As an owner of four, I love all things about Maine Coons but one feature I’m particularly in love with is Maine Coon paws. Their sheer size, those fluffy sprouts of fur, and gorgeous toe beans are something special.
Maine Coons have larger paws than many breeds and this isn’t just because they are larger-than-average cats. A Maine Coon’s sizeable feet protected by plenty of fluff enabled this cat to traverse the harsh snowy and icy conditions in the New England region of the USA where this breed originated.
Today’s Maine Coons have the luxury of warm houses in bad weather but their paws have remained large and fluffy.
The Anatomy of a Maine Coon’s Paw
A Maine Coon’s paw has six components: toes, claws, pads, toe tufts, webbing and carpal whiskers. Each has a purpose as follows:
Maine Coon Toes
A Maine Coon has 18 toes: five on each front paw and four on each back paw. If you examine the skeleton of a Maine Coon, you’ll see the bones in its paws are similar to those in a human’s hands and feet and have the same names.
Each Maine Coon toe or phalanges consists of three small bones. A claw is attached to the end bone of each toe meaning a Maine Coon has 18 claws. Tendons enable a Maine Coon to extend and retract its claws as necessary.
When you hear discussions about declawing Maine Coons be aware that this cruel procedure entails surgically removing the whole lower toe bone with the claw attached.
As cats walk on their tiptoes, this procedure, known as onychectomy, leaves it unable to walk as nature intended, and often in pain for the rest of its life.
Maine Coon Claws
A Maine Coon has 18 claws, five on each front paw and four on each back paw. They are physically attached to the lowest joint on each toe and are retracted or extended by pivoting this bone up or down.
Claws are made of a hard protein called keratin and act as tools to catch and hold prey and tear meat from bones. They are also used for self-defense, digging, and climbing.
Maine Coons claw things for 3 main reasons: to shed the old outer layers of their claws, to mark their territory, and also to stretch their muscles by holding on to an object and pulling back.
Some people trim their Maine Coons claws. If you choose to do this, ensure you cut below the blood supply.
You can spot the dark vein if you look carefully. It’s safer to use a tool designed for the job such as a pair of pet nail clippers, available on Amazon.
The Human Society of The United States has created a guide showing how to trim a cat’s claws which is ideal to follow, especially if you’ve not attempted to do this before.
Maine Coon Paw Pads
A Maine Coon’s paw pads or toe beans are thick, rubbery pads of fatty tissue covered by a layer of tough skin found on the undersides of each paw. They are known as toe beans simply because they are bean-shaped. As well as looking cute (and edible), a cat’s toe beans have several important functions.
1. The anatomy of a Maine Coon’s paw pads
A Maine Coon’s paw pads are scientifically termed digital pads. This is because they are found on the underside of their toes and another word for toes is digits.
The reason we sometimes refer to a cat’s digital pads as toe beans is simply that they resemble little jelly beans
When you look at the underside of a Maine Coon’s paw, you’ll actually find other soft pads as well as toe beans:
- four digital pads on each front paw
- a dewclaw pad on each front paw
- four digital pads on each rear paw
- a metacarpal pad on each front paw
- a metatarsal pad on each rear paw
- a carpal pad on each front paw
You can see these pads in this photograph of a cat’s paw pads
2. A description of a Maine Coon’s paw pads
Unlike most parts of a Maine Coon, its paw pads are totally free of hair. Any fur in the toe bean area sprouts from between the toes.
On a Maine Coon kitten or indoor cat, paw pads have a smooth soft surface. If a cat roams outside, the surface of its toe beans tends to feel a little rougher.
3. Maine Coon paw pad colors
Maine Coon paw pads can be a variety of colors:
- All black
- All pink
- All rose
- All blue
- A mix of colors
If a Maine Coon has a single-colored coat, its toe beans are usually the same color as its nose. If a Maine Coon has a bi-colored or multicolored coat, it might have different-colored beans.
4. A Maine Coon’s paw pads are sensory
A Maine Coon’s paw pads are packed with nerve receptors and are one of the most sensitive areas of its body. For this reason, they are often not keen on having them touched.
The concentration of nerves enables a Maine Coon to feel vibrations and also aids with its balance.
When a Maine Coon jumps, its paw pads provide important shock absorption to protect the bones in its paws and allow a safe landing.
Another crucial function of toe beans is to sense hot, cold, and sharp surfaces, preventing a Maine Coon from suffering from any injury these might cause.
5. Maine Coon paw pads provide cushions to walk on
Maine Coons, like all cats, are digitigrades which means they walk on their toes and the balls of their paws. Each paw pad provides a soft cushion to make walking comfortable.
More importantly, they allow a Maine Coon to move in silence when stalking its prey. Once a cat has caught its prey, its paw pads can help it to evaluate what it is and how edible it really is.
6. Paw pads are claw cases!
Paw pads also house a Maine Coon’s claws which it can extend or retract as necessary. If you apply gentle pressure to a toe bean and the top of its toe, a cat’s claw will be revealed. This is a good way to make claw clipping easy if you choose to do this.
7. Maine Coon paw pads mark territory
In between a Maine Coon’s paw pads are scent and sweat glands. When a Maine Coon scratches at things, its scent is released and toe beans help to spread this to mark its territory.
If a Maine Coon overheats, perspiration is released, and when it walks you may notice a trail of little sweaty paw prints!
8. Maine Coon paw pads can change color
Occasionally, you might notice a Maine Coon’s paw pads change color. Though the most common reason is because of an injury it can signify something more serious such as anemia, vitiligo, or pododermatitis.
If you are ever unsure of the reason for a color change, take your cat to the vet for a check-up.
9. Maine Coon paw pad care
Maine Coons love to lick their paws and you can help to ensure they don’t ingest anything unsavory or even dangerous by keeping them clean.
By far the best way to do this is with a cloth and warm water. Don’t forget to clean in between your cat’s toes too! This is always recommended before you go in for a kiss!
Inspect your Maine Coon’s paw pads regularly for cracks cuts, scratches, splinters, and inflammation. If you are unable to resolve any problems you find, it’s time to visit a vet.
In the cold months, especially if your Maine Coon has access to surfaces coated with winter salt, it’s important to remove any residue from their paw pads each time they’ve been outside. Licking salt can make a cat ill.
A Maine Coon’s paw pads are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and can become dry and cracked in winter or summer. Moisturizing a cat’s paws will help to protect them from drying out.
Petroleum jelly or olive oil are safe moisturizers. Don’t use anything that contains essential oils or any sort of medication. If in doubt, ask your vet for a safe moisturizer recommendation.
Musher’s Secret offers excellent paw pad protection and is made from 100% natural waxes. It’s conveniently available on Amazon and you can see more details by following this link.
Maine Coon Toe Tufts
One of the cutest features of a Maine Coon are its toe tufts. These sprout from between the toes of each paw and can vary greatly in length.
Maine Coon toe tufts once protected its paws from snow and ice in the cold region of New England where the breed originated.
Nowadays, Maine Coons don’t have to brave bad winter weather but their toe tufts remain. Most owners choose to leave them intact as they are a wonderful feature.
Some people choose to trim toe tufts for reasons such as stopping their cat from slipping on hard surfaces or to prevent them from tracking dirt into the house.
I’ve owned Maine Coons for 20-plus years and have never yet had one injure itself by slipping on its toe tufts.
Maine Coon Toe Webbing
Not many people realize that Maine Coons have webbed paws. You can see this in the photo above. A Maine Coon’s webbed feet primarily aid it to walk, run or pounce on snow or wet, muddy surfaces without sinking.
If you happen to have a Maine Coon that likes water, its webbed paws will assist it in moving through water as efficiently as possible.
Maine Coons have carpal whiskers, on the underside of their wrists. These are useful for hunting. When a Maine Coon captures prey in its paws, the carpal whiskers help determine if it is still moving.
Like all cats, a Maine Coon does not see well when close to an object, so the carpal whiskers help determine the position of their prey.
Maine Coons can have extra toes
A regular Maine Coon has 18 toes: five on each front paw and four on each rear paw. However, sometimes Maine Coons are born with more than 18 toes and are referred to as being polydactyl.
Polydactyl Maine Coons have extra toes and the number can vary. Polydactylism is a term applied to cats that for genetic reasons are born with more than the standard number of toes.
You might find a polydactyl Maine Coon has just 1 extra toe on one paw, or it might have 2 extra on every paw. There is no set number of extra toes and beans.
Maine Coon Paws: conclusion
Maine Coons have large paws. The components of their paws have many important functions including:
- Large paws help them to walk on snow
- Paw pads are sensory and provide cushioning
- Claws aid climbing and self-protection
- Webbing helps them to swim
- Toe tufts provide warmth
- Carpal whiskers detect the condition of prey
Aside from their real uses, their large paws, toe beans, and toe tufts are among the many fabulous features of Maine Coon cats.