Polydactyl Maine Coons

Jarnac's Un G Rico P

For more information on Polydactyls, please visit: 






Un G Rico P at twelve weeks old.


MC Polys for Kids

By Sharon Otten-Boult

A poly what???  What is a Pedigree Maine Coon Polydactyl anyway…?

Well it is a beautiful big cat with a couple extra toes and we know who all their  parents and relatives were . So who is MC Polys you ask??? We are a bunch of  cat lovers from around the world called MC Polys and are working together to teach people about these special cats so if you want to know more go to www.mcpi.org on the internet…lots of  information, articles, and pictures too. I would like to  officially invite you as Vice President of MC Polys to come visit and see for yourself.

These cats came from the woods of America and are a natural breed, they have been around for a  very long time, hundreds of years. They are Maine Coon cats so they are big have a square look to there face, head, and body and look like a regular cat on top  and a long haired fur ball in its neck, belly, but, and tail. Their tails are extra long and very fluffy and  sometimes with their stripes look like a raccoon but are no relation. They come in lots of  sizes and colors too and are between 10 to 22 pounds, boys are bigger than girls, sometimes more! A while ago there was a lot of them but some people decided to get these Maine Coon cats into the show hall  but they could not let the ones with extra toes compete in competition only cats with 5 toes in front and 4 in back. So slowly people stopped mating polys and their numbers became very few! They got discriminated against because people didn’t understand they were  just different but mother nature made them that way originally not some scientist in a lab.  These cats are happy healthy sturdy strong cats, having a normal life and can sometimes do a little something extra with the extra toes. They are playful, loving, gentle, smart, handy Maine Coon cats plus their puuurrrsonality...they are very special cats to me.

Oh yea what about the extra toes???

   A non poly or non-poly cat has 4 claws/toes and 1 dew claw that is higher up on their front paws, on the back they have 4 claws/toes. Many types of animals can be polydactyl…cats, dogs, wild life, people and more. These cats have one or two extra toe on the thumb side of their paw so it often looks like they are wearing mittens. The toes can be different in their shapes but can often be used like a hand. Also they can be 6 in a straight row for really big paws. Polys can have extra toes on their front paws only or both the front and back paws. To get a polydactyl kitten either their mom or dad has to be a polydactyl too.  Breeders are careful when choosing mates and only pair a poly and non poly to keep the mitten toe form. In a litter/nest around half are born are polys  not all kittens. Right now you can not show a poly to be champion, they are not allowed to compete for titles, ribbons or trophies because of the rules and their extra toes. They are quality cats being discriminated against and we are working to change this in the future and make people understand how special they are to us!!!


Why do we want polys accepted for Championship status?




Much has been said recently about the goal of our group, PolyStandard, to advance the polydactyl

trait in Maine Coons from the New Traits Division to Championship Status. We would like to offer

some factual statements and references for all to consider. The matter will come before the TICA

Maine Coon Breed section as vote of individuals and their personal preferences as well as the TICA

Board of Directors for a ratification of this ballot. We, as the submitters of the application, are

appreciative of the views of all involved and fully respect the votes of all regardless of position.

However, we do feel that much has been said that is based on the lack of understanding of the Trait,

as well as perpetuation of tales passed on through the generations. We only ask that votes and

formal considerations of the issue be based on facts, as much more is known nowadays about

polydactylism in the Maine Coon Breed. Much of this is scientific and genetic based, and more

specific information comes from the continuing experiences of Maine Coon Breeders that are

working with the Maine Coon polydactyl. This information, from a rapidly expanding of pool of Maine

Coon Breeders that work with the poly on a daily basis, has been compiled into a Worldwide

database that is available to all: The Scientific and Genetic Community, Breeders and Fanciers all

over the World, Cat Associations and the General Public. This is, as far as we know, the most

comprehensive collection of observations and facts about a trait in a pedigreed breed that has ever

been documented. We hope that all will take advantage of the information contained in this

rationale to make an informed decision about allowing the Maine Coon polydactyl into the

Championship rings around the World and restoring equal rights and status to a large portion of the

pedigreed Maine Coon Breed.


In the scientific literature, the term polydactyly (poly meaning many and dactyl referring to digits) is

often used to refer to extra digits.

There are 2 forms of polydactyly; pre-axial and post-axial. Axial refers to the folding of the embryonic

limb. The “thumb” side is before the axis (pre-axial) and the “little finger” side is post-axial. In

humans it is usually post axial i.e. an extra little finger, whereas in cats it is normally pre-axial with

the extra toe on the thumb side of the foot.

The form of polydactyly most often seen in cats is the result of a simple autosomal dominant trait. It

does not appear to affect the cat adversely and is not known to be associated with other anomalies.



When the breed was first accepted in cat associations the decision to exclude the Maine Coon poly

was not due to health issues. It was aesthetics. The image of polydactyly was seen as a close

reference to the domestic or barn cat. It was intended to introduce the trait at a later date, once the

Maine Coon Breed was established. This visible trait was only bred out to fit show standards.

During its inception, the MCBFA included the Polydactyl Standard. It states: Our MCBFA

Polydactyl Standard has been voted in by our membership, and the wording is as follows: “The

Maine Coon Polydactyl Cat should conform to the Standard of the Maine Coon Cat, with the

exception that multiple toes are allowed on either fore or hind paws or both.” Ref: Scratch Sheet

spring 1970 (2).

In a letter (3) dated September 29th 1973 the then Vice-President of the MCBFA Mr. Ljostad says:

“We knew that many Maine Coon cats were polydactyl and did not want this trait to get entirely lost

from the breed. Then we heard that some of the breeders who had these cats were no longer able

to breed them. So my wife and I decided we had better get one and keep this trait going in the


A cat FAQ on the MCBFA website (4) refers to why the Maine Coon polydactyl was culled from the

breed as it was a disqualification in competition.


Over the course of time a few Maine Coon breeders kept the trait alive in their breeding programs.

During 2001 to 2004 these breeders started to organize, and realized there were breeders

Worldwide that had been doing the same. In 2005 there was a concentrated effort to start

reintroducing the trait again to the show ring. The Maine Coon polydactyls were entered into the

New Traits division to start the education of the trait and to start gaining exposure.

As the Maine Coon polydactyl was seen as a pet the breed standard type faltered. The breeders

started a concentrated effort to tighten up the standard on the Maine Coon polys. This will indeed

take time but from 2005 to present day the type has greatly improved.

Also there was an additional awareness. In 2006 a database litter tracking system was developed.

PolyTrak. http://www.polytrak.net. Data is being collected from litters Worldwide that have Maine

Coon polydactyls as parents. Each litter documents sire, dam, kittens, sex, color, date of birth,

digit description, still born, cat association registry, country location and breeder comments. Data

tracking also includes a search/sort of gender, poly – non poly, digits left or right front, left or right

rear, number of paws that are polydactyl or name.




Total Kittens Listed = 801

Total Males = 387 (51.3%) Total Females = 367

(48.7%) Total Not Counted = 47

Total Polys = 430 (55.7%) Total Non Polys = 342

(44.3%) Total Not Counted = 29

Number of Pd gene affected paws per kitten (Polydactyl)

Number of Polys sampled = 430

1WD = 4 (1%) 2FWD = 169 (40.6%) 2RWD = 7 (1.7%)

3WD = 27 (6.5%) 4WD = 209 (50.2%) Unknown = 14

Individual Kitten Listings - Sorted by Number of Poly Paws

At the end of August 2009 there are 798 kittens listed in PolyTrak born as part of a polydactyl litter.

428 of these kittens listed are polydactyl.

· 4 Kittens (1.1%) are 1WD

· 167 Kittens (40.3%) are 2FWD

· 7 Kittens (1.7%) are 2RWD

· 27 Kittens (6.5%) are 3WD

· 209 (50.5%) are 4WD

· 14 Kittens have unknown paws

· 428 litter kittens are from poly Sire

· 345 litter kittens are from poly Dam

· 28 litter kittens – both parents are poly

· 7 litter kittens have homozygous Sire


No litter kittens with homozygous Dam

Go to the source:

Information concerning breeding with the Maine Coon polydactyl should be accessed from

experienced Maine Coon breeders that have had the polydactyls in their programs for a number of

years. They have documented matings that include poly x non poly, poly x poly and homozygous

poly x non-poly. Documentation from the breeders show there is no effects with a poly x poly

mating. It is suggested to do a poly x non-poly mating to track the genetics of the parents to know

which one the polydactyl gene came from. To get a poly you need a poly. On average with the

listings with PolyTrak to date, we are showing that 55.7% of kittens born are polydactyl. Individual

litters produce individual results and this percentage is averaged over many litters. Breeders have

reported no poly kittens in litters, one, two, three….etc. It is a roll of the dice and can be compared

to the male/female percentage, you have a 50 50 chance with each kitten. When you have a poly x

poly mating it is estimated you will have 75% poly kittens in a litter. If one parent is a homozygous

poly then the litter will be 100% polydactyl.


Dr. Leslie Lyons, University of California, Davis has worked with Maine Coon breeders for years,

collecting DNA samples to identify the polydactyl gene. Her determination coupled with other

studies states the following: Pd gene is absolutely harmless even when homozygous and has

nothing in common with Rh gene. (5)

As well these Maine Coon polydactyl DNA samples have been used in an in depth study by:

Human Molecular Genetics, 2008, Vol. 17, No. 7 978–985 (6)


Advance Access published on December 21, 2007

Laura A. Lettice, Alison E. Hill, Paul S. Devenney and Robert E. Hill_

MRC-Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Crewe Rd, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK

The determination is as follows:

Discussion: (page 6)

Analysis of polydactylous cats identified three new mutations associated with preaxial polydactyly.

As found for human and mouse (8), the cat mutations reside within the ZRS suggesting that the

nature of preaxial polydactyly in cats is equivalent to other mammals. Since these mutations

produce a limb-specific phenotype in human with no other discernible physiological defects, we

submit that this type of polydactyly has no further detrimental affect on the cat’s health.


The advancement to Championship Status for the Maine Coon polydactyl would require a change to

the breed standard. Polydactyl allowed, maximum 7 digits per paw.

Because the polydactyl gene can be expressed in different ways, a digit description has been

devised for clarity on thumbs, toes and dewclaws. Please see attachment (7).

We at PolyStandard (a group of 70 plus members representing well over a hundred current

Breeders and Show people around the World from all the major Cat Associations) have listened

carefully to your claims, and, to the best of our ability, we have taken the time to look further into

your statements. With the best interest of the Maine Coon, both polydactyl and standard-footed, we

offer the following information and offer you sources of factual information.


Much has been said over the years about the fact that polydactylism is a breeding defect that will

produce extreme expressions and severe maladies to a Maine Coon. Nothing could be further from

the truth as born out by Scientific Studies and general observations for decades.

I. In 1947 The Danforth Studies of a largely in-bred population from two DLH Dams produced

254 poly kittens which were observed and logged: "The trait is not related to sex, and no

evidence is found that its gene is lethal" He did not find evidence of split foot or radial

hypoplasia (also called radial hemimelia) in his studies. (Source: Messybeast -

http://www.messybeast.com/poly-cats.html Copyright 2001-2009). (8)

II. In 2007, Laura A. Lettice, Alison E. Hill, Paul S. Devenney and Robert E. Hill from the MRCHuman

Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital in Edinburgh U. K. studied polydactylism in

the feline world. This was an attempt to expand on the current known genes that produce

polydactyl expression in various species including humans, mice and cats. The feline study

identified 3 variants of the Pd Gene, although similar, had slightly different expressions. This

brought the total to 13, the number of identified genetic expressions of polydactylism, 3 of

which were specifically associated with cats only. Although noted in the study, that

polydactylism can be a problem in other species, no noted problems were found in the feline

world. This study included Pedigreed Maine Coons, as well as Pedigreed PixieBobs and

British Cats. The 3 variants are all benign expressions of the Pd gene. The study concluded

that: "Analysis of polydactylous cats identified three new mutations...we submit that this type

of polydactyly has not further detrimental effect on the cat's health". (Source; Human

Molecular Genetics, 2008, Vol. 17, No. 7 doi:10.1093/hmg/ddm370 Advance Access

published on December 21, 2007). The quote is a bit out of context, but the full report and

conclusions can be read from the source. (6)

III. In 2006 PolyTrak was established to further look into the expressions of polydactylism in the

Maine Coon Breed. Although not Scientific from the standpoint of controlled breeding and

observations in a sterile lab, the PolyTrak studies have involved a much larger number of

pedigreed Maine Coon kittens and adults over the past 9 years from "real-world" settings.

These observations and studies are continuing to this day to compare the Scientific studies

with observations from Catteries and pet-homes throughout the World. With over a 1000

Maine Coons, no noted detrimental effects from a genetic standpoint have been

observed...thus lending credence to the above noted Scientific studies and observations.

(Source: www.polytrak.net)

IV. In addition to the above observations and studies, over 40 years of breeding and working

with Maine Coon polydactyls from Catteries and responsible breeders around the World

supports the hypothesis that if polydactyl breeding in pedigreed Maine Coons were a

problem, "We would certainly know that by now!"

V. "Mother Nature" selectively perpetuates or culls various genetic traits from all species based

on "survivability" criteria. Those traits that aid a cat will be retained and most likely enhanced

over hundreds or thousands of years. Those traits that are not conducive to its survivability

will be not favorably maintained and will die out of a population. Regardless of personal

feelings of whether or not a Maine Coon poly should be standing "front and center" in the

Show Ring, we as stewards of these animals have a duty to not randomly cull or diminish a

trait based on what we would like to compete with. We also have a duty as stewards to aid in

the elimination of debilitating genetic maladies that can cause a "quality of life" issue with a

particular cat or the breed as a whole.


The Maine Coon polydactyl has been fully accepted as part of the Maine Coon breed and has equal

status for show purposes in the New Zealand Cat Fancy (the first WCC member organization to do

so). Maine Coon polys are generally accepted for registration as a Maine Coon throughout many

Cat Associations around the World, including TICA. The few that do not accept the Maine Coon

polydactyl as part of the MC Breed are now beginning to revisit that stance. The F.C.C.Q, recently

made such a change and discussions are on-going in other Associations. TICA, as a genetics based

Registry and with "member-driven" policies, has made provisions for the introduction of a non-harmful

trait and "genetically valid trait" into a Breed Standard. This is done primarily through an

"Advanced New Traits" division, where the trait can be observed and the cat judged as a Maine

Coon in a "show ring" setting, so that all may see the expression and how a cat compares to its

other pedigreed counterparts. This display and judging has been going on throughout the World

since September of 2005. Again no noted problems or genetic expressions that would preclude its

full acceptance.

It is generally accepted throughout the Cat Fancy that Maine Coon polydactyls are indeed an

intricate and positive part of the Maine Coon Breed. Although there are a myriad of Rules and

Standards in the various Cat Associations, all can be changed to allow full acceptance of the poly

Maine Coon by forward-thinking people without personal prejudice.

There is a concern that accepting Maine Coon polydactyls in the show ring would encourage

extreme breeding practices. This could be a valid concern from the standpoint that extreme (and

sometimes harmful) traits are bred for showing purposes in the name of a perfect or better show

quality cats. Due the different nature of the Pd gene in Maine Coons from other dominant traits, this

is likely not possible. Mother Nature has built in a limit of 9 or 10 digits just due to the physical

limitations and space on the limb bud. Although documented Maine Coons have never exceeded 8

digits (Source: www.polytrak.net) , if a way were found to breed cats with excessive number of

digits, the limit would soon be reached due to physical restraints. Further, as a protection against

this remote possibility, TICA, recognizing polydactyly as a valid trait, any polydactyl variant of an

established breed showing in Championship status, would be limited to a maximum of 7 digits per

paw. The Pixie Bob Breed has placed a maximum of 7 digits for show purposes and the Maine

Coon would do likewise. Thus in the show ring, at least with TICA, one will never see a cat with

more than 7 digits on a paw. (Source: www.tica.org) This at present encompasses over 99% of the

sampled kittens born in the last few years.

The fact that remains is the gene is variable in expression regardless of breeding combinations. It is

not lethal or even different in expression in its homozygous form, as is the case in some other

expressions of a dominant gene. (Source: Dr. Leslie Lyons, - UC Davis, California seminar before

The World Congress 2009, Arnhem, The Netherlands) (9)

Any areas concerning genetics can at some time produce anomalies of nature. Extremes may be

found in any areas. This is the exception in life. Not the rule.

The Maine Coon polydactyl was part of this "natural" Breed and even in the beginning was

considered and desired by many to be included as a Maine Coon in the Standard. (Source:


It’s origins in the State of Maine are so cherished it is the Official Maine State Cat and fully accepted

in their hearts, regular footed or polydactyl.

We as fanciers and breeders of the Maine Coon polydactyl are custodians of the breed first and

foremost. The breed standard should not supersede protection of the breed and its harmless

naturally occurring traits.

In every sense we believe the full meaning of this TICA statement and are firmly committed. “We

are tireless champions for the welfare of cats.”

We are the champions for these great cats we feel should be Champions as well.

Thank you

The Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers that support the Maine Coon Polydactyl Championship

Status of a New Trait - PolyStandard


(1) Polydactyly and Related Traits - Dr. Solveig Pflueger, Fall 1998

(2) Scratch Sheet spring 1970

(3) Letter dated September 29th 1973 of the then Vice-President of the MCBFA Mr.Ljostad

(4) FAQ reference on the MCBFA website http://www.fanciers.com/breed-faqs/maine-coon-faq.html

(5) Dr. Lyons in Moscow-PolyTrak Newsletter

(6) Human Molecular Genetics, 2008, Vol. 17, No. 7 978–985


(8) Polydactyl Cats: Messybeast - http://www.messybeast.com/poly-cats.html

(9) Dr. Lyons in Arnhem – PolyTrak Newsletter


Polydactyly and Related Traits - Dr. Solveig Pflueger, Fall 1998

Attached article

Dr. Leslie Lyons - 2001

Maine Coon breeders with polydactyls in their programs start sending DNA swabs to UC Davis for

genetic testing

September 2005

Dr. Solveig Pflueger at the TICA Annual 2005 show suggested starting the database.

PolyTrak http://www.polytrak.net International Maine Coon Polydactyl Litter Tracking Database

Over 1156 listings to date

June 2006

DNA samples can now be sent to University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA

USA 95616. Cotton swabs can be used for samples, include Polytrak database number for

pedigree tracking

Human Molecular Genetics, 2008, Vol. 17, No. 7 978–985


Advance Access published on December 21, 2007 – attached article

Point mutations in a distant sonic hedgehog cis-regulator generate a variable regulatory

output responsible for preaxial polydactyly

Laura A. Lettice, Alison E. Hill, Paul S. Devenney and Robert E. Hill_

MRC-Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Crewe Rd, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK

Received October 16, 2007; Revised November 20, 2007; Accepted December 16, 2007

Seminar in Moscow, Russian federaton

Dr. Leslie Lyons, PhD, Assistant Professor at UC Davis, California recently

presented a seminar on genetics in Moscow, Russian Federation

Statement from Dr Lyons: Pd gene is absolutely harmless

even when homozygous and has nothing in common with Rh gene.

April 11, 2009 World Cat Congress, The Netherlands:

Open discussion with WCC Delegates began at 17:15.

Delegates spoke about their thoughts on including the Maine Coon Poly in the show ring.

Dr. Leslie Lyons UC Davis commented: a recent study on polydactyly was done and that

there are no problems with Maine Coon polydactyls, not even when they were homozygous.

July – Sept 2009 Correspondence with Dr. Leslie Lyons and Vonne Bode, Database

Coordinator, PolyTrak







The Origin of the Maine Coon Cat

Lida E. Choate

Papa would say to me, “so you love Coon Cats and Kittens.  I do too.  Do you know how the first Coon Cat and Kittens got into our barn?”  Of course I said, “No, but I want to know.”

Our barn was the home of many Maine Coon Cats and Kittens.  The special mother or kitten was the Money or Lucky Cat or Kitten.  She would have large patches of orange and black on her back and white on her underside.  Her face would be one-half deep orange and one-half black, we would call it a blaze.  Her nose would be a delightful pink and her under chin and front paws would be the whitest white:  The fur would flow like a judge’s ascot.  Her eyes, reflecting a know-it-all expression, were like deep pools of amber.

So many times I have watched my father milking a cow sitting on the milk stool and the steady rhythmic zing of milk striking the pail with the force of a bullet.  With each educated pull of the udder, his head would press against the cow’s flank, almost like a caress.  Sitting directly to his left and back of the cow forming a line would be a Coon Money Cat, the mother with her half grown Coon Kittens, looking like statues watching him intently as my father milked cow after cow.  Every so often with a move that was deftly made, he would aim the mild at the waiting cats faces, yes.  Then they would take a few minutes for groom-up time, and sit and wait until it was their turn again. The cow would be completely milked and stripped in about five minutes.  Then, papa would move to the next cow, and the cats would move with him.  My father milked like a machine with no protest from the cow, and that is an art, my friend.  I might add that I learned to milk a cow when I was so young that I believed I was born know how to milk a cow.

I am going to turn back many years and tell you about how the first Maine Coon cat and her kittens came to our barn.  My father’s grandmother told him that her mother was Mary Haley, but everybody called her Molly, and her father was Jonathan Tarbox.  Molly’s parents owned the adjoining Haley farm.  The Tarbox farm and the Haley farm are both beautiful homes today.  The Haley house has had many stories written about it, talks of early Indian encounters.

Jonathan and Molly walked through the fields picking mayflowers, lady slippers, and violets which grew in abundance.  They would always end up their jaunts by going back to Jonathan’s house.

They would seek out Jonathan’s father and inquire of him if there were any new kittens in the barn.  If there were, his father would take Jonathan and Molly to where the kittens were, and he would explain, “now these are newborn kittens.  They will not open their eyes for about ten days, they will be fully dependent on their mother for about six weeks.  Do not disturb them because the mother cat will hide them from us”.  Jonathan and Molly agreed to keep it a secret.

At the foot of the Tarbox farm there is a body of water known as “The Pool.”  This is from the Saco River and the Atlantic Ocean out for six hours it leaves a vast area of calm flats, but when the tide is in The Pool is very deep.  This is where Captain Richard Vines along with thirty-two men in the winter of 1616 and 1617 built a log cabin on Leighton’s Point adjoining the now Haley farm, and spend the winter s an experiment to see if they could survive the severe winter.  Their vessel, in which their supplies were kept, was anchored in The Pool.  At this period, our adventurers had no English neighbors nearer than Jamestown, Virginia.  This was four years before the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth.  There is today a monument erected just off the Pool Road in memory of their bravery.  Captain Richard Vines along with others was engaged in transporting colonists to this coast.

As my father went on with his story, according to his grandmother, an American sailing vessel, the Glen Laurie, whose captain was Enoch snow from Provincetown, was heading for the Maine coast with its cargo to trade with the settlers.  This ship had a young English cabin boy on it; he had shipped-on in England.  His name was Tom Coon.  The sailors called him Boy Coon.  Besides his galley duties, he was detailed to look after the captain’s cat.  Now Tom Coon was trying to find a solution to what he considered a big problem.  In one of the ports, which the ship had put into, it was Tom Coon’s job to add more cats to the ship supply.  These cats lived on the wharf.  They should be rugged cats, ready to tackle and rat and win the battle. While Tom was catching these wharf cats, the sailors would be visiting the taverns.  Many times Tom would be frightened when the sailors rowed back to the ship.  Sometimes it would be several hours waiting until the decided to return to the shop.  So, Tom would check all of the cats carefully and watch them stalk and kill the big wharf rats, then he would try to catch the best cats.  Tom Coon was waiting and watching.  While sitting on an old plank, he felt a nudge.  Tom looked around, and the most beautiful small, black, orange and whit, long-haired cat put her head into his hand, looked up into his face, and mewed.

Tom Coon was thinking fast.  He just had to have this beautiful cat.  But how?  Then he thought, I’ll hide her I my cabin.  His cabin was just big enough for his bunk with a drawer under it for his possessions.  A bible his mother had given him was carefully wrapped I his well-laundered shirt along with his Sunday suit.  He also had a footlocker at the foot of his bunk.  Tom Coon just had to sneak this beautiful long-haired cat onto the ship and into his cabin.  It would be a great risk.  The cat had snuggled into his arms and was purring.  So, Tom Coon caught some large ships cats, put them carefully into sacks, and buttoned his pretty cat under his coat. It was late when the sailors returned and they were too boisterous to notice.  They put Tom Coon into the dory with his gunnysacks.  Tom Coon got his special cat into his cabin.  He carried part of his meal and anything else that he could find from the galley into his cabin for the cat.  He had never been so happy since he shipped on this vessel.  At night he would cradle his beautiful cat in his arms and think while he listened to her steady, melodious purr.  As the days passed, he kept his secret, but he noticed that his precious cat was making a nest in his footlocker.  One morning when he got up, his cat was not curled up in her usual place on his bunk.  Tom almost panicked with fear that he had lost his cat, so he first checked his footlocker.  There was his beautiful cat with three wee wee baby kittens plying their tiny paws into her stomach, nursing the mother cat.  Tom was overjoyed, but it complicated the situation.  He had to think of something.  He had never had a responsibility like this before.  Tom Coon’s mind was working overtime.  His beautiful cat with kittens so small he could cradle one in his had and completely enclose it…  Tom put this tiny bundle of fur close to his cheek.  He was living, for the moment, in ecstasy.  He would dream he would someday be a chip captain, and all his s hip cats would be beautiful longhaired cats.  He would go inland from the wharves and get the best cats.  Many of his dreams turned out to be true.  Then he would have to return to his current problem.  One kitten was the most beautiful deep orange with a pink nose and white neck and bib.  Then Tom Coon noticed that his kitten had extra toes on all four white feet.  Upon checking the silver colored one and the one marked just like her mommy, they all had extra toes.  He didn’t know if this was good or bad for the kittens, but Tom had other problems for the moment.  Caring for the mother cat and keeping the kittens alive came first.  Mother cat helped in every why she could.  As the ship pitched and rolled, she cradled her babies close to her to form a buffer between the side of the footlocker and herself.  She was so proud, and would put her paw into Tom Coon’s hand to try to reassure him that things would be all right.   Tom Coon was extra careful to do everything just right in the galley to keep the cook happy, and to keep the captain’s cat well fed and cared for.

Still, tom Coon had to come up with a plan.  He finally decided to go directly to the captain and ask for his help.  This was a great decision.  He was so fearful that the captain would be angry and possibly take drastic actions toward his beautiful cat and her kittens.  The time must be right.  His plan must be well prepared.  So, each night he would rehearse it with his beautiful mother cat and her babies.  With a wee baby kitten cradled in one hand and running his fingers lovingly along the mother cat’s back, he would tell her of his plan.  She would open and shut her eyes as if nodding her complete approval, and with all kinds of ideas chasing around in his head he would fall asleep.

The weeks passed quickly and the kittens were now rolling over and playing with one another, still in the footlocker.  They were always listening for Tome Coon to appear.  He would pick each kitten up, press it to his cheek tenderly and carefully, and whisper to it, “you dear, dear little babe.  I just have to get a home for you.  The best home in the whole world, where you will get plenty of good, rich cow’s milk, all you want to eat, and a warm place to live with someone who will love you just like I love you.”  The kitten tucked in his hand would look directly into his eyes seeming to say, “you will, Tom Coon, you will,” and Tom Coon would say aloud, “I will, I will.”  My mother used to tell me, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

So Tom Coon decided that tomorrow would be the day he would go to Captain Snow with his big problem.  When he awakened, he was excited and his heart was pounding.  He said a prayer asking God’s guidance and help.  This was Sunday, and on the Glen Laurie Sunday was a special day.  Captain Snow held services, which the sailors were welcome to attend.

Tom Coon sat silently in the corner until Captain Snow had finished reading from the Bible and announced, “Here endeth the services,” then repeated the benediction.  Tom Coon prayed for God’s help and walked up to the captain.  In his most mature voice he said, “Captain Snow?”  Captain Snow replied, “Yes, Tom Coon?”  Then Tom said, ‘I need your help.”  Captain Snow said, “I am ready to help you, what is your problem?”  Then Tom Coon poured out his whole story, how he had stowed h is beautiful cat in his cabin, and about her kittens born in his footlocker.  As Tom Coon talked he was so engrossed that he hardly noticed that captain Enoch Snow, who was looking down on him, was such a giant of a man.  He was about six feet three inches tall, his kind face was lined as if etched by the salt sea spray, and his brown eyes were like bottomless pools that seemed to penetrate into the very soul of mankind.  When Tom Coon had finished, Captain Enoch Snow gently laid his large hand on Tom Coon’s shoulder and softy said, “it’s OK, Tom Coon.  You see, in a couple of weeks we will be sailing into Winter Harbor; that is in Biddeford Pool, Maine.  Maine is a new state.  It used to be part of Massachusetts, but in 1820 Maine became a state.  In 1639, all territory as we know Maine today was given over by a Royal charter to Sir Ferdinand Gorges.  The wording of the charter reads that this land shall forever be called the Province and Country of Maine, and not by any other name whatsoever.  That was the first time that Maine was ever officially used anywhere.”  Captain Snow continued, “where this pool makes up it borders farm property owned by Joseph Tarbox, and he is a friend.  He has a big warm barn and the mows are stacked with new mown hay and the tie-up has many cows.  They have a son Jonathan who is about your age.  We will lay over for a week or two so we can replenish our stock of supplies at the Cutts store at Biddeford Pool.  I will leave you with the Tarbox family while we trade down the coast and pick you up when we return.”  Tom Coon was so happy that he almost cried with joy.  So Captain Snow helped Tom Coon transport his mother cat and her kittens to the Tarbox Barn.  The mother cat and kittens seemed so pleased to have the freedom of the big barn to romp and hunt in.  Tom Coon told Jonathan and Molly all about getting his cat in the most minute detail.  Well, these cats were called Coon Cats and Coon Kittens for Tom Coon.  The orange kitten and the silver kitten were boy kittens.  Jonathan called them Tom and Tommy, and I sometimes wonder if that is why a boy cat is called a Tom cat today.  Well, my father went on to tell me that Tom Coon gave his beautiful cat and her kittens to Jonathan.  For many years Tom Coon came back to visit with the Tarbox family, and he was the captain of many ships over the years.  Captain Coon always brought with him a longhaired kitten as a gift for Jonathan and Molly who were married and had a son Joseph who was Papa’s grandfather.  Well, do you know Papa said, “as Tom and Tommy Coon cats visited the neighboring farms and long-haired kittens were born, these long-haired kittens were called Coon Kittens for Tom Coon.  The three colored Coon Kittens or Coon Cats became a much-desired kitten or cat, so much that the farmers would trade a bag of grain or a bag of vegetables to get a three colored Coon Kitten or Cat.  So, they were called Money Kittens or cats.  Then, as time went on, the barn with the three colored Coon Cat in it seemed to bring the farmer luck, so they were also called lucky Coon Cats.”  That still seems to be true today.

As my father talked on, my child’s mind saw a picture of Tom Coon giving his beautiful long-haired cat and her three kittens to him, and the Coon Cat and her three half-grown kittens sitting waiting for a zip of milk were the coon cat and Coon Kittens he was telling me about.

Now while I am telling you this, Papa’s story of the Maine Coon Cat and Kittens, he told it to me sixty years ago.  And, while I am reminiscing, sitting watching me is my Maine Coon Cat, a beautiful large orange male with a bright pink nose and a flowing white bib, with large double paws.  He must be a descendant of the Tom Coon Kittens born on the Glen Laurie.


Maine Coon


·         Requires regular grooming

·         Friendly with children

·         Good-natured

·         Healthy and robust

·         Active and playful

·         Efficient mouser

·         Moderately quiet


The Maine Coon is an old American breed whose ancestry traces back to the cats brought to the northeastern United States by early settlers.  Some far-fetched myths are attached to its origins: one is that it evolved from matings between domestic cats and raccoons (offspring from such breedings are genetically impossible); another is that it descends from Marie Antoinette’s cats that were shipped to Maine in anticipation of her escape from prison during the French Revolution; and a third involves a strange “Captain Coon,” whose reality has never been substantiated.  Most authorities, however believe that Maine Coons resulted from crosses between early Angoras or Persians and domestic shorthairs.  The breed was more than likely named for its area of origin and distinctive color and markings.  Brown Tabbies were (and still are) the most popular color, and the breed’s bushy tail does resemble that of a raccoon.  Maine Coons were popular show cats in the last century, one named Leo being designated “Best Cat” at the first organized show at Madison Square Garden in 1895.  But as the more unusual breeds came into vogue the Maine Coon experienced a gradual decline in popularity until its resurgence in the 1960’s.

Maine Coons are large-boned, solidly built cats.  They tend to mature slowly.  Their heavy, shaggy coats, will-tufted “snowshoe” paws, and busy tails are ideal for harsh climates.  Maine Coons require regular grooming, but their coats are less inclined to mat than most other long-coated breeds, except during heavy-shedding periods.  The breed comes in practically every possible cat color or coat pattern.  They are friendly and devoted (most love to hug), and males of the breed are reported to be more affectionate than the females.




FEBRUARY 2002  Article from Your Cat Magazine - www.yourcat.co.uk

 More Toes than Most

Why do some cats have more toes that others? Depending which side of the Pond you live, it's to be bred out or celebrated says ELIZABETH PERRY.

Tiger has an amazing 27 toes. At just nine months old this cutest of kittens, owned by Gareth Ukrainetz, from Leduc in Alberta, Canada, has been officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the Cat with the most toes'. Tiger has seven toes on each front foot, and seven on her left hind foot, but only six toes on her right hind foot. Most cats have five toes on the front paws (four toes and one dew claw) and four on each of the hind paws, a total of 18. Tiger has beaten the previous record holder, Twinkle Toes, owned by Gloria Boensch of Birch Run, Michigan. The three-year-old female has a mere 25 toes. Tiger was born with a condition called polydactyly (Greek for Omany fingers'), which is a fairly common mutation in the domestic feline world.

Many toes Polydactyly has affected cats for hundreds of years but was only scientifically recognised in the mid-1800s. It is an inherited condition in which a dominant gene causes extra toes to be formed on one or more feet. Though the condition varies from animal to animal, it will always affect the front feet and sometimes the back feet as well. The abnormality may simply be an enlargement of the inside digit into a thumb, (known as a Omitten cat'), or there may be up to three extra Oentire' toes on the paw. In general, polydactyl cats are not disabled and have no problems in walking, climbing or jumping and balance. Because the extra toes are a different length, the cat is unable to strop the additional claw and it can grow so long that it may actually grow into the paw pad. Owners must therefore clip the claws regularly. If there is a persistent problem, the toe may be declawed by a vet, one of the few circumstances where the operation is allowed in the UK. If two extra toes are fused together the nail bed will also be fused. This leads to the growth of one Osuperclaw', which is much stronger and thicker than normal, making it more lethal for furniture and human flesh! The claw may twist as it grows and become ingrown. When an extra toe causes repeated problems, it can be removed in a simple operation.

Hemingway Cats

Writer Ernest Hemingway, a great cat lover, had polydactyl cats among the 50 or so that shared his island. One, Princess Six Toes, became famous and appeared in the New York Times' and other American magazines. Because of this, multi-toed cats are often referred to as Hemingway cats. Other famous polydactyl cats include President Teddy Roosevelt's cat, Slippers. There is a high incidence of polydactyl cats along the United States' east coast. At one time, 40 per cent of the original Maine Coon population in New England were polydactyl. This led to claims that the cats developed extra toes to act as snowshoes! The most likely explanation is that polydactyl cats were considered lucky (probably because their large paws meant they were good mousers) and often taken on as ships' cats. When many of the seamen settled along the US coast their cats remained as well. There is also a high incidence of polydactyl cats in south-west England, perhaps for the same reason.

No Show

Polydactyly is generally seen as a fault in show cats and was Obred out' of Maine Coons, yet in the US efforts are being made to reinstate the condition for both Maine Coon and Pixie-Bob breeds. New breeds are also being developed that include multi-toes as part of the breed standard, such as the Hemingway Sphynx, a hairless polydactyl cat. In the UK, polydactyly is seen as a breed fault. Frances Peace, secretary of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) says: "Additional toes are on our standard list of defects. Though polydactyl cats can be shown, they would not receive a certificate or a first prize. Our list of defects applies to all standards of breed. I cannot think that it's a feature that benefits the cat," she added. Penny Bydlinski, general secretary of FIFe, (the worldwide cat show/breed body) reveals why multi-toed cats are banned at Cat Association shows. "To allow such abnormalities would encourage inbreeding in pedigree cats," she explains. "It is a fault and polydactyl cats are not allowed to be shown."

Personal Experience

Jane Burton, one of the UK's top animal photographers, has helped with research into polydactyly in cats. "I was given a rescue moggy in 1993 who was a polydactyl cat and had 26 toes. I liked her and I decided to mate her with a Burmese cross. The kittens were Burmese lookalikes and around half of them were born with extra toes. Jane continued breeding from her polydactyl cats and kept records of family trees, which she passed onto researcher Dr Susan Long at Bristol Vet School. "I tried mating two polydactyl cats and their kittens varied with what extra toes they had," she explains, "though none of the kittens I bred had as many as the original female. I didn't notice any problems with the polydactyl cats, but somebody I rehomed one to did say that the cat caught his feet on the covers of the furniture." Unfortunately, after four years, Jane was persuaded to part with her last polydactyl female, putting an end to her breeding programme.

The Genetics

Dr Susan Long is a senior lecturer in reproduction at Bristol Vet School and is director of the course in genetics. After conducting research into polydactyly, she is able to explain how it is passed on through the generations. "The simplest assumption, in the absence of other evidence, is that the mutation originally occurred in one cat and was passed down through its offspring. "Polydactyly is caused by an autosomal dominant gene. Through research we know that if one parent carries one copy of the gene and the other parent has none, the inherited genes are heterozygous and half the kittens will be born with polydactyly. If one parent has two copies of the gene (passed down by one copy from each grandparent) the genes are homozygous and all the kittens will be born with polydactyly. "It's actually a very interesting gene," enthuses Dr Long. "Because there are various manifestations in the way the toes are formed, how many and on which feet, this suggests it's a main simple gene with variable expression."


The Maine Coon Cat

 A definition from the Dell Encyclopedia of Cats by Barbara Hazen….

 “Maine Coon Cat:  Also called Maine Cat or Coon Cat, this is a big, solid-looking, long-furred cat whose origins are open to speculation.  One story tells that the Maine Coon cast are all descendents f the cats brought over by a Captain Coon in the early days of American history.

To qualify for a Maine Coon, it has to be like the above, and either born in the state of Maine of be able to trace its ancestry to the State of Maine. 

The Maine Coon cat is the only true American cat.  It is an offspring of the hardy shorthaired cat brought in by the early settlers breeding with captain Coon’s longhaired cats.  The first longhaired kittens to appear in a litter of kittens were called Coon’s kittens.

The story which I have written begins when Captain Coon was a cabin boy named Tom Coon before he had earned the distinction of being Captain of an English sailing vessel.  His love for the longhaired cat continued over his many years of sailing the seas.

The picture on the front is the Tarbox farm home on the Pool Road, Biddeford, Maine taken about 1916.  This is where I was born and spent my childhood.  The Tarbox barn was where Tom Coon’s mother cat and kittens found a home.  The barn was constructed with hand-hewn beams and wooden pegs.  To the right of the big barn doors in the same building was a tie-up.  This was a room where the cows were kept when they were not in the pasture.  The heat from the cattle kept this room very warm and this was a favorite place for the cats.  The cows were milked in this tie-up. 

In the main barn were haylofts for the storage for hay for the winter months.  When I was growing up, our farm barn was a living home for the farm animals.  This farm was sold in 1946, and is no longer used as farm property

At the foot of our farmland about one-eighth of a mile is a body of water which shows on the map as The Pool.  This pool is salt water and controlled by the Atlantic Ocean; the tied ebbs and flows into this area.  Besides living off the food of the land, The Pool had a plentiful supply of seafoods, clams, lobsters, and fish.  We were seven miles from the city of Biddeford.

The map on the front is an aerial view drawn about 1880.  This is of interest to the people who are familiar with the Pool Road and Biddeford Pool, and the places that surround it.  There have been many changes over the years.


Baby Poly kittens from Gayle and Butch


A Little Bit Extra

 by Karen Commings

I could not find a way to contact the author for permission, so here is a link to her personal site...



Polydactyl cats have extra toes, often on all four feet. Here's what you should know about this charming characteristic.

Larry Houck, a cat owner from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has a neutered male cat with more than the normal five toes on his front feet, a condition called polydactyly ("poly" meaning multiple and "dactyly" referring to the fingers and toes). Houck named his cat Rocky, after the movie character, because the cat's three extra toes on each front paw make him look like he's wearing boxing gloves. Like Rocky, most polydactyl cats have an endearing, even comical quality.

Polydactyl cats are often referred to as mitten cats or Hemingway cats after the plethora of extra-toed cats owned by the writer Ernest Hemingway at his home in Key West, Florida. In fact, descendants of his original polydactyl cats still proliferate at the Hemingway home home, which is now a museum.

Polydactyly, also called hyperdactyly, occurs in several species of animals, including cats and humans. In cats, polydactyly can result in any number of extra digits. "Most of the time, all four feet are affected," says Dr. Solveig.

Pflueger, MD, director of medical genetics at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts and chair of the genetics committee for The International Cat Association (TICA), "and on the back legs, the cat may have just a dew claw." Although the number of extra toes varies from cat to cat, a total of 28 toes seems to be the upper limit.

Polydactyly can be pre-axial (extra thumbs on the inside of the limb) or post-axial (extra fingers on the outside of the limb). In humans, polydactyly is most often expressed post-axially, while in cats, polydactyly is most often pre-axial, so that a polydactyl cat will appear to have extra thumbs. 

A Matter of Genes

Polydactyly is due to the presence of an autosomal dominant gene, Pd (see sidebar). It is a dominant trait with nearly 100 percent penetrance. "A cat that has the gene will show the gene," says Dr. Pflueger. If a polydactyl cat mates with a normal-toed cat, on aver­age half or more of the offspring will show polydactyly. "The polydactyly trait probably arose as a spontaneous mutation, and a polydactyl kitten from two normal-toed parents may represent a new mutation event," explains Dr. Pflueger.


Polydactyly occurs in several species of animals, including cats and humans. In cats, all four feet are affected most of the time.

The gene for polydactyly, however, shows variable expressivity (see side-bar), which means that some poly­dactyl cats have more toes than others. Little has been learned about how the polydactyly gene functions, however. "Up until recently, we saw polydactyly only in household pets rather than as a result of selective breeding," says Dr. Pflueger, “but because polydactyly is now accepted within the Pixie Bob breed [recognized by TICA], it may be possible to get more information on the trait.

The autosomal dominant gene Pd produces a condition that deviates from normal but does not compromise the well-being of the cat. But another unrelated gene, RH, produces a severely crippling condition called radial hypoplasia that resembles polydactyly. A cat suffering from radial hypoplasia has an unusually small, twisted or absent radius (see sidebar on next page), producing the "twisty cat" phenomenon. Although extra toes may be present in RH cats, the normal (Pd) form of polydactyly is not harmful. "The gene that eliminates or produces a poorly developed radius has nothing to do with the normal form of polydactyly," says Dr. Pflueger.

From There to Here

Polydactyly was noted in the general cat population as early as the late 1800s. Polydactyl cats are found all over the United States, but New England and Florida, especially the Keys, seem to have the greatest concentration of them. Polydactyl cats are also found in Great Britain, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. No one is entirely sure how polydactyl cats came to America, or even if they came here from elsewhere.  Some people believe polydactyls are an American phenome­npn and made their way to other parts of the globe on sailing vessels.

Other folks believe the reverse.  “Are they separate mutation events or the result of human commerce?” says Dr. Pflueger.  "People bring cats with  them wherever they go." Whatever its heritage, if you have a polydactyl cat, you may consider yourself lucky, as did sailors in previous centuries who traveled with the multitoed mousers onboard.Keep your polydactyl kitten healthy, just as you would a normal-toed kitten, with regular veterinary checkups. Trim his toenails regularly to prevent them from becoming ingrown. "If your car has a thumb with an extra toe in between, there may be an increased risk of ingrown toenails,” says Dr. Pflueger.


A Glossary of Terms

Autosomal dominant gene: a gene car­ried on a chromosome other than the X or Y (the sex chromosomes) that only has to be inherited from one parent to be expressed in offspring. A dominant trait inherited from one parent will override a correspond­ing recessive trait contributed by the other parent.

Expressivity: the manner in which an indi­vidual shows the effects of a gene. Polydactyly is expressed variably from cat to cat.

Penetrance: a population genetics term for the frequency with which a trait is expressed in a population that carries it. If an individual appears normal despite carry­ing a gene variation that usually produces an abnormality, the trait is said to be non­-penetrant in that individual.

Radius: one of the two bones of the fore­arm in people or the front leg in cats.