About half of the aboriginal Manx cats that lived in America at the beginning of the last century bore the sign of polydact. They had 1-2 extra toes on their paws. It was polydactyl Maine Coons that were recognized as exemplary representatives of their species. It was believed that it was easier for a cat to move through deep snow and swampy terrain on such paws.
What is polydactyly in a Maine Coon
Externally, polydactyly of cats is manifested only in the structure of the legs. If an ordinary Maine Coon (or any other cat) normally has 18 fingers – 5 on the front and 4 on the hind legs, then polydact can grow 24 appendages.
This phenomenon is caused by a genetic mutation that does not affect overall health and does not pose any threats to the population. The only negative point is the dominance of the gene over all the others. If a polydact appears in a group of cats, then very soon all the offspring will be multi-fingered.
Once this flaw was even in fashion, and breeders deliberately kept polydactyl Maine Coons to meet the demand for unusual kittens. But later, thanks to the efforts of international associations and felinologists-experts, polydact cats were taken out of the scope of championship titles and awards, and their deliberate breeding became a rarity.
The history of the appearance of mutations in Maine Coon cats
Legends attribute the best hunting qualities to six-fingered Maine Coons, unlike ordinary cats. And it was also believed that they bring good luck and shipwrecks avoided those merchant ships on which polydact cats lived. Therefore, the population of Maine Coons with extra appendages on their paws has spread most in port cities. Superstitious sailors willingly took such animals on long risky trips.
Now multi–toed cats are most often found along the Atlantic coast of the USA and Canada, and on the other side of the ocean – in the county of Wales of the British Kingdom, less often in Spain, France and Portugal.
The Maine Coon is not the only representative of polydacts in the New World. In America, a shorthair multi-toed cat was officially registered, which appeared almost simultaneously with the big Manx cats.
According to another hypothesis, farmers also found positive qualities in this variety of Maine coons. Polydact cats hunted better, were larger and more powerful than their usual counterparts.
The truth, as usual, is located somewhere in the middle. It is a proven fact that polydact cats do not suffer from their congenital deficiency and always bring viable offspring. Just one polydact is enough for this trait to start being passed down from generation to generation and as a result, it quickly covered the entire local Maine Coon population.
Varieties of polydactyly in Maine coons
Pet lovers call polydactyl cats multi-fingered. This mutation manifests itself in two ways:
- Preaxial, when the process grows to the 4th finger (most often an extra thumb).
- Postaxial, when the process appears behind the 4th finger.
With the development of science and the beginning of serious research, scientists have found out that the multiplicity of cats does not threaten the health of the main population. In addition to its unusual appearance, it does not cause any other changes in the Maine Coon polydact organism.
Sometimes there is uneven growth of claws, dysbiosis and infections, but they are inherent in any representatives of this breed.
Experts disagree about the physical data of the two groups (normal and genetically modified). Some believe that polydact cats have better health, but centenarians have not been registered among them.
Maine Coon status with polydact feature
Rehabilitation of cats with 6 fingers began at the beginning of the XXI century. In 2008, felinologists again addressed this issue and decided to return the exhibition status of a variety of Maine coons with polydactyl changes.
This happened on the initiative of American breeders for obvious reasons – there is still a steady birth of six-toed kittens in the country, which have to be removed from breeding books. Animal rights activists and activists of green movements joined the process. With their support, the matter has moved forward.
So far, only 4 international associations allow polydacts to participate in exhibitions – CFA, CFF, ACFA and TICA. All of them are registered in the USA and have been lobbying for the return of Maine coons with six fingers to the group of exhibition cats for a long time.
True, giant cats with altered genetics are not given championship titles, but this issue will be resolved over time.
Admission to breeding
While experts are arguing, practical breeders have re-acquired polydactyl maine coons, kittens are born with enviable regularity and the fashion for them is increasing. Unlike the last wave of demand, now the situation has changed – six-toed big cats have increased in price.
If they are given back the right to climb the highest steps of the world pedestals, interest in polydacts will only increase.
Another difference of modern breeding is the rapid spread on all continents. More recently, these cats could be popular in one territory and completely absent in another.
Now the situation has changed dramatically. The exhibition committees returned the right of the sixfingers to official existence. This means that Maine coon polydact will quickly appear in the USA, Europe, and Russia.
Differences of Maine Coon breed polydacts
There are two branches of the Maine Coon breed – European and American. Another authoritative expert in the field of expertise is FIFe, an international cat federation registered in the UK. It is the oldest felinological center in the world.
But there are still no definite rules regarding how many fingers a Maine Coon should have on its paws and in what order they can be arranged.
It can be expected that the breed standards will be revised in the future. But now breeders are completely free from any prohibitions on the quality of polydact offspring.
Advantages and disadvantages of buying such a cat
There are still differences between America and Europe on the issue of advantages. They are associated with mental customs that animal lovers have not stepped over. For the USA, polydactyl Maine Coons are an object of national memory.
Americans do not take into account the causes and consequences of the natural six-fingered mutation and believe that the breed has returned to its historical state.
In Europe, polydacts have not been favored since the medieval Inquisition, when all cats with pronounced flaws were ruthlessly exterminated. Therefore, the inhabitants of the Old World consider the polydactyl cat only as a unique phenomenon of nature.
The character of polydactyl Maine Coons is the same as that of ordinary representatives of this breed. All of them are equally friendly to people, single out the owner and follow him literally on his heels, love to play and swim, are well trained and unpretentious to food.
Famous polydact and Maine Coon fans
Among the adherents of the multi-fingered Maine Coons was the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. It was with him that polydact Slippers first appeared at the residence of the head of the American state.
Ernest Hemingway became a fan of polydacts from the Maine Coon breed from the moment he was presented with an unusual six-toed kitten named Snowball.
The legendary Brigitte Bordeaux willingly posed for photographers with a huge maine coon. After completing her film career, the actress devoted her life to protecting animals and the environment.