Why The Polydactyl Maine Coon Is Multitoed?

Are you ready to embark on a journey through time and discover the captivating tale behind the Polydactyl Maine Coon’s multi-toed paws? These feline wonders possess extra toes, making them stand out from other cats in the world. The story of how these lovable creatures came to be is a fascinating one that dates back to colonial America.

Maine Coons are a popular breed of cats that originated in Maine, USA. Initially bred as working cats to help farmers with pest control, these gentle giants have since become one of the largest domesticated breeds of cats. With their long, fluffy fur and intelligent personalities, they’ve captured the hearts of many cat lovers around the world.

One of the most striking features of the Maine Coon is their extra toes, also known as polydactyl. Unlike regular cats that have 18 toes (five on their front paws and four on their back), polydactyl Maine Coons have six to eight toes on their front paws. These quirky felines are also known as Hemingway cats, named after the famous author who adored them.

But why do these majestic creatures have extra toes? It all goes back to their origins as working cats. Their multi-toed paws helped them walk steadily on unstable terrain such as boats while providing an added advantage when hunting rodents. However, beyond their practical use, polydactyl Maine Coons are beloved for their unique appearance and charming personalities.

If you’re intrigued by this exceptional breed and its history, get ready to dive deeper into the curious origin story of the Polydactyl Maine Coon.

History of the Polydactyl Maine Coon

The Polydactyl Maine Coon, also known as the Hemingway cat or mitten cat, is a captivating breed of feline with a genetic trait that sets them apart from other cats. Their paws boast extra toes, which not only give them a distinct appearance but also make them exceptional hunters and climbers.

The precise history of the Polydactyl Maine Coon remains a mystery. However, many theories suggest that this unique characteristic originated from the Maine Coon breed, which is indigenous to the United States. One theory proposes that the extra toes resulted from a natural gene mutation within the breed. As working cats on ships and farms, Maine Coons’ hunting and climbing abilities were highly valued, and their extra toes were an added advantage.

Another theory suggests that European sailors introduced the Polydactyl Maine Coon to America. Sailors often brought cats with extra toes on their paws on board their ships for good luck. These cats would then mate with local cats, passing on the genetic trait to their offspring.

Polydactyl Maine Coons were once a common sight in New England and the Northeastern United States. They were highly prized for their exceptional hunting abilities and frequently kept as working cats on farms and ships. However, in the early 20th century, the breeding of Polydactyl Maine Coons was banned in some areas due to concerns about potential health problems linked with the condition.

Polydactyl Maine Coons are still a popular breed among cat enthusiasts. Many breeders specialize in breeding this unique type of Maine Coon, and they are often sought after by those looking for a cat with an unusual and striking appearance. Despite being banned in some regions, these felines have continued to thrive as beloved pets and working cats.

The Genetic Mutation Behind the Extra Toes

The extra toes on Polydactyl Maine Coons are the result of a genetic mutation that affects the development of their paws. This mutation was inherited from their sailor ancestors who adapted to walking on the unstable surfaces of ships. The extra toes provide them with better balance and stability, making them valuable companions on long voyages.

This dominant genetic mutation means that if one parent has the trait, there’s a 50% chance their offspring will inherit it too. However, not all Maine Coons with the mutation will have extra toes. There are different degrees of polydactylism, with some cats having one or two extra toes and others having up to seven on each paw.

It’s not just Polydactyl Maine Coons that possess this fascinating trait. Other cat breeds such as American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs, and Hemingway cats also have it. The Hemingway cats were named after the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, who was an avid collector of polydactyl cats.

This harmless genetic quirk adds to the charm and uniqueness of these felines and doesn’t affect their health. It’s incredible how animals can adapt to their environment over time, leading to such remarkable traits in certain breeds.

Theory One: Origin from Europe

The Polydactyl Maine Coon is a sight to behold, with its adorable extra toes and dexterous paws. As an expert in feline genetics, I’ve delved into the research to uncover the fascinating origins of this unique breed. Theory one proposes that these cats hail from Europe, brought over by early settlers from England and France.

Sailors were particularly fond of these multi-toed felines, believing that they brought good luck on long voyages. And it’s not hard to see why – the Polydactyl Maine Coon’s extra digits provide them with better balance and agility, making them excellent climbers and hunters. This trait may have been especially useful for cats living on farms or aboard ships, where navigating uneven terrain or catching rodents was a daily task.

Polydactylism is not a new trait in cats, and it has been observed in various breeds throughout history. Some researchers believe that the mutation responsible for extra toes in Polydactyl Maine Coons occurred naturally in the breed and was then selectively bred for by early European breeders.

Despite their popularity among sailors and farmers, Polydactyl Maine Coons weren’t always accepted in cat shows due to their unique feature. However, this changed in the mid-20th century when the breed was recognized by feline associations and allowed to participate in shows.

Theory Two: Selective Breeding

Originating in North America, the Maine Coon was initially valued for its hunting abilities. As the breed gained popularity, breeders began selectively breeding for specific traits, including the number of toes. Polydactylism was seen as an advantage for hunting because it provided better balance and agility. This led to the development of the Polydactyl Maine Coon that we know and love today.

However, it’s important to note that not all Maine Coons are polydactyl, and this trait is not considered standard in the breed. Some breeders argue that extra toes can lead to health problems like arthritis and difficulty grooming.

Despite this controversy, many people still find the Polydactyl Maine Coon fascinating and unique. Their multitoed paws are often seen as a charming and quirky feature that sets them apart from other cats.

The Advantages of the Extra Toes

These captivating cats are known for their extra toes, which can appear on both their front and back paws. While some may view this as an abnormality, there are actually several advantages to having extra toes.

One of the most significant benefits of having extra toes is increased grip and stability. With more digits to grip onto surfaces, the Polydactyl Maine Coon is better equipped to climb trees and maneuver challenging terrain. This characteristic is especially advantageous for cats living in rural areas where they may need to climb trees to escape predators or hunt for food.

Another advantage of having extra toes is enhanced balance. The additional digits allow the cat to distribute its weight more evenly, making it easier to walk on narrow surfaces such as fences or ledges. This is particularly beneficial for outdoor cats or those living in multi-story homes.

But wait, there’s more. Having extra toes can also improve hunting and prey-catching abilities. The added dexterity and precision allow these felines to catch small prey like mice or birds with ease. With more surface area to grip onto their prey, the Polydactyl Maine Coon can maintain a better hold and increase their chances of success.

Care for Polydactyl Cats

If you’ve been lucky enough to welcome a polydactyl cat into your home, you may be wondering if there are any unique care requirements for these multi-toed felines. While they require the same level of care as regular cats, it’s important to keep a few things in mind to ensure their paws stay happy and healthy.

One of the most important aspects of caring for a polydactyl cat is to regularly check and trim their nails. The extra toes can sometimes grow in a way that causes discomfort or difficulty walking, so keeping their nails at a manageable length can help prevent any potential problems. Pay attention to any signs of redness, swelling, or limping as these could be indicators of an ingrown nail and should be addressed by a veterinarian.

Polydactyl cats also tend to have larger paws than regular cats, which means they may need more space to move around comfortably. Make sure your home provides enough room for your cat to stretch out and play without feeling cramped. And don’t forget about the litter box. A wider litter box may be necessary to accommodate your cat’s larger paws and ensure they can do their business without feeling uncomfortable.

Finally, providing appropriate scratching surfaces is crucial for maintaining your cat’s claws and preventing damage to furniture. Consider investing in a scratching post or pad, cardboard boxes or even pieces of driftwood.

Also Read: Twin Maine Coon Cats: Everything You Need to Know


In summary, the Polydactyl Maine Coon is a captivating breed of feline that boasts a distinctive genetic characteristic. Their multi-toed paws not only add to their charm but also provide them with several advantages such as improved balance, grip, and hunting prowess. The origins of this breed remain shrouded in mystery, with some theories suggesting that the extra toes were a natural gene mutation within the breed or introduced by European sailors.

Despite debates surrounding whether polydactylism should be selectively bred for in Maine Coons due to potential health concerns, these lovable cats have won over the hearts of many cat enthusiasts worldwide. If you’re fortunate enough to own a Polydactyl Maine Coon, it’s crucial to provide them with proper care for their unique paws. This includes regular nail trimming and ensuring they have ample space to move around comfortably.

With appropriate care and attention, these captivating cats can live happy and healthy lives while continuing to captivate us with their extra toes.