Click here to learn more.
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.
Millions tuned in to the Thanksgiving Day
NBC broadcast to watch as judges
crowned 4-year-old Nathan Best in Show.
A Golden Retriever stepped in to nurse
a litter of African wild dogs after their
mother showed a lack of maternal…
Take a look at the Best in Show
winners of the last decade. Plus, meet this year's National Dog Show champion.
As you brine the turkey or cheer for your
favorite football team, take time to be
thankful for your furry family…
From "drop it" to "wait at the door," Mikkel
Becker shares commands you should
teach your pup…
Decorate your home for the holidays
without compromising your cat's safety
with tips from a cat style expert.
We’re sharing our favorite budget-friendly
gifts, from a custom smartphone cover to
the perfect dog treats for…
The plus-size Maine Coon has an adorable chirping voice and gets along with everyone, even the family dog.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.