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Polydactyl maine coons


polydactyl kittenResidents of north-east of the USA (New England) consider polydactyl maine coons to be the native cats of their land. They are sure these cats are excellent hunters because extra toes make them steadier, tenacious, dexterous and let them move more easily though deep snows in winter without falling through. It was told that they even used their oversized paws to catch live fish right out of the streams and brought it home to their human families in hungry years. Polydactyls were highly appreciated by sailors for their rare capabilities in catching mice and rats. They also often accompanied the travellers and were regarded as lucky sign. Polydactyl maine coons were said to be very intelligent and more "human" if compared to ordinary cats differing in temper and habits. However, most Americans don't even suspect that once polydactyls consisted a substantial part of maine coons original population (up to 40%) and traditionally were considered to be its integral part. Their number was sspecially great in Boston region where now they make up about 12%.

poly-paw prints

Ordinary cat has by 5 toes on each front paw and by 4 - on each back foot. Polydactyls usually have one or two extra toes on each paw. Their configuration is also different. Pd (polydactylie) gene is autosomal incomplete dominant gene, i.e. it expresses itself in 40-50% of cases and isn't related to the gender. At the same time it was noted that a polydactyl kitten can be born only if one of the parents was also polydactyl. The gene has full or nearly full penetrance, meaning that if a cat doesn't express the trait it is free from Pd gene. Polydactylie is supposed to be rather common anomaly among cats doing no harm to their physical abilities. The only problem usually mentioned by polydactyl owners is the necessity to trim the claws at extra toes more often. Besides, polydactyls' offsprings are noted for heavier and broader (especially in chest and front paws) boning in comparison with the kittens born from normal-footed parents.

normal cat foot

X-ray of normal cat feet

polydactyl cat foot

X-ray of polydactyl cat feet

Polydactyls are registered by various cat fancy associations of the USA - CFA, TICA, ACFA and CFF. They can not be shown in champion class since extra toes are considered to be a deviation from the show standard, but they can be used for breeding and shown as household pets. In course of maine coon breed standard development by a group of enthusiasts from MCBFA for polydactyl maine coons there was worked out their own standard with specific classification. However, when fighting for recognition of maine coon breed as it is in champion ring this portion was excluded from the final version of sole standard submitted for overall approval. According to TICA rules polydactyl maine coons can now be shown as an experimental breed (New Traits), and in May of 2008 TICA Breed Committee found this genetic mutation admissible and making no harm to cat's health. Presently international association of polydactyl maine coon breeders and fanciers PolyStandard hold a campaign for returning these cats back to champion ring by various registrees (www.polytrak.net). The latest result of these efforts was acceptance of polydactyl maine coons to championship along with traditional-footed coons by NZCF (the New Zealand Cat Fancy - member of WCC) at their Executive Council meeting on 5-7 of December, 2008.

(based on the article by Janet Marr "Maine Coon Polydactyls, Our American Mitten Pawed Cat")


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(Courtesy of PolyStandard Group)