Polydactyl Cats - What Are They And Are They in Danger?

Polydactyl Cats - What Are They And Are They in Danger?

Author WCF Staff


Cats have many ways of leaving us speechless and amazed. One of the things commonly found in the feline kingdom is polydactyly. However, many cat owners don’t know what it is, and they wonder what polydactyl cats are like. If you want to know more about polydactyl cats, stick with us a bit.

What is polydactyly?

Polydactyly is a congenital physical anomaly that affects the number of toes cats are born with. Most cats have 18 toes - 5 on each front paw and 4 on each hind paw. However, polydactyl cats can be born with one or more extra toes on one or more of their paws.

Is polydactyly dangerous?

Polydactyly is not dangerous. It can cause minor issues if the additional toe grows in an uncomfortable position, but other than that, your cat’s life and health are not in danger. This only means you will have to keep a close eye on your cat’s paws, which is something responsible owners already do.

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Is it painful?

Naturally, most cat owners want to know if their polydactyl cat is in pain. We know we’d want to know if there’s anything we can do to help our cats get rid of their pain. You’ll be glad to hear that polydactyly is not painful in most cases. Your cat will simply have more toes than usual cats, which kind of makes them even more special.

When can polydactyl cats have problems?

As we already mentioned, there are cases where polydactyl cats can have issues with their extra toe. However, that usually happens if the toe grows in an awkward spot. Some cats have premature toes growing between their regular toes. That extra fingernail can damage the cat’s paw pad and scratch their skin. If that happens, the vet might recommend surgery as a way of permanently helping the polydactyl cat.

Why does it happen?

Polydactyly is a genetic mutation. The exact reason is different for different types of polydactyl mutations. It is genetic, but for polydactyly to appear, there are thousands of random events on cellular levels. To keep it simple - it is a genetic mutation that causes the growth of additional toes.

Can all cats be polydactyl?

Since polydactyly happens because of mutation, all cats can develop more toes. This trait is passed down through dominant genes, which means all cats can develop it. It doesn’t matter if the cat is small, large, pureblooded, or mixed - they can be born with extra toes. However, most cases of these mutations are recorded within the Maine Coon breed. Not only are Maine Coons the largest cat breed, but they even have more toes.

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Polydactyl cats fun facts

As you can probably imagine, many myths and legends surround polydactyl cats. We are fascinated by them, so we decided to learn a bit more and bring you our favorite fun facts about polydactyl cats.

1. Hemingway’s cats

One of the most famous authors, Ernest Hemingway, loved polydactyl cats.  He was fascinated by them. After his death, his house in Key West became a museum and a home for his cat’s descendants. Today, it’s home to more than 50 cats, half of which are polydactyl. Even today, polydactyl cats are often called Hemingway’s cats.

2. They were considered lucky

Polydactyly was believed to benefit hunting. It’s pretty clear to see where that theory comes from - more toes mean more claws. These cats were often taken on boats, where they had to keep the food and supplies free of mice and rats. Sailors considered them good-luck charms, and they believed polydactyl cats bring good luck and prosperity.

3. World record for most toes

We already mentioned cats usually have 18 toes. However, two kittens share the Guinness World Record for most toes. The total number of toes they had was 28. The kittens were called Jake and Paws.

4. There is a breed called the American polydactyl

Polydactyl cats are developed as a unique breed. You might think cat breeders would stay away from promoting cats with genetic mutations, but the American polydactyl is intentionally bred to have more toes. This condition shouldn’t affect the cat’s overall health, so it might not be worrying breeders are breeding them.

In conclusion

Polydactyl cats are cats born with one or more toes on one or more paws. This condition happens because of a genetic mutation, and it can affect all pureblooded and mixed cats. There is even a breed specifically developed to have more toes. It is not considered dangerous, nor should it affect the cat’s health in any way. They were once considered lucky, and polydactyl cats were popular ship cats.

World Cat Finder Team

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