Polydactyl Cats: 9 Amazing Facts About This Breed

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What is a Polydactyl cat?

You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. I mean, what are Polydactyl cats? Is it in any way related to the already extinct Pterodactyl dinosaur?

Nope, these cats are not related to the dinosaur or ever related to any other extinct species.

Instead, this refers to felines with six or more extra toes when we expect just less than that. The term polydactyly is derived from the Greek language that means “many fingers or extra toes”.

Most cats with polydactyly have at least 18 toes in total, consisting of five fingers on the front paws, and four on the back paws.

However, each Polydactyl feline is different. Small cats with smaller paws have a different number of toes on their extremities than felines with bigger paws. The unique phenomenon makes them look like they are wearing mittens. Doesn’t that make them look more adorable?

How common is a Polydactyl cat?

Polydactyly has been said to be relatively common in cats, especially in the Maine Coon breed.

Though, Polydactyly can be found in any breed. These cats appear rarer than their eighteen-toed counterparts.

Polydactyly is common in some areas on the East coast of the United States, and areas in Southwest of England.

The areas with most cases of Polydactyly also have more Maine Coon cats in the area, so that explains why Polydactyly is more common for the said cat breed.

Polydactyl Cats

History of the Polydactyl cat

Cats with Polydactyly were first recorded in 1868. These cats were popular in the shipping trade across the northeast of the United States and Canada. These areas still have the most cases of Polydactyly in cats up until now.

Polydactyl cats are popular in the trade because of the belief that they bring good luck to their owners. They were a hot commodity especially amongst sailors, who brought cats on board as mousers to help get the ship running smoothly.

It’s no surprise that sailors would prefer them, considering that with their extra digits, Polydactyl cats have an amazing balance on the ship through even the scariest of wavy seas.

You may come across some Polydactyl cats referred to as Hemingway cats. These cats were named after the American author Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway was gifted a six-toed cat by a sea captain who also had the cat. He grew immensely infatuated with this feline, Snowball, and Ernest Hemingway was pretty well-known for his association with the cat.

Snowball reared kittens during her life, and the Hemingway Estate houses her descendants.

There are at least 50 cats in the Hemingway Estate home with half of which having the Polydactyl trait.

6 toed cat

Top facts about the Polydactyl cats

How well do you know about this interesting cat? Let’s discover more secrets in the world of cats!

Here are our top facts about them:

  1. Polydactyly is caused by a genetic mutation in a dominant gene that results in the kittens having more than four toes. It’s the front paws that most often express the genetic trait, but it can also happen in the hind paws.
  2. What causes polydactylism in cats is a passed on gene from an original cat ancestor with an extra toe.
  3. However, it’s extremely rare for cats to have the genetic trait in all four paws.
  4. Polydactyly is a harmless phenomenon to a cat’s health. However, it gets tricky trimming their nails. Nonetheless, these cats are happy and healthy with a few extra toes.
  5. There’s a cat that hit the Guinness Book of World Records with the most toes, named Jake. A Canadian Tabby with a total of 28 toes, with each one having its claw and bone structure.
  6. The genetic trait can also be mistaken for feline radial hypoplasia. Like Polydactyly, this also causes the growth of extra toes, but this is dangerous to a cat’s health.
  7. Polydactyl cats are considered fortunate! These cats are a common sight on ships in the past as they made excellent mousers to keep ships free from rodents.
  8. The genetic condition is quite common among the Maine Coon breed, which insulated them from intense snowy conditions in the region.
  9. There are some owners of Polydactyl cats observing their cats’ ability to open cupboards. Having extra toes gives cats with ‘thumbs' an ability to grasp just like us, humans. They have a more stable balance and are more successful hunting down smaller creatures.cat 6 toes

Polydactyl cat personality

The personality of a cat with Polydactyly entirely reflects on the characteristics of the cat’s breed. They can be mischievous, independent or friendly.

Since this genetic condition is quite common among the Maine Coon breed, they can share the same qualities of this breed, such as their friendliness and high sociability. Whereas the Siamese with Polydactyly may be seen as vocal, interactive and as well as curious.

There are no distinctive personality traits that set polydactyl cats apart from one another, so if you are looking for a specific personality in a many-toed cat, you might consider picking a breed that fits you best.

This behavior means life with this furry friend will be filled with surprises!

Caring for cats with Polydactyly

Fortunately, there aren’t health concerns associated with Polydactyly. Even so, there’s a form of responsibility to take whenever you’re giving care to this type of cat.

As a pet parent, you are called to be a little bit more extra in maintaining your feline’s paw, fur, and claws. To avoid any infection and irritation from the case of an ingrown, you may consult your vet for tips on how to trim the claws that are safe and comfortable for your cat.

hemingway house cat 3

Polydactyl claw problems

If you have a cat with this genetic condition, you might meet a few claw problems other than experiencing some difficulty in clipping the nails. The most common problem you’d come across is an ingrown or embedded nail.

The most common of these is ingrown or embedded nails since there are cases of some cats having undeveloped toes on each paw that grow between the other toes.hemingway house cat 4

Your vet may recommend a medical intervention in the form of surgery, if these nails may start injuring the paw pad.

In the rarest of cases, the extra toes that don’t grow in properly can lead to difficulty walking for your cat and could require surgical intervention.

You can keep an eye on your cat’s nails by trimming regularly and inspecting the toes for any abnormalities or signs of tenderness.

However, in most cases, polydactyly does not cause claw problems, and these extra digits may even give your cat an advantage while hunting.

The price of cats with Polydactyly

The market value of this cat varies widely, depending on the type of breed. This means you need to consider the price of the cat breed, first.

Breeders may be particular with the price as well, with no specific range for how much they would charge for this cat.

You have the choice of adopting one from a reputable breeder with a reasonable fee or find some of these felines on websites or in local advertising platforms.

Is the cat with Polydactyly for you?

Wondering if a Polydactyl feline fits you? Here are a few questions you need to answer to know!

  1. Are you willing to spend time with your new cat?
  2. Can you afford possible medical expenses for this cat?
  3. Are you okay with owning a cat with a few extra toes?
  4. Can you care for this cat claws, diligently?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then this cat can be your perfect match! If you're looking to add an interesting feline into your family, then you might want to consider getting a Polydactyl cat!

They aren’t exactly exotic, but they carry a certain oomph in them you’d be proud to have around.

A six-toed black cat

Are polydactyl cats rare?

Polydactyl cats are not a specific breed, but they do have a unique characteristic that is immediately noticeable – extra toes! It's rare for a polydactyl cat to have extra toes on their hind paws only, and rarer still to have extra toes on all four paws.

Are polydactyl cats healthy?

For the most part, polydactyly is harmless to a cat's health and wellness. It can make trimming your cat's nails a bit more labor-intensive—and if you've ever trimmed your cat's nails, you know how difficult it is, to begin with—but otherwise, there are plenty of happy, healthy kitties with a few extra toes.

Are polydactyl cats inbred?

Because many polydactyl cats carry the gene for normal toes, the trait is never fixed. Inbreeding would increase the percentage of polydactyl offspring, but there will always be a few normal-toed kittens in the litter, because of that recessive gene. Polydactylism doesn't affect cats adversely.

How do you care for a polydactyl cat?

Most polydactyls get around just fine with multiple toes and don't require special care. However, polydactyls' nails do need regular trimming, as they can become ingrown, causing pain and infection. Have your vet inspect your cat's paws regularly to see whether there are any issues related to his extra digits.

  • Updated November 12, 2020
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.

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