We as a humans love unique looking animals, from the hairless Sphynx cats to Scottish Folds to the extra-toed Maine Coon.
Do Maine Coons Have Extra Toes? Well, yes and no. It is not a requirement for a cat to have multiple toes to be considered a Maine Coon. Also, extra digits is not a trait solely attributed to just Maine Coon cats, especially if you live in the western hemisphere.
However, it does occurring at a higher percentage in Maine Coons than the general feline population. Read further to understand what it is, why in some countries they are banned from breeding, and how to find one.
Not all Maine Coons have extra toes.
It is a common myth that all Maine Coons have extra toes, a very high percentage of them do, but not all. To be deemed a Maine Coon the cat has to be large with a rectangle body, thick fur with lynx-like ears, and a friendly personality.
A few years ago, quite like the Maine Coon itself, breeders were trying to phase out the extra-toed Maine Coon. However now, some breeders are embracing this unusual quirk.
Along with the proclivity for the giant Maine Coon to have extra toes, the idea might also be attributed to the size of a regular Maine Coon’s paw. Their sheer size, coming in at 20 lbs. on average, attributives itself to the hefty extent of their feet.
Their paws are already so big it would make sense that people assumed that it was inherent in the breed already.
Even though the Maine Coon has more instances of polydactyly the majority of breeders still only breed regular numbered toed cats. Because of regulations from organizations and the fear of creating a cat that is not able to function.
If a cat is born with extra toes in a cattery, then it would typically be nurtured and spayed. Different catteries across the world are trying to uplift the ban on breeding polydactyly cats. Regulations on breeding vary by country and organization.
When a Maine Coon has extra toes, they are called polydactyl Maine coon. The extra toes are not unique to the Maine Coon it can affect many different breeds. Though the Maine Coon is one of the most well-known of the six-toed kitties.
Around 40% of the Maine Coon population has extra toes. While some see these cats as their own distinctive breed, with the polydactyl Maine Coon as it’s own breed, they are not recognized by established breeding conventions and establishments.
While it might sound odd polydactyl is relatively common in the feline world. The trait tends to run though felines that are from the US, Wales, and England rather than kitties from other areas of the world.
The most accepted reason for this is due to the history of the domesticated cat itself.
The common ancestor for the domesticated cat hails from Egypt. Any domesticated cat that has ventured to the U.S., Wales, and England were most likely to travel there by sea.
Perhaps sailors came to Egypt and heard tales about how these creatures would help them save some food aboard their ships from those pesky rats. After centuries of this practice, the cats would adapt to the environment that they are living.
In some countries, Maine Coons with extra toes have to be neutered so that they can´t reproduce
The embracement of the polydactyly Maine Coon is not all over the world. Regulations on breeding and the ability for the said poly cat to show nationally varies by country.
It ranges from regions that outright ban the breeding and showing of cats with extra toes to others who allow them to display right next to their pedigreed siblings.
Some countries or even breeders in the U.S. a few years ago would advise you to neuter their Maine Coon with polydactyl to prevent the mutation from spreading. While the variation itself doesn’t affect the cat’s life, it, in fact, will enhance some of its abilities depending on the mutation type.
They are just looking form the viewpoint of caution. When there is something that is structured out of the ordinary their issues of inflammation and infections if the toes do not sit right.
This is something that could be discussed with your vet to make sure you are accommodating your cat to the best of your abilities. If your vet has come to the conclusion that the extra toes will, in fact, affect the cat’s life, then the most preferred method is the removal of the toes.
Out of consideration for the animals, some nations have come together as The Counsel of Europe to sign the Pet Protection Treaty that provides restrictions (which every country picks and chooses what to follow) on the countries conduct towards pets, including how those pets will be breed.
Germany, in particular, is incredibly strict with their restrictions. Deeming even Rex breeds un-showable due to their abnormal coat.
They have applied a total breed banning for cats showing these attributes:
- Folded Ear
- Curled Hair
Along with restrictions on:
- Short tail
- Dominant White
- Facial Defects
Cats in the restriction list will be monitored to ensure no debilitating conditions are passed down the line.
While this might sound like extremism, its purpose is to protect the dignity of the animal. As seen with purebred dogs in the United States, overbreeding animals leads to genetic defects and a deflated quality of life for the animal itself.
Though some of these traits are not due to breeding but is a naturally and far more regularly occurring phenomenon.
Some countries are trying to lax the rules on breeding for a mutation, but in an ethical way that will not harm the animal.
The Netherlands and Belgium are working to restore the poly breed, and New Zealand is currently the only country that will allow polydactyl pedigree cats to be shown along with the standard kind.
Why do they have extra toes?
Polydactyly is a dominant trait that not related to gender that gives animals with this gene extra toes. Only one copy of the gene is necessary for one of the parents for the kitten to develop this genetic factor.
However, just because you have a cat with extra toes, it does not mean that its kittens will be the same. Even though the gene is dominant, it is irregular, meaning that any kittens of an extra-toed cat have a 40% to 50% chance of having the same condition.
Being polydactyly means that they will have extra toes, it doesn’t state how many extra toes or if they will even be fully functional. A typical cat will have 18 toes in total, five each for the front paws and four each for their back feet.
Typically a cat will only get at the most two extra toes on one foot. Some cats being polydactyly is unnoticeable due to the alignment of their toes. The standard type is the thumb polydactyly. The cat literally looks like it has a little thumb.
The third type of polydactyly is the twisty mutation, which creates a three-boned thumb. Typically a cat with the twisty mutation is nurtured or spayed since cats with this mutation can pass on genes that could cause decedents bone underdevelopment or absence of forearm deformities.
Some ideas on how this mutation came about are that the cats developed the trait while on ships, the six toes gave them stability while they pranced about and hunted. Looking at the paw of the extra-toed Maine Coon you can see why this would be the case.
The extra toes made them a mightier hunter and gave them sure footing on a tilting ship. It also helps the Maine Coon climb better.
Once the ships hit the shores of well Maine, they breed with both the wild and domesticated cats in the area. If this kitty had traveled or originated from a place a little bit to the south, it might not be known for those extra digits.
If the ships had landed in say Florida, the mutation might have phased out, because there would not be a current need for it. However, they settled in Maine, where paws that steadied their stride on a boat also worked as a snowshoe on massive drifts.
Funnily enough, if the Maine Coon had landed in western deserts, it might have kept the paw, but got rid of the dense fur.
They fit the environment in which they landed, so they flourished.
Just like the ancestor assuming that mutation as a plus for their given environment the Maine Coon also took advantage of what life gave it by using their big broad toes to skip over the snow drifts in the cold Maine snow.
Why do some breeders specialize in breeding Maine Coons with extra toes?
While the extra toes might freak some people out, others find it delightful. One such fan became an eponym for them, Hemingway.
While the polydactyly in Maine Coons is a naturally occurring mutation, it is questioned whether it is morally acceptable to breed animals for their variation.
Those against such type breeding question when the modifications will stop on the animal and how does such breeding affect the animal’s day to day life.
One can see in the dog world where the effort to sculpt animals in human’s eyes has depleted purebred dogs with numerous disorders and inability to function.
People simply want to make sure the cats themselves can live their lives with dignity, rather than something that can’t walk a few steps without help.
For a polydactyl cat, it depends on the type of mutation to determine if any harm will happen due to breeding — also, the breeding practices of whom you are buying from. If you are looking to obtain an extra toed kitty, then investigate the breeder that you are purchasing from.
It would also be a good idea to get pictures of the cat and/or a visit.
Finding breeders in the United States is relatively easy, though there might be a bit of a drive for some. The only one that has signed the TICA (The International Cat Association) Code of Ethics, as of this writing, is COMaineCoons.
Breeders who specialize in Maine Coons will have polydactyl kittens but do not actually concentrate on breeding cats with extra toes. It is rare to find a breeder who specifies breeding Maine Coons with polydactyl.
It is not against the law in the United States to produce cats with extra digits. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t restrictions on the polydactyl Maine Coon with other organizations.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association deems any cat with extra toes Is disqualified from showing. As a result breeders rarely breed felines with extra digits.
One such place that does breed Maine Coons for their extra little toes is CoonPlay located in Colorado.
Outside of the United States, it might be a bit harder due to each countries statute on mutations or deformities in pets.
What causes a cat to have extra toes? It is an irregular dominate gene in felines called polydactyl. If one of the parents has extra toes, then the kittens will have a 40% to 50% chance be polydactyl. Exact origins are not known, but it is believed that they developed this trait while making a living as a ship-mouser.
Do Maine Coons like to cuddle? In typical cat form, they do, but only when they want to. The Maine Coon is an amiable cat, but expect them to be near you on the couch or by your feet rather than on your lap. Let them come to you rather than force anything.
How expensive are Maine Coon cats? They are pretty costly, the average rate for a Maine Coon is $1000. Look around at catteries to determine the price in your area. If that price is too steep for you, then hit up your local animal shelters or people who want to re-home an animal.