The Science Behind Polydactyl Multi-Toed Cats

This inherent physical anomaly called polydactyly is pretty prevalent among cats. The result of extra toes was actually believed to be a positive thing, making them better hunters. But there is more to this condition, and the kinds of cats who have them are particularly unique. In fact, these cats were popular on ships during the mid-1600s They often traveled with the puritans from England to Boston and eventually made their way up and down the Atlantic Coast.

What’s The Average Amount of Toes?

Typically cats have 18 toes, 5 on the front, and four on the back. Over 60% of polydactyl cats have additional toes on their only on their front paws, making extra ones on the back rarer. “Polydactyl cats can have one or multiple additional toes depending on how the genetics play out,” renowned L.A veterinarian Dr. Mahaney explains. The world record holder has a whopping 28 toes.

Polydactyly and the Hemingway Mutation

This genetic mutation is inherited. Strangely, the gene that is generally associated with polydactyly condition is the Sonic Hedgehog. It affects other mammals too like mice and even humans.


Is It Dangerous?

In short, no. Polydactyl cats generally have an average life span and lead a healthy life. But extra toes can potentially grow at abnormal angles and create problems with the cat’s claws and skin. “Owners must take extra care to keep nails trimmed appropriately short (to prevent ingrown nails) and to monitor the appearance of the skin for inflammation or discharge that could correlate with bacterial or yeast infection,” Dr. Mahaney adds.

They Are Cute Though

These larger than usual paws do draw some attention, and can actually be pretty cute. There are even vets out there that insist that polydactyl cats are above average in sociability and are supposedly more good-natured than their “normal” counterparts.