Picture of a polydactyl Maine Coon plus some info

We know that the Maine Coon cat is predisposed to polydactylism. One theory is that this predisposition originates in ships' cats. I'm referring to the ships' cats at the time of the European settlers when they were emigrating from Europe to the New World. Arguably these were the first domestic cats imported into America and some of them stayed in the state of Maine where over 400 years of domestic cat evolution they eventually became this magnificent purebred cat called the Maine Coon. 

Back in the day sailors sometimes believe that the best ships' cats were those with extra toes because it helped them walk on deck in rough seas. That's a rather simplistic idea but you get the point. And it's why a lot of cats at Hemingway House in the Florida Keys were and are polydactyl cats -  so called 'Hemingway cats'. They originate from the old ships' cats. That's the theory, legend or story and you can believe it or not.

Polydactyl Maine Coon. Picture in the public domain.

The picture above is of a polydactyl Maine Coon. You can see the oversized paws which look a bit disfigured because of the extra toes and they stick out a bit. There are also the classic tufts of hair sticking out between the toes. That's classic Maine Coon too.

I would just like to add some more points about polydactylism. It's a genetically inherited i.e. congenital anatomical anomaly in humans and animals resulting in supernumerary fingers and/or toes. So it happens in people as well as cats and other animals. It is harmless in that it doesn't hurt the cat who is polydactyl. Although Wikipedia says that the condition can occur as an isolated congenital condition or it can be part of a syndrome including, for example, Down syndrome. When it occurs in an isolated way it is not harmful to the human or animal that has it.

In humans it can happen on one or both hands and in cats the only time that I have seen it is when both forepaws have it. Often cats have a noticeable thumb which sticks out the side of the "wrist". Polydactylism is associated with genetic mutations.


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