Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Regular cats have five toes on their front feet and four on their back, for a total of 18. But polydactyl [pronounced pol-ee-dak-til] cats boast more toes, usually on their front feet.
If the word "polydactyl" sounds like Greek to you, that’s because it is — the Greek root poly means "many" and daktylos means "digits or toes." The record holder for most toes was a kitty named Jake, who had a whopping 28.
American writer Ernest Hemingway was a lover of polydactyl cats. He was given his first polydactyl cat, a white six-toed feline named Snowball, by a ship's captain; today, nearly 50 of Snowball's descendants still live at the Hemingway Home in Key West. Polydactyl cats are known by many names, including “Hemingway cats,” a reference to Snowball and her famous owner. They are also referred to as “mitten cats,” “big-foot cats” and “six-toed cats” — or even “cats with thumbs.”
New York veterinarian Dr. Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists tells us a little more about polydactyl cats, including his own, Mittens.
Why do some cats have more toes than others?
Some cats have extra toes because they inherit a gene that codes for polydactylism. If one parent is polydactyl and one parent has normal feet, then 40 to 50 percent of the kittens will also be polydactyl.
What is thumb cat polydactyly?
Most polydactyl cats have extra toes that look like the other toes — there are just more of them. Thumb cat polydactyly is a condition where the first digit, or the dewclaw, is so large that it resembles a thumb. My cat, Mittens, has huge “thumbs” on both front feet.
Which cats are more likely to be polydactyl?
Right now, there’s no certain breed of cat that is more or less prone to being polydactyl. However, in the past, the original Maine Coon cats had a high incidence of polydactylism — about 40 percent.
Have you ever owned a polydactyl cat? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
A litter of four endangered clouded
leopard cubs is getting round-the-clock
care at a zoo in Washington.
Summer's finally here! And these
adorable cats and dogs want you to make
the most of these long, sunny days.
Want to teach your dog to standup
paddleboard? We’ve got the training
steps and safety tips you need to know.
If you find a turtle in the street, do you
know the best way to pick it up? Or how
to tell if it’s a snapping…
Your pet’s health could be at risk if you
believe these misconceptions, like “home
remedies” that are actually…
Greyhounds don't always need to be on the go. These speedsters can also be champion sofa-loungers.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.