are statistically more likely to have polydactyl kittens, since only one copy of the genetic mutant Pd gene needs to pass from the parents to the offspring, to make a polydactyl Maine Coon kitten.
If two polydactyl cats are bred together, the dominance of the Pd gene is further strengthened, increasing the likelihood that these cats offspring with be polydactyl Maine Coons too. Please note however, that it is entirely possible for two parents to carry the mutant Pd gene, yet not produce a polydactyl kitten.
Are Female Maine Coons More Likely To Be Polydactyl?
This inherited autosomal trait is not bias towards a certain gender. Males are therefore not more likely to be polydactyl than their female counterparts, and vice versa.
What Color Are Polydactyl Maine Coons?
Maine Coon cats are available in a variety of different colors, 75 in fact! Whilst the polydactyl Maine Coon may have differing genetics to the Maine Coons with the standard number of toes, their colorings are no different.
The most common color and pattern of the polydactyl Maine Coon is therefore is the mackerel tabby, or brown classic. Other colorings, include solid, bi-color and parti-color are also available etc (source).
For more details on Maine Coon colorings, check out my article here.
Are Polydactyl Maine Coons Healthy?
I have not found any medical evidence which indicates that polydactyl Maine Coon cats are more prone to certain feline health issues, than Maine Coons with the standard total of 18 toes. In fact, these cats are often better hunters, and the extra toes make them more agile.
For more details on the health conditions commonly associated with the Maine coon cat, check out my article ‘Top 7 Maine Coon Health Issues‘.
Polydactyl Maine Coon Lifespan
Maine Coon cats have an average lifespan between 10-15 years. There is no evidence to suggest that the polydactyl Maine Coon will live any less, other felines of the Maine Coon cat breed.
Read my article ‘What is the average lifespan of the Maine Coon cat?‘.
Maine Coon Foundation Polydactyl Breeders
The Maine Coon Foundation of Polydactyl breeders has been set up by TICA to help individuals source their dream polydactyl Maine Coon kitten, or cat. Although TICA doesn’t vouch for these breeders, it is comforting to know that all these breeders have signed up to the TICA ‘Code of Ethics’ (see here for details).
US Polydactyl Maine Coon breeders:
UK Polydactyl Maine Coon breeders:
For a full, and updated list of polydactyl Maine Coon cat breeders, click here.
If would prefer to own a Maine Coon with the standard number of toes though, check out my fantastic article on ‘Maine Coon Cat Breeders In United States, By State‘.
Polydactyl Cat Guinness World Record
The Guinness World Record for the most toes on a polydactyl cat was awarded jointly to two cats, one aptly named ‘Paws’, and the other named ‘Jake’. Although these cats are not from the Maine Coon cat breed, they each have an astonishing 28 toes in total! (source).
If you don’t believe me, take a look at this video:
Polydactyl Maine Coons are very eye catching, since their multi-toed appearance makes them stand out in the crowd.
This cat breed is loved for their amazingly docile, gentle, friendly natures. a Potential owners should not fear that a polydactyl Maine Coon kitten will be any different in terms of personality and characteristics, than other Maine Coon cats. Their only differing factor is that their genetics contain a congenital physical anomaly.
If you’ve never owned a Maine Coon cat before, make sure you read this article on Maine Coon characteristics, to gain a better understanding of this pedigree cat breed.
1. Polydactyl Cat Names
Whether your Maine Coon has the standard number of toes, or whether they have a few extra digits, there are so many perfect cat names to choose from. Why not call your amazing feline ‘Paws’, ‘Polly’, ‘Patch’, ‘Tootsie’, ‘Lily’, ‘Tinders’, “Shadow’, or ‘Toby’?