Polydactyle Maine Cats
The american mitten-pawed cat
you are a cat lover and you have the opportunity to see a polydactyle Maine
Coon, the first you will notice are the big paws that give you the impression
of mittens. This is caused by double dew claws. Cats normally have 18 toes:
four toes and a dew claw on each front foot and four toes on each back foot.
Polydactylism, as the trait is called, is a genetic mutation and causes the
growing of more than the common amount of toes.
Each living thing was provided from Mother Nature with distinct
characteristics for its species. If there was need of more than the given
characteristics for surviving the conformity came through genetic mutation.
In cats there were mutations f.e. the longhairgene; the classic pattern; the
sexlinked colour red; the solid colour; the piebold spotting and last but
not least the dilution, which makes the colours blue and cream possible. All
these mutations caused that animals of a distinct region could better survive
due to better camouflage or better physical equipment.
cats first time were mentioned in mid 1600 in the Boston area. Sailors believed
that sixtoed cats were lucky and that they were the best mousers. Many of the
legends around the Maine Coon cat that seem somewhat exaggerated win sense and
meaningfulness if you see it from the viewpoint of polydactyle Maine cats.
However, polydactylism is not a physical trait that exclusively
affect cats, especially Maine Coons. It can occure everywhere and in every
live beeing. In Norway there is a pedigreed breed of dogs called the Lundehund
that is a polydactyle. This breed is known from the 15 th century. The dog
was used to catch puffins ("Lunde"). These penguin sized birds nest in tunnels
in the rocky cliffs. The sixtoed dogs were able to climb the rocky cliffs
and were more adapt at digging in the tunnels. In humen polydactylism is not
unknown, too. Did you know that Marilyn Monroe was a polydactile? She had
six toes. There lives a famous american basketball player who is polydactyle,
and recently a pic ran around the world of a polydactile baby boy who was
born in China.
Polydactylism is not a malformation or a deformity as it
is maintained very often. It causes wether pain nor leeds to handicap nor
is it a letal trait. On the contrary - polydactyle specimen, either humen
or animals, reap the benefit of their additional fingers and toes. It's not
a secret that polydactyle Maine Coons are considerable more deft and nimble
than their smallfooted sisters and brothers. They are skilful climber, considerable
more brave and absolute gifted hunters. Prey, once caught, never escape from
these paws because of being completely grasped.
the "Mayflower" to the White House to Papa Hemingways cathouse at Key West,
the polydactyles are Americas treasure. There have been many famous polys.
President Theodore Roosevelt had a poly named Slippers. Slippers was one of
the first feline residents of the White House and was often the center of
attention at public events. Hemingway's poly was called Snowball, a sixtoed
male, and it was reported that later he got a second poly named Princess.
Just the Hemingway cats are the prove for the harmlessness of the trait. For
approx. 100 years the decendants of Hemingway's polys were allowed to breed
free. If the gene was going to cause crippling or deformities, this population
should have produced many such cats. But they didn't....
At present UC Davis runs a study to explore the polydactyle gene.
Breeders and fanciers of the polydactyle Maine Coon support the research with
providing DNA samples and pedigrees.
For Maine inhabitants was the polydactyle Maine Coon for centuries
the perfect example of the Maine Coon cat. Only breeders of nowadays feel to
have a "mission" to disqualify these cats as deformed ones and wants to delete
them for healthriscs from breeding. But in their fanatism they failed to see
that there exist much too many "famous" Maine Coons with at least one polydactile
© by Waltraud Novak, 2000-ff