The Maine Coon polydactyl cat

STARARK AGILITA PP and her 3 month old son.

The Maine Coon polydactyl is an interesting and loving cat, although they are not well known to all cat lovers. This is a pedigree Maine Coon cat, however they have extra toes on their paws. A regular cat has five digits on their front paws and four digits on their back paws but a polydactyl cat can have up to seven digits on each paw (with the maximum of eight being a rare exception).

In Maine Coons, this trait was inherited from the foundation cats that formed the basis of the Maine Coon breed. Polydactyly is a natural mutation that also occurs in other species. There have been many scientific studies, current and past, which all prove it to be a harmless trait, causing no detrimental effect to the cat. Polydactyl cats have pre-axial toes, which means that the extra digits are on the inner or “thumb” side of the paw. These extra digits can be on only one foot or up to all four feet (“4 wheel drive”) and the number of toes can vary from paw to paw. Polydactylism has random expression.

Paw formations

When looking at the paw to count the digits, it is important to look at the bottoms of each of the feet and take note of the paw pads, the toes and the nails as well. Knowing all of these factors it is easy to decide if a poly has extra toes, thumbs, or dew claws to create a certain paw formation.

Mitten front paw of a Maine Coon Polydactyl

There are two types of paw formations; the mitten paw and the patty or snowshoe paw. The reason for these two types of expressions are likely due to two different specific mutations that causes the polydactyl phenotype expression. The mitten paw is self-describing, it looks like a mitten with a thumb (and usually at least one or more dew claw). This look is created by the extra digit(s). An example: four toes, a smaller dew claw and a thumb. This configuration is normally caused by the point mutation called “Hw”. It was named “Hw” because it is found in the Hemmingway cats of Florida, United States. It also appears in the Pixie Bob cat Breed and the pedigree Maine Coons.

Patty back paw of a Maine Coon Polydactyl

The patty paw is a well-rounded row of toes next to each other forming a large paw usually having no distinct thumb. This variant was first examined in 2011 in France. The variant was never isolated or even localized, but appears to operate in the same manner as the Hw variant, except that the expression is the patty paw with most of the time six digits. In a few documented cases this variant has produced six-digit mitten kittens. This variant, although unidentified, has been dubbed the Canadian variant since it first appeared from a Maine Coon foundation cat in Manitoba, Canada in 1992.

Note, both types are happy healthy cats!!! The extra toes are fully functional. It is a personal preference to what one finds more attractive. These formations are in general passed on from generation to generation. For example mitten paws usually create mitten pawed kittens (with an exceptional patty pawed kitten) and a patty paw MC poly will give patty pawed offspring. We also see the combination patty and mitten in one kitten. For more information on paw formations you can read: