Polydactyle Maine Cats

The american mitten-pawed cat

Double dewclaw of a poly pawIf 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.

Polydactyle 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.

Flint P  of LoonyCoonsFrom 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 ancestor....

© by Waltraud Novak, 2000-ff

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