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All You Need to Know About Polydactyl Maine Coons.

Polydactyly can occur in any breed of cat but it is seen much more commonly in the Maine coon breed. But what does the term polydactyly mean? This word is Greek in origin and made up of two parts: ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’ and ‘dactyl’ meaning ‘digits’. Therefore, a polydactyl feline is a cat who posses extra toes.

Normally a cat will have 18 toes, with 5 on the front paws and 4 on the back paws. A polydactyl cat will can have additional toes on any of their four paws, giving their paws a much larger, wider appearance. It is more common to see cats with additional toes on the front paws only and in these cases they will usually only have an additional 2 or 3 toes. The world record for feline polydactyly stands at 28 toes in total.

The terminology used when describing polydactyly in cats is as follows. Post-axial polydactyly refers to additional toes which appear on the outer side of the paw, after the fourth digit. In pre-axial polydactyly the additional toes appear on the inside of the paw before the dewclaw and this is much more commonly seen.

There are many nicknames associated with polydactyly. Post-axial polydactyly is often referred to as a ‘snow shoe’ paw. Pre-axial toes give the appearance of having a thumb due to the angle of the dewclaw. This is known as a boxing glove or ‘mitten’ paw. Polydactyl cats are commonly known as ‘Hemingway cats’. This is because the writer Ernest Hemingway was a polydactyl cat fancier, owning around fifty cats in total with around half being polydactyl.

What causes a Maine coon to develop extra toes?

Polydactyly occurs as the result of a mutation in the Pd gene. This mutation has a dominant inheritance pattern, meaning that if one of the parent cats is polydactyl, they will pass their trait on to 50% of their offspring. These Kittens will then be born with extra digits.

Developing a gene for extra toes may have provided Maine coons with an evolutionary advantage out in the wild. Having a larger paw with extra toes adds to the stability of the large Maine coon frame. This allows for more efficient climbing and improved balance. The result overall is an increased hunting ability, leading to more food and therefore an increased likelihood of reproducing and passing on the gene. Polydactyls were considered lucky by sailors and this may be just because of this increased mousing ability onboard ship.

Does polydactyly affect a Maine coon’s health?

In the vast majority of cases polydactyly will have no impact on the health of a Maine coon.

In Maine coons with pre-axial polydactyly, meaning the additional toe(s) is between the ‘thumb’ and the normal toes then the additional digit may have a tendency to fold over and become embedded in the foot or the paw pad. This can lead to pain and infection. In these cases it is often kinder to remove the claw. It is not necessary to remove the additional digit, just the claw. This is different to generic de-clawing of Maine coons which no longer commonly practiced. Removal of polydactyl claws is not a painful process and these claws are often much smaller than normal claws. Often here only 1 or 2 claws will need to be removed. Having these claws removed will also then remove the need for constant clipping which the cat may find distressing.

Polydactyly should not be confused with feline radial hypoplasia. This is a genetic condition which causes incomplete growth of the radial bones in the leg. As a result the legs are shorter and can become twisted. Feline radial hypoplasia can mimic polydactyly as it occasionally results in the formation of extra digits. Unlike in polydactyly these additional digits do not give the paw a mitten-like appearance. Additional digits form adjacent to the normal digits, giving the appearance of a paw which is overly-large but otherwise normal. Interestingly cats with this condition are known as ‘squitten cats’ a shortened version of ‘squirrel cats’.

Do polydactyl Maine coons require special care?

As the owner of a polydactyl Maine coon there are only a couple of simple pieces of advice you should follow. The first is to regularly check the paws and clip the claws to keep them nice and short. This prevents them catching on anything, particularly furniture which will get shred to pieces due to extra claws. You will also want to invest in a scratching post so that you coon can have a hand in managing their claw length themselves.

Are Maine coons with polydactyly bred specifically?

Polydactyl Maine coons are more commonly found in South West England, Wales, Canada and Eastern USA. It is estimated that at one time 40% of all Maine coons had some form of polydactyly. For a long time the polydactyl was being bred out, with breeders believe it was unethical to breed Maine coons with known genetic abnormalities. There was some argument however that this genetic mutation occurred naturally amongst Maine coons and that the polydactyl trait did not harm them, and in fact may be of evolutionary advantage. There are now pockets of breeders across the world who are purposefully breeding Maine coons with polydactyly.

Can Maine coons with polydactyly compete in show?

Yes, but again it depends on the country. New Zealand Cat Fancy Inc. (NZCF) was the first to accept polydactyl Maine coons in show. Polydacyl Maine coons are able to compete in show alongside non-polydactyl Maine coons with specific show standards relating to the polydactyly itself. The International Cat Association (TICA) followed suit in 2015 although polydactyl Maine coon was registered under a separate breed code. TICA standards allow up to 7 toes to be present on each paw showing no preference for more or less and making allowances for a mitten-like appearance of the paw. Click here to see the TICA show standards.

In contrast, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) has banned the breeding and registering of polydactyl Maine coons and therefore will not allow them in show.

Polydactyly can occur in any breed of cat but it is seen much more commonly in the Maine coon breed. But what does the term polydactyly mean? This word is Greek in origin and made up of two parts: ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’ and ‘dactyl’ meaning ‘digits’. Therefore, a polydactyl feline is a cat who posses extra toes.

Normally a cat will have 18 toes, with 5 on the front paws and 4 on the back paws. A polydactyl cat will can have additional toes on any of their four paws, giving their paws a much larger, wider appearance. It is more common to see cats with additional toes on the front paws only and in these cases they will usually only have an additional 2 or 3 toes. The world record for feline polydactyly stands at 28 toes in total.

The terminology used when describing polydactyly in cats is as follows. Post-axial polydactyly refers to additional toes which appear on the outer side of the paw, after the fourth digit. In pre-axial polydactyly the additional toes appear on the inside of the paw before the dewclaw and this is much more commonly seen.

There are many nicknames associated with polydactyly. Post-axial polydactyly is often referred to as a ‘snow shoe’ paw. Pre-axial toes give the appearance of having a thumb due to the angle of the dewclaw. This is known as a boxing glove or ‘mitten’ paw. Polydactyl cats are commonly known as ‘Hemingway cats’. This is because the writer Ernest Hemingway was a polydactyl cat fancier, owning around fifty cats in total with around half being polydactyl.

What causes a Maine coon to develop extra toes?

Polydactyly occurs as the result of a mutation in the Pd gene. This mutation has a dominant inheritance pattern, meaning that if one of the parent cats is polydactyl, they will pass their trait on to 50% of their offspring. These Kittens will then be born with extra digits.

Developing a gene for extra toes may have provided Maine coons with an evolutionary advantage out in the wild. Having a larger paw with extra toes adds to the stability of the large Maine coon frame. This allows for more efficient climbing and improved balance. The result overall is an increased hunting ability, leading to more food and therefore an increased likelihood of reproducing and passing on the gene. Polydactyls were considered lucky by sailors and this may be just because of this increased mousing ability onboard ship.

Does polydactyly affect a Maine coon’s health?

In the vast majority of cases polydactyly will have no impact on the health of a Maine coon.

In Maine coons with pre-axial polydactyly, meaning the additional toe(s) is between the ‘thumb’ and the normal toes then the additional digit may have a tendency to fold over and become embedded in the foot or the paw pad. This can lead to pain and infection. In these cases it is often kinder to remove the claw. It is not necessary to remove the additional digit, just the claw. This is different to generic de-clawing of Maine coons which no longer commonly practiced. Removal of polydactyl claws is not a painful process and these claws are often much smaller than normal claws. Often here only 1 or 2 claws will need to be removed. Having these claws removed will also then remove the need for constant clipping which the cat may find distressing.

Polydactyly should not be confused with feline radial hypoplasia. This is a genetic condition which causes incomplete growth of the radial bones in the leg. As a result the legs are shorter and can become twisted. Feline radial hypoplasia can mimic polydactyly as it occasionally results in the formation of extra digits. Unlike in polydactyly these additional digits do not give the paw a mitten-like appearance. Additional digits form adjacent to the normal digits, giving the appearance of a paw which is overly-large but otherwise normal. Interestingly cats with this condition are known as ‘squitten cats’ a shortened version of ‘squirrel cats’.

Do polydactyl Maine coons require special care?

As the owner of a polydactyl Maine coon there are only a couple of simple pieces of advice you should follow. The first is to regularly check the paws and clip the claws to keep them nice and short. This prevents them catching on anything, particularly furniture which will get shred to pieces due to extra claws. You will also want to invest in a scratching post so that you coon can have a hand in managing their claw length themselves.

Are Maine coons with polydactyly bred specifically?

Polydactyl Maine coons are more commonly found in South West England, Wales, Canada and Eastern USA. It is estimated that at one time 40% of all Maine coons had some form of polydactyly. For a long time the polydactyl was being bred out, with breeders believe it was unethical to breed Maine coons with known genetic abnormalities. There was some argument however that this genetic mutation occurred naturally amongst Maine coons and that the polydactyl trait did not harm them, and in fact may be of evolutionary advantage. There are now pockets of breeders across the world who are purposefully breeding Maine coons with polydactyly.

Can Maine coons with polydactyly compete in show?

Yes, but again it depends on the country. New Zealand Cat Fancy Inc. (NZCF) was the first to accept polydactyl Maine coons in show. Polydacyl Maine coons are able to compete in show alongside non-polydactyl Maine coons with specific show standards relating to the polydactyly itself. The International Cat Association (TICA) followed suit in 2015 although polydactyl Maine coon was registered under a separate breed code. TICA standards allow up to 7 toes to be present on each paw showing no preference for more or less and making allowances for a mitten-like appearance of the paw. Click here to see the TICA show standards.

In contrast, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) has banned the breeding and registering of polydactyl Maine coons and therefore will not allow them in show.

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