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What’s the Deal with Polydactyl Cats?

polydactyl cats

Kitty cat paws are just the cutest thing ever, aren’t they? Some kitties were born with added cuteness in the form of extra toes. And these kitties are called polydactyl cats. Normal cats have 18 toes in total... 5 toes on their front paws and 4 on their hind paws. Polydactyl felines can have as many as 9 toes on each of their feet. The record holder has a total of 28. Pretty impressive.

Besides Super Cute, What are Polydactyl Cats?

Polydactyly is not a particular breed of cat, their extra digits are caused by a genetic mutation. Though it is possible for a cat to have extra toes on all four paws, it usually only affects the front paws. This condition can affect any breed of cat, but is most common in Maine Coons.

This anomaly isn’t detrimental, besides making nail trimming a bit more labor intensive; in fact, having wider paws with more claws can help kitty gain better balance and be a faster climber than their normal-toed cousins. And they can be wicked good at using some of those toes as thumbs, picking up pencils and such with alarming ease. There goes EVERYTHING on your desk.

extra toesie = extra cuteness. Polydactyl kitties.

Polydactyl VS. Hypoplasia

Though polydactyly is harmless, there is a very similar genetic issue that can be harmful: hypoplasia. This ailment also causes extra toes, but these toes grow immediately alongside the normal ones resulting in very large feet. Cats bred with this mutation will result in offspring with severely deformed paws. Because of the similarity of these anomalies, it is frowned upon to purposely breed cats who have extra toes… no matter how cute you think the kittens will be.    

Some Fun, Polydactyl Facts

🐈 Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist and short-story writer, had a particular fondness for these kitties. In fact, you may hear polydactyl cats referred to as ‘Hemingway cats’.  It all started with the gift of a snowy white, multi-toed feline named Snow Ball. Descendants of his beloved, polydactyl cats still roam the town of Key West, Florida, which was Hemingway’s home before his passing in 1961.

🐈 Polydactyl cats were excellent shipmates and considered to be good luck by the sailors. Many, many decades ago, felines were common companions on ships. They kept the rodent population down and just were wonderful buddies on long sea voyages. Polydactyl cats, with their wider paws, were better equipped to balance themselves on the stormy seas and thus became very popular shipmates.

🐈 They may have originated in England. When these kitties travelled by ship to places such as in Wales, Canada, and the Eastern United States, they bred with non-polydactyl cats and spread the genetic trait.

So there you have it, extra toes means extra cuteness. But, don’t worry, normal-toed kitties… we still love you just as much.

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