Maine Coon cats are renowned for their beautiful large paws with thick tufts of hair but when it comes to their paws and toes, how many toes do Maine Coon cats have?
Maine Coon breeds are unique in that not all of them come with the standard amount of toes. These types of Maine Coon cats are referred to as ‘Polydactyl Maine Coons’. Polydactyl Maine Coon cats come with extra toes.
The term ‘Polydactyly’ is Greek in origin, and actually translates to ‘many fingers’. The Greek spelling is πολυδάκτυλος.
Let’s explore this fascinating topic some more.
- Exploring The Maine Coon Paw Pads
- The Role Of Maine Coon Toe Tufts
- The Three Types Of Polydactyly In Maine Coon Cats
- History of Polydactyl Maine Coon Cats
- Hemingway’s Cats
- Nail Bed Infections
- Ingrown Toe Nails
- Paw Pad Injuries From The Outdoors
- Polydactyl-Relates Issues
How Many Toes Do Maine Coon Cats Have?
Non-Polydactyl Maine Coon cats, in other words, standard Maine Coon cats have five adorable toes on both their front paws and four equally adorable toes on their back paws. So, in total, a standard Maine Coon cat has 18 toes. Polydactyl Maine Coon cats, known for their extra fluffy toes, can have one or more extra toes on each of their paws. There is no exact number, as some Polydactyl Maine Coon cats have six or seven toes on their front paws. You can normally expect a Polydactyl Maine Coon to have up to 26 toes in total. How adorable is that!?
Anatomy Of A Maine Coon Cat
The Maine Coon cat is famous for its large body and unique characteristics and traits. It’s unlike any other cat breed, which makes it so popular to breeders, and Maine Coon lovers around the world.
My guide on ‘What is a Maine Coon Cat?‘ covers everything there is to know about this fascinating breed.
So what exactly about the anatomy of a Maine Coon cat, that makes the breed so unique?
Maine Coon Shape and Size
Firstly, the most obvious feature relates to the Maine Coon cat’s size and build. If like myself, you own a Maine Coon, regardless of whether they are male or female, for the breed, they are large!
They are known for their muscular body structure, which is of a rectangular shape. You can expect a male Maine Coon to weigh on average between 15 – 25 pounds. A female Maine Coon, although usually smaller in size and weight, can still weigh on average between 8 and 13 pounds.
These gentle giants will grow on average for 3-5 years.
Maine Coon Head Structure And Facial Features
Maine Coon cats are known for holding their square-shaped head up high. It’s broad in size and shape and topped with beautiful large tufted ears. These are also known as lynx tips. Ears come in different sizes, some having larger ears than others.
Maine Coon cat eyes are rounded eyes, that are very expressive in nature and come in a range of stunning colours and shades of gold, green and copper.
Maine Coon Coat and Fur
Moving on to the Maine Coon coat and fur, this is another feature that comes in a variety of types. But what all Maine Coon cats have in common, is a coat that is double-layered, thick, silky and water-repellant.
The coat on a Maine Coon was developed to withstand the harsh wintery conditions of Maine, USA. The Maine Coon is the national cat of Maine because this is where its ancestral roots began.
Maine Coon cats have a beautiful thick ruff (like a lion’s mane) around their neck, with a bushy tail that is as long as their body. This is to keep them warm during colder seasons. The tail of the Maine Coon is perhaps one of the most magnificent sights you will see on a cat.
The Unique Toe Structure of Maine Coon Cats
With the unique structure of the Maine Coon cat body, comes the unique structure of their toes.
Maine Coon cats are no ordinary breed. The breed is famous for its fluffy paws and tufted toes. In addition to being well known for their large body structure, it’s no wonder their paws are also distinctly large in size.
But what makes them so special comes down to more than just the structure. We need to dive a little deeper to understand the amazing benefits of these fluffy toes.
Exploring The Maine Coon Paw Pads
The sturdy structure of the Maine Coon paw pads enables them to navigate all types of terrain that they would have done in the wild, such as snow and rain. But they have more uses than just this.
The fluffy and thick Maine Coon tufts provide extra insulation and essentially are like our version of cat snow shoes. And with any snowshoe, you can guess that they are known best for traction and grip in thick snow and icy conditions.
This is also known as Thermoregulation. Cats are very sensitive to temperature changes, but with this much-needed insulation, they can regulate their body temperature.
Maine Coon paw pads were developed to provide a level of shock absorption to protect their delicate joints. Maine Coon cats are susceptible to joint dislocation and discomfort due to their large size.
The role of Maine Coon paw pads is to provide that extra level of cushioning the breed requires. Any movement from walking, jumping, and climbing will help reduce any extra strain and pressure on their joints. This allows them to do what they do best, in comfort.
Traction and Grip
If you were to look closely at Maine Coon paw pads, you’ll notice they have a textured surface. These textured paws are to ensure they have plenty of traction and grip in temperamental weather conditions.
Maine Coon cats like to walk, run, jump, hunt, and climb both indoors and outdoors.
Being the large breed that they are, the grip on Maine Coon paw pads is essential for their role in the wild.
Maine Coon paw pads also provide a protective barrier between any surfaces they come across. This could be cold and wet surfaces or rough and potentially harmful surfaces. Maine Coon paw pads are their little protectors, ensuring sensitive tissues and nerves are shielded.
If you think the Maine Coon toe structure couldn’t get any more interesting, then you’re mistaken!
Another amazing benefit of Maine Coon paw pads is the ability to help the breed gather as much information about their environment as possible. This is because their paw pads contain a large number of nerve receptors that enable them to detect textures, feel temperature and sense vibrations.
Being one of the more sensitive parts of their body, Maine Coon paw pads provide them with a heightened ability to explore their surroundings.
The Role Of Maine Coon Toe Tufts
Maine Coon toe tufts form part of the structure of their toes. This feature is what gives them the “snowshoe” look. We know their tufts act as insulation in cold and wet weather conditions, but what else do these cute fluffs of hair provide?
Well, Maine Coon toe tufts actually help breed from sinking into the snow. They can grow to half an inch long, in some cases longer. They also allow them to walk quieter, providing a bit of sound insulation so they cannot be heard by predators.
In extreme heat, Maine Coon toe tufts protect their pads from burning.
For indoor Maine Coon cats, it’s perfectly okay for them to have toe tufts. In some cases, it could cause them to have less of a grip on certain surfaces, like laminate flooring. In this case, use your best judgement to decide whether it would be better to trim the tufts of hair on your Maine Coon.
Polydactyl Maine Coon Cats And Their Extra Toes
Sometimes, Maine Coon cats come with extra toes. When this occurs, they are referred to as Polydactyl Maine Coons.
The term ‘Polydactyly’ is defined by the presence of more than the typical amount of digits in a species. I refer to ‘species’ because it’s not just Maine Coons and cats that can have these. It’s also been reported in humans!
From a scientific perspective, the development of Polydactyly in Maine Coon kittens develops during fetal growth and is thought to be a result of a genetic anomaly that affects limb development.
Although hard to be precise, it is estimated that up to 40% of early Maine Coon cats were polydactyl.
The extra toes in these felines is present on either only their fore and/or hindlimbs, but rarely their hindlimbs alone.
Polydactyl Maine Coon cats and kittens continue to capture the attention of breeders, and cat enthusiast worldwide for these charming little extra-toe beans!
The Three Types Of Polydactyly In Maine Coon Cats
Something that might not be so commonly known, is that polydactyl cats can come with three types of polydactyl in their toes. This includes Maine Coon Cats.
Maine Coons with preaxial polydactyly have extra toes on the inner part of their paw. This is close to the dewclaw. The dewclaw in a Maine Coon cat is the claw that is closest to its wrist.
Did you know that a cat’s dewclaw doesn’t bear any weight, and therefore doesn’t make any contact with the ground?
If a Maine Coon has extra toes on the outside of their front paws, as opposed to near the dewclaw, this is referred to as postaxial polydactyly. These are located on what would be the ‘pinky’ side of their paw.
Polydactyly On All Paws
It’s uncommon to find a Maine Coon cat with polydactyly on all four paws. This might show in the form of both preaxial and postaxial polydactyly.
History of Polydactyl Maine Coon Cats
The first documented proof of polydactyly in feline long-haired cats including the Maine Coon cat, was in 1947.
However, it is long suspected that Polydactyly in the Maine Coon breed goes back to their seafaring days when they were brought to New England by early settlers.
Polydactyl cats have an enchanting and long history within the maritime communities for their suspected fortune and good luck, and enhanced ability to hunt and climb.
Seafarers and early settlers in New England believed polydactyl cats to be excellent mouse hunters due to their ability to easily trap them in between their extra toes.
Sailors also believed polydactyl cats to be a lucky charm, warding off bad luck, and bringing about safe travels.
Despite being a famous American novelist, Ernest Hemmingway was also famous for his love of polydactyl cats.
The story behind Hemingway’s cats goes back to 1930 when he was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain. Captain Stanley Dexter, who was a drinking buddy of Ernest Hemmingway, had his own polydactyl cat.
She was called Snow White or Snowball according to some documented history. Ernest Hemmingway was immediately enchanted by this beautiful polydactyl cat that he decided to acquire more of them. It’s believed he used to let them roam around his garden, which might be a factor in the global polydactyl cat community today.
Ernest Hemmingway passed away in 1961, but his story still lives on.
Currently, the Ernest Hemmingway Home and Museum houses approximately 60 polydactyl cats at his home in Key West, Florida. All the cats still living today, are direct descendants of the seafaring polydactyl cats from back in 1930.
The cats are not of a particular breed, but every cat in the museum possesses the polydactyl gene. This means that they can mother and father six-toed kittens!
If you visit the museum today, you will find polydactyl cats in a variety of colours including Calicos, Tortoise Shell, Tabby, White, Black and more.
If you haven’t visited Hemingway’s Cats, then you’re in for a treat if you do!
Maintaining Healthy Toes In Maine Coon Cats
It’s important for owners and breeders alike, to ensure that effort is going into maintaining healthy toes in Maine Coon cats.
There is so much to admire about the science, beauty and history of Maine Coon toes, so let’s ensure they are in the best condition they can be.
Below are some tips you can implement today, to ensure regular upkeep of your Maine Coon’s toe beans.
Maine Coons deserve to have a little extra TLC, when it comes to paw inspection.
Checking for any signs of injuries like tears, cuts, swelling and any other abnormality is an important task for any owner. Outdoor Maine Coon cats are more susceptible to injuries and will require extra care.
Paw Pad Care
Another way to care for your Maine Coon’s little toe beans is to keep them clean and moisturised. It’s perfectly okay to gently wipe their paw pads with a clean damp cloth. Please avoid using any harsh chemicals on their paw pads.
A helpful tip is to also use a paw pad moisturiser for cats or any kind of balm designed for cats. This can be particularly soothing for their toe beans and will prevent dryness and cracking.
Maine Coon cats are normally very good at maintaining their nails. If you have observed your Maine Coon plucking and scratching on carpets and furniture, it’s because it feels good, and allows them to maintain nail length.
It is still beneficial for us humans to give them a helping hand, and properly inspect their nails regularly to make sure they aren’t overgrown.
When trimming the nails on a Maine Coon cat, the first step is to be aware of what is known as ‘the quick’. The quick is part of their nail that contains blood-filled tissue. This is a very sensitive part of their toe, and accidentally cutting it, will cause pain and discomfort to any Maine Coon.
Instead, trim to an appropriate length that does not cut into the quick. If you are not confident in doing this, then your local vet will be more than happy to.
Cat-Friendly Environment = Happy Maine Coon Cat
There are a few steps you can take around the house as a potential, or Maine Coon owner, that will protect their paw pads.
Your living space should be free from sharp objects and rough surfaces that could cut into their paws, and cause pain. You can also ensure your Maine Coon cats are kept away from any surfaces that are too hot or cold.
Maine Coon cats love scratching and plucking, and so providing them with a scratching post and/or boards, will give them the freedom to maintain their nails.
Common Toe-Related Health Issues in Maine Coon Cats
Maine Coon cats are a very healthy breed, and most often than not, you don’t need to worry about many health-related issues, especially when it comes to their toes. Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of some of the toe-related issues that affect Maine Coon cats.
Also known as Osteoarthritis, this condition can affect Maine Coon cats. As they age, just like any species, the degenerative joint disease can pose a problem. In Maine Coons, this can lead to pain and stiffness in their toes, which can make it difficult to walk.
Regular visits to the vet are important for maintaining your Maine Coon’s health to spot these types of health-related issues. If you suspect your Maine Coon is suffering from arthritis, then pain management from your vet will help with their pain.
Nail Bed Infections
Bacterial infections can sometimes worm their way into your Maine Coon’s nail bed. This can cause great discomfort and swelling for them.
A nail bed infection in your Maine Coon can show up as a fungal infection. A yellow paw bed, that is swollen and abnormal in shape and size, could be a sign of an infection.
This would require a quick veterinary response to alleviate the pain and discomfort in your Maine Coon.
Ingrown Toe Nails
Ingrown toenails are a nightmare problem for any species, including Maine Coon cats.
They occur in cats when the nail grows into the skin, usually caused by nails excessive in length that are not maintained. This can cause a great deal of pain in your Maine Coon, and lead to infection.
Following the tips above with regards to trimming your Maine Coon’s nails, carrying out regular inspections and providing scratching posts will help prevent them from developing ingrown toenails.
Paw Pad Injuries From The Outdoors
For any Maine Coon cat that spends a lot of time outdoors, increases the risk of injury to their paw pads. Despite being sturdy, they still require care and maintenance.
Maine Coon cats that explore different terrains and surfaces are more likely to develop cuts, scratches, burns and abrasions.
Regular paw pad check-ups and moisturising their toe beans will help prevent injuries.
Polydactyl Maine Coon cats do not tend to develop health issues any more than standard Maine Coon cats.
The only discomfort they are likely to experience is from their extra toes curling or overlapping. This might lead to issues when walking and would require regular monitoring. How this problem is thought to be rare in polydactyl Maine Coons and they are in fact, just as healthy as a non-polydactyl Maine Coon cat.
Facts, Myths and Superstitions Surrounding Maine Coon Toes
Did you know that the record for the most toes on a cat is 28? Jake, the ginger tabby cat lives in Ontario with his owners Michelle and Paul Contant. He was counted to have seven toes on each paw. This was documented in September 2002, by the Guinness World Book of Records.
If you are a superstitious person, then you are going to love some of these myths and superstitions surrounding Maine Coon toes. Please bear in mind, these are not based on scientific evidence, and are just a little bit of fun!
It has long been thought, even since the Maine Coon’s seafaring days, that those cats with extra toes bring about good luck and fortune to those it meets.
Do you have a polydactyl Maine Coon? Do you believe your extra toe-beaned friend brings your luck and fortune?
Another myth surrounding Polydactyl Maine Coon cats is that they possess magical powers. If nothing else, these myths and superstitions spark imagination and bring a little fun to the special history behind polydactyl cats.
Polydactyly Maine Coons In The Show Hall
Today, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) does not accept polydactyl Maine Coons as a breed standard. This is because it is classed as an ‘undesirable mutation’.
However, there are some Household Pet Classes in shows, in which case, there shouldn’t be any issues showing a polydactyl Maine Coon.
What are Clippercats?
There is some good news in the polydactyl Maine Coon show front. Catz Incorporated (Inc) is a cat breeder’s registry based in New Zealand. This organisation recognises polydactyl cats, including Maine Coon cats for full championship status.
But where does the term ‘Clippercats’ come from?
Well, between the 1850s and 1900s, a large number of immigrants arrived in New Zealand and Australia in Clipper Ships. These ships docked in the Auckland and Hauraki Gulf area, where a large number of polydactyl cats are found today.
And so, if you own a polydactyl cat or Maine Coon, you can enter them on the open register as a Clippercat.
Is The Toe Count On Maine Coon Cats Important?
There is no doubt that polydactyl Maine Coon cats are seen as attractive by breeders and potential owners for their extra paws.
They come with an interesting history that is filled with seafaring stories, myths and legends.
However, regardless of how many toes a Maine Coon kitten or cat has, they are unique because of their loving nature, and distinctive appearance which makes them excellent companions.