7 Things to Know About Polydactyl Cats

Most cats have a total of 18 toes — five on each of their front feet and four on each of the back. But some felines are born with extra toes. Those kitties are polydactyl, a Greek term meaning many digits or toes.

Since polydactyl cats are so fascinating and cool looking, we paired fun facts about polydactylism with adorable photos of our readers' extra-toed kitties. Check out the photo gallery below to learn more.


Polydactyl Cat Facts

Polydactyl cat Pollyanna

Regina Caruso via Facebook

Fact No. 1: They're also known as Hemingway cats.

You may have heard polydactyls called “Hemingway cats,” a reference to the legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway, who preferred polydactyl cats. His first cat, Snowball, had six toes, and today, about 50 of the cat’s descendants still live on Hemingway’s historic property in Key West.

Reader photo: Sweet Pollyanna, who has the perfect name for a polydactyl, folds her paws.

Polydactyl cat Finn

Laura Brissette via Facebook

Fact No. 2: They've been around a long time.

The first record of cats like Snowball is from 1868, and they were mostly found in the Northeastern U.S. and Nova Scotia. Polydactyl cats were often found on ships because sailors believed they were good luck and thought the extra toes gave them better balance while on the high seas.

Reader photo: "This is my polydactyl named Finn!" writes his proud owner. "Six thumbs total in front and three in the back! I've never seen a cat with dewclaws in the back, especially with multiple!"

Polydactyl cat Jill

Lynn Bigelow via Facebook

Fact No. 3: It's sometimes genetic.

Some cats have extra toes because they inherit a gene that codes for polydactylism. According to veterinarian Dr. Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York, if one parent is polydactyl and the other has normal feet, 40 to 50 percent of the kittens will also have extra toes.

Reader photo: This beauty, whose name is Jill, is one of two polydactyls living in her home. She has seven toes on each of her front paws.


Polydactyl cat Emme

Sue Schwartz via Facebook

Fact No. 4: Sometimes they look like they have thumbs.

Most polydactyl cats have toes that look like their other toes, just more of them. But in some cats, the dewclaw is so big that it looks like a thumb. They're known as thumb cat polydactyls.

Reader photo: Emme, a "chubby" and playful calico, was adopted with her sister. "She's awesome!" writes her owner.

Polydactyl cat Corduroy

Gina Lang via Facebook

Fact No. 5: There's a world record-holding polydactyl.

The Guinness World Record holder for the most toes on a cat was named Jake, who had a shocking 28 toes.

Reader photo: Sweet Corduroy has a different number of toes on each foot! Seven and six toes on each of his front feet and five and four in the back.

Polydactyl cat Joey

Sharon Selander via Facebook

Fact No. 6: There's been at least one in the White House.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s poly kitty, Slippers, was one of the first feline residents of the White House.

Reader photo: Joey shows off his feet during a ride in his owner's sweatshirt pouch.

Polydactyl cat Ernie

Connie Daul Vallera via Facebook

Fact No.7: Maine Coons once had a high incidence of polydactylism.

In the past, the original Maine Coon cats had about a 40 percent chance of having extra toes. But that's no longer the case, and no cat breed has more or less chance of being polydactyl.

Reader photo: Wow! Ernie's got some big paws for a little kitty.

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