Polydactyl Maine Coon Cats – The Adorable Cats With Huge Paws

| Updated: January 2, 2024
Red Polydactyl Maine Coon cat on black background raising its paw

If you are a cat lover, you might have heard of the Maine Coon cat breed, which is known for its huge size, fluffy coat, and friendly personality. But did you know that some Maine Coons have an extra feature that makes them even more special?

They are known as the polydactyl Maine Coon, also sometimes called polycoons or Hemingway cats, and they have more than the usual number of toes on their paws. Despite it being an odd trait, it may have been highly beneficial for the original cats surviving in the cold wilds of Maine!

What are Polydactyl Maine Coons?


Polydactyly is a genetic condition that, in this case, causes a cat to have more than the normal number of toes on one or more paws. It commonly affects the front paws but can also occur on the hind paws or both. The extra toes can vary in size, shape, and functionality, depending on how they are attached to the paw and how they are connected to the bones and muscles.

Simply put, polydactyl Maine Coons are Maine Coon cats that have extra toes on at least one of their paws. They are also one of only two breeds, the other being the Pixiebob, where polydactyly is considered a normal variation of the breed, although it can occur in any cat – including big exotics like tigers… although much less common.

TikTok user @robert_sijka has a gorgeous white Maine Coon with polydactyl paws showing off how it tries to grab the cat toy. Watch the clip and see how it almost appears to have opposable thumbs – thank goodness they really don’t – or cats might take over the world!

He is mesmerizing…so regal!! He should run for President! comments viewer @jerseyrobin. Another user, @deborahsims9, says, “wow, I’ve Never seen a cat.!… with oposible thumbs…!”. And I couldn’t help but chuckle at the comment from @nora_banana, “Tell me why that cat wears eyeliner better than me”. Sorry, Nora!

Polydactyl Maine Coons can have anywhere from six to eight toes on each paw, with the average being seven. The extra toes can give them a distinctive appearance and a significantly larger paw print. Cats typically have 18 toes, but a polydactyl can have as many as 26. (7 on each front paw and 6 on each back paw.)

Other common names for polydactyl Maine Coons include:

  • Mitten cats
  • Thumb cats
  • Conch cats
  • Boxing cats
  • Snowshoe cats
  • Cardi cats
  • Six-fingered cats
  • Boston-toed cats
  • Mitten-foot cats

Hemingway cats, after the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, who owned many polydactyl cats at his home in Key West, Florida.

History of Polydactyly in Maine Coon Cats


The origin of polydactyly in Maine Coon cats is unknown as its the result of a genetic anomaly, but there are theories and legends that try to explain it. One theory is that polydactyly was a mutation that occurred naturally in the wild population of cats that lived in the northeastern region of the United States, where the Maine Coon breed originated. Another theory is that polydactyly was introduced by sailors who brought polydactyl cats from Europe to America as ship cats, and then these cats interbred with the local cats. A third theory is that polydactyly was a result of inbreeding among the early Maine Coon breeders, who favored the trait for its novelty and charm.

Regardless of how polydactyly came to be, it was once very common among Maine Coon cats. In fact, some sources claim that up to 40% of the Maine Coon population had extra toes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Polydactyl Maine Coons were also popular as working cats, as they were believed to have better hunting and fishing skills, as well as better balance and agility, thanks to their larger paws. Some people even considered them to be lucky charms and symbols of good fortune.

Polydactyl Maine Coons are even tied to an American Nobel Prize winner, Ernest Hemingway. He was famously gifted a 6-toed white Maine Coon by a ship’s captain named Snow White. The cat lived with Hemingway and his family at Hemingway House, now a museum, in Key West, Florida. Today there are many cats roaming the grounds at Hemingway House, and many of them are direct descendants of Snow White.

Benefits of Having Extra Toes

Other than breed organizations like the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) looking down their noses at multi-toed cats, there are no documented negative health risks associated with the condition. There are, however, some benefits these cats have over their normal-toed counterparts.

Porter the polydactyl maine coon
Photo Credit: porter_the_maine_coon (IG)

Maine Coons with extra toes have more dexterity and grip. They are better able to climb and grip objects with the additional toes, some even learning how to open door knobs – just remember to lock your bathroom door.

Extra toes also means extra wide paws, sometimes twice as wide – giving them an advantage when walking on snow, climbing trees, and grabbing prey. Leading to my belief about why this trait was so predominant in Maine Coons early on. In the 1800’s, in snowy Maine, wild polydactyl Maine Coons would have had numerous hunting advantages, allowing them better chances to survive and procreate.

Other advantages are based on appearance. Many people are enamored with polydactyl Maine coons and describe them as having more beauty, and uniqueness, and engaging in more curious and playful actions.

How Rare Are Maine Coons With Extra Toes?


Polydactyly is a congenital abnormality, meaning it is passed on directly from parent to kitten as a dominant trait. If one parent is a polydactyl then any one or more kittens can acquire the trait. Making it a common occurrence in Maine Coon litters – when not breeding to reduce the trait.

It’s hard to say how many polydactyl Maine Coons exist, but some estimates suggest that it’s around 10-15% of the total Maine Coon population. A far cry from the 40% estimate in the 1950’s. Many breeders began purposefully breeding out the trait because it was considered undesirable in the show ring.

Do Polydactyl Maine Coons Need Special Care?

Polydactyl Maine Coons do not require any special care or treatment, as they are generally healthy and robust cats. With the addition of extra toes, they may need more time for nail trimming and additional scratching posts, but otherwise are no different than any other Maine Coon.

Can Maine Coon Polydactyls be Shown?


Yes, polydactyl Maine Coons are eligible for shows, depending on the show and the parent organization. The CFA considers polydactyly a disqualification, while The International Cat Association (TICA) does not. TICA considers the Maine Coon and Maine Coon Polydactyl (MCP) as separate breeds in the same breed group, and as such, they are shown in separate classes.

Other cat associations that accept polydactyl Maine Coons are The Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF), The American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA), The Canadian Cat Association (CCA), and The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). However, these associations have different rules and regulations regarding polydactyly, and owners should check with them before entering their cats in shows or events.

Apart from the CFA, The Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) and The World Cat Federation (WCF) also do not allow polydactyly. These associations consider polydactyly to be a deviation from the breed standard and do not recognize or register polydactyl Maine Coons as purebred cats. They are also not allowed to compete or be shown in any of their shows or events.

Owners of a polydactyl Maine Coon that want to show their cat should be aware of the different policies of the associations with shows in their area.

Chase Roseberry Author Image
Chase Roseberry

Chase’s life has been a remarkable journey into the world of animals. From his time spent working with an equine Veterinarian, raising exotic snakes, and live coral aquaculture, his diverse background fuels his passion for the animal kingdom.

Read More

Leave the first comment

More From BuzzPetz

Before you go - You'll want to check out these articles!
[ultimatemember form_id="4648"]

Already a member?

Login Here

[uwp_register id="3" title="register"]

Not a member?

Register Here