Polydactyl Cats, Cats with Extra Toes
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Polydactyl Cats, Cats with Extra Toes

What is the term used for cats that have extra toes? How many toes do cats normally have? What is a polydactyl cat? What is a Hemingway cat? What problems are associated with cats that have extra toes? What is the record for most toes on a cat? How to care for a cat with extra toes?

Cats that have extra toes are called Polydactyl cats. They are often considered to be good luck and were at one time the cat of choice to take on board ships for the purpose of catching mice.

A typical domestic cat has five toes on its front paws and four on the hind paws, for a total of eighteen. Cats who are polydactyl may have as many as seven toes on each paw, with the record holder being a cat from Canada with a total of 27 toes.

This condition is more common on the front paws than the hind, but may occur on any paw, and sometimes only one paw is affected. Polydactyl comes from the Latin words for many digits.

Owners will usually notice that it appears as though their kitten has extra large feet or in some cases that it has thumbs, and upon examination will notice that the kitten actually has extra pads, toes, and nails. In the case where the cat does have the toes growing like a thumb they are often opposable and used for play.

The condition is genetic but can result as a mutation, and can occur in any cat breed, but is most common in Maine Coon cats. The trait is genetically dominant, so a kitten with extra toes will have at least one parent with multiple toes.

Some cat breeders have specifically trying to breed polydactyl Maine Coon cats, and others have tried to create a breed known as the American Polydactyl cat. Most breeds clubs and registries frown on this trait as it has the potential for problems including ingrown toe nails and so forth, and as such most discourage breeding polydactyl cats.

photo source

Ernest Hemingway owned a polydactyl cat and allowed it to breed; today guests of his estate in Florida can see the descendants of that cat, as roughly 50 cats roam the property, half of which are polydactyl. Because of the well known association between Hemingway and his multi-toed cats, polydactyl cats are sometimes referred to as Hemingway cats.

Polydactyl cats do require more care in terms of keeping their nails clipped. Due to the nature of the abnormal toes the nails do not often wear down correctly and are prone to curving around and hooking into the cats toe itself, as mentioned, ingrown toenails. Sometimes the angle of the claw makes it more likely to snag which could result in the nail being pulled out.

One form of polydactyl cat often sees a deformity known as feline radial hypoplasia in which the cat's extra toes are adjacent to its normal ones, resulting in a flatter hamburger patty shaped paw. These cats should not be bred as the deformity can result in kittens unable to knead. Kneading being a required behavior for a nursing kitten to get milk.

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Comments (7)

Your pictures are super to show the feet of the cat. thank you.

Very interesting article. Thanks for writing it.

Ranked #8 in Cats

My first cat, at least the first one that I really remember anything about, was a huge Persian cat that I had named Tarzan. Tarzan was a polydactyl cat.

You just made me check my kitty's paws... great photos

Ranked #16 in Cats

In ur neck of the woods, we call these cats 'double-pawed' and I've owned many.

Ranked #31 in Cats

The second picture looks like my cat a few months ago, but he isn't polydactyl.  Great article.  Cats are my favorite animals!

Can polydactyl cat have a different ammount of toes on different feet?