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Maine Coon Cats usually have eighteen digits when combining all four paws. They have five digits on each front foot and four digits on the hind feet. However they can be Polydactal, which is a congenital abnormality that is genetically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait of the Pd gene with incomplete penetrance.
Polydactyl Cats have extra digits on their feet ranging from one to three extra digits. The word Polydactyl is derives from the Greek ‘poly’ meaning many and ‘dactyl’ meaning ‘digit’.
Polydactal Cats are mentioned in the writings of Darwin. Veterinarian Arnold Plotnick in 1868 provided the first scientific recording of polydactyly in cats. See Plotnick A. “Polydactylism (Extra Toes)”.
However Darwin discusses it in the 1850′s “I have heard of several families of six-toed cats, in one of which the peculiarity had been transmitted for at least three generations.” See Darwin C. “The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication”
Polydactyly occurs in many species of animals including humans. It is important to note that each species has different modes of inheritance.
Being a Polydactal is considered a breed fault by most cat fancier associations despite the proof that Maine Coons originally came polydactal. Although it is a fault many breeders do produce Polydactal Maine Coon Cats.
To give you an idea of how old the “Polydactal Debate” is within cat fancier associations, the MCBFA voted in a Maine Coon Polydactyl Standard in 1970. This standard reads that “the Maine Coon Polydactyl Cat should conform to the Standard of the Maine Coon Cat with the exception that multiple toes …”
Being polydactal is not inherently dangerous however extra toes can be malformed, either with two toes fusing, or with ingrown toenails. When two toes are fused this can result in pain for the cat having two toes nails fused together making them hard to trim.
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