Are Maine Coons Polydactyl?


A Maine Coon’s tufty paws are just one of its many endearing features. When I first got my Maine Coon kittens, I counted their tiny toes to see how many they had.

I found 18, the standard number for cats. I had heard that Maine Coons can have extra toes, but not my two it seemed.

Many early Maine Coons were polydactyl. You may hear this condition referred to as the Hemingway Mutation because the author Ernest Hemingway had many polydactyl cats living with him at his home in Key West, Florida.  

Polydactyl Maine Coon

Extra toes or polydactylism is quite common in Maine Coons. It’s a harmless genetic mutation that causes a cat to develop more than 18 toes. About 40% of early Maine Coons were polydactyl but now it’s not quite so prevalent.

If a Maine Coon has extra toes, they are always present at birth. Extra toes do not grow at a later date!

Why do some Maine Coons have extra toes?

How did some Maine Coons become polydactyl? It has been suggested that their extra toes evolved to help Maine Coons walk more easily over snow but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Polydactylism is a result of a genetic anomaly and is completely harmless. It is a simple autosomal trait which means males and females are equally likely to inherit the gene.

Cats with extra toes carry the dominant gene, Pd. A Maine Coon only needs one copy of this gene from either parent to become polydactyl.

If one parent has the gene, around 40 to 50% of their kittens will inherit it too. This explains why only some Maine Coons have extra toes.

Regardless of the number of toes present, all Maine Coons have large well-tufted feet which enable them to walk more easily over snow. This feature is one reason for their nick-name of snowshoe cat.

The highest number of toes on a polydactyl Maine Coon

Are Maine Coons Polydactyl?

Maine Coons have broken world records for weight and length but the Guinness World Record for the highest number of toes is not held by a Maine Coon.

There is no official recording of the most toes counted on a Maine Coon. There is plenty of mention of 6 toes on each paw so it’s probably best to assume that the 24 is the most toes a Maine Coon ever had.

In case you’re interested, in 2002 a polydactyl (non-Maine Coon) ginger tabby with 28 toes claimed the Guinness World Record for most toes on a cat.

How many toes does a Maine Coon cat have?

The usual number of toes for a Maine Coon is 18; five toes on each of their front paws, and four on each of their back paws. This is standard for all cats.

The fifth toe on each of a cat’s front paws is roughly in the position of our thumbs. You may hear these referred to as dewclaws.

Dewlaws stay quite sharp as they don’t come into contact with the ground as much. They are very useful when it comes to hunting!

Maine Coon toes

Maine Coon toes are notoriously chunky and well-tufted, They are perfect for spreading the cat’s weight to prevent it from sinking in snow. The tufts provide insulation from the cold. Some Maine Coon toes have more tufts than others.

Are all Maine Coons polydactyl?

Not all Maine Coon cats are polydactyl and until recently occurrences were decreasing because breeders were led to believe polydactylism was responsible for hip dysplasia, a common Maine Coon health issue.

Research has now shown it is not extra toes that cause hip problems in Maine Coons and polydactyl Maine Coons are once again on the increase.

Polydactylism does not affect all Maine Coons because not all cats carry the polydactyl gene, Pd. Even if both parents carry the gene this doesn’t mean their kittens will have extra toes.

Do Maine Coons have extra toes?

Though there are fewer polydactyl Maine Coons nowadays, they are not that rare. The number of extra toes varies as does the paws they are found on.

The standard number of toes on a Maine Coon is 18. You’ll find 5 on each fore paw and 4 on each hind paw. If a cat has any more toes than this, it is classed as polydactyl.

It is more common for extra toes to be present on a Maine Coon’s fore paws only. More often than not there is one extra toe each side. Occasionally a polydactyl Maine coon will have 7 toes on each front paw.

28-toed cat

The next likely scenario is extra toes on all four paws. A Maine Coon might have 1 extra toe on each paw giving it 22 in total.

The maximum is usually 7 toes on each paw which would total 28 but this is quite rare.

It is rare to find a polydactyl Maine Coon with extra toes on its hind paws only. If this happens, the number can range from 5 to 7 toes.

Can a Maine coon have extra toes on just one paw?

A Maine Coon will not be lopsided when it comes to extra toes. They will have the same number of extra toes on both forepaws and the same number of extra toes on both hind paws, if applicable.

Other polydactyl cats

Some people believe all polydactyl cats are Maine Coons and others think polydactyl is a breed. Neither is true and any cat can have extra toes.

There is nothing that can really influence polydactylism, so breeders can’t try to increase the chances of cats being born with extra toes.

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Matt

I'm Matt Pettitt, joint founder of the Pets Knowledge Base alongside my wife, Jane. Since I was just 2 years of age I've had pets in my life - which I don't mind admitting is 47 years! I strongly believe that when you introduce a pet into your family you should do everything you can to give it the best life possible. I've learned a lot during the past (almost) five decades and this blog gives me a medium to share everything I have learned ( both good and bad) about pets. If you'd like to know more about us, and how to contact us - take a look at our About page here!

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