10 Facts About Polydactyl Cats

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

Have you ever come across a cute cat and looked down to see it has what appears to be mittens? These are Polydactyls, cats with extra toes! Here are 10 amazing facts about polydactyl cats.

1. Polydactyl cats can have a lot of toes

A typical house cat has 18 toes: 4 toes on each back paw; 4 toes on each front paw, and one climbing claw on each front leg. A typical polydactyl cat can have as many as 8 toes on just one paw! More commonly seen are the “mitten cats” which have one extra toe on each front paw making it appear to have mittens, with a total of 20 toes. These polydactyl cats, in particular, need their “thumb” nail cut regularly to reduce the risk of getting it snagged on things or curling into the paw itself. They can not scratch with this nail so have no way of filing it down.

2. Jake the cat holds an amazing record

Holding the world record (according to Guinness) for most toes is an orange tabby named Jake from Canada. He has an amazing 28 toes on his paws! His life didn’t start out so easy. He was rescued from a hoarder and struggled with medical issues but his foster mama decided to give him a forever home in the end. He is a record holder and living the good life now. Check out his Facebook page here.

3. Double Paws vs Polydactyl

There is a condition called “double paws” which is commonly confused with polydactyl paws. Instead of having extra toes these cats literally have a whole or part of an extra paw attached to either two or all four paws.

4. Hemingway’s Love for Cats

Ernest Hemingway is an avid and well-known cat lover. When presented with a polydactyl cat named Snowball from a ship captain, Ernest became fascinated with felines. His island home in Florida was home to more than 50 cats, almost half of which were polydactyl cats. Because of this, polydactyl kitties are also known as “Hemingway cats”.

5. Maine Coon cats have the highest rate of the poly gene

The polydactyl gene is very common in the Maine Coon cat breed. At one time, nearly 40% of Maine Coon cats were polydactyl. This has since changed and it is not as common. Maine Coon Polydactyls are considered a special breed for many feline enthusiasts.

6. More toes was once believed to increase hunting skills

A rumor some time ago set off the spark for many ship captains to obtain these felines for their ships. They were thought to be better mouse hunters. This is believed to be the reason this specific gene abnormality is found in the United States, Canada, Wales and England.

7. Where the term originates from is creative

Creatively named, the word “polydactyl” literally translates from Latin as “extra toes”.

8. There is a debate about the poly gene

There is a lot of debate about this gene being a dominant trait in felines. One litter may produce as little as one polydactyl cat, even with one of the parents being a polydactyl. Some believe it to be an incomplete dominant trait, meaning the cat would need two parts to this particular gene for the mutation to happen.

9. Large wild felines can have the gene too

Polydactyl house cats are seen in many areas of the world but it does not just affect the household felines. It is also found in big cats like lions and panthers, though it is far rarer and it is hard to get close enough to a wild big cat to observe toe structure.

10. Poly cats can use their extra digits

This feline abnormality poses no poor or negative effects to the cat’s health. In some cases, cats with extra digits were found to be able to use them very similar to that of a human hand. It is very rare in the animal kingdom for any animal to have more than four toes on one paw.

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3 thoughts on “10 Facts About Polydactyl Cats”

  1. Two years ago, my wife and I adopted a female polydactyl Bombay cat. She bore one litter of kittens and all five were entirely black and polydactyl. The most likely father was a blue Russian up the street. One of the kittens was male and in the second generation, he mated with a calico and the offspring were polydactyl calico. We have observed them to be much more efficient predators than the four-toed cats. They climb faster and higher, take squirrels and birds from tree tops and prefer to live on the roof of the three-story house. They go up and down by leaping from and to branches of a nearby shade tree. They also go up and down the ladder if I have it out for painting.


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