polydactyl cat facts

5 Fascinating Facts About Polydactyl Cats

If you are a feline enthusiast, chances are you probably know a lot about them. Even the term Polydactyl cat may not be something you hear for the first time. However, for those who don’t know, it refers to cats with an extra toe. Exactly, that’s what it is. Your kitty’s paws just got even cuter!

Polydactyl cats have been adored throughout history. Fun fact: Previously sailors were known to carry them onto their boats where they were most wanted for their fantastic sense of balance. Once a ship’s captain gifted Snowball, a full white polydactyl cat to author Ernest Hemingway. Snowball’s descendants are said to still live at Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida, which is currently a museum. More fascinating facts on your way include the story of President Roosevelt, who even bought a polydactyl cat and named it Slippers to the white house!

polydactyl cat

Read on to find out more about these amazing creatures:

Polydactyl Cats Have Many Toes

By now you have already read about how polydactyl cats are born with many toes. But did we mention precisely how many toes they have? You must be thinking that many toes could mean having 1 or 2 extra toes. Well, let’s calculate together – an average house cat has 16 toes: 4 toes on each front paw and 4 toes on each back paw.

However, a polydactyl cat can have up to 8 toes on each paw! So, how much does that add up to?

These polydactyl cats need their nails trimmed on a regular basis to avoid getting snagged on kinds of stuff or curling into his paws itself. They also cannot scratch with their nails, so there’s no use of filing it down.

Related Post: Best Cat Nail Clippers

Polydactyl Cats are Very Common in a Couple of Places Around the World

You may say that you have never seen a polydactyl cat in your entire life. But they are actually very famous in some parts of the world. Considering North America and the south west of England and Wales, these sweeties are much more to be found in those areas.

It is believed that their evolution originated mainly from New England or the United Kingdom and was later transported to other places through cargo ships. Recent genetic studies have reported that the growth in New England cats is different than the ones in the United Kingdom. This brings us to the conclusion that they may have been developed independently of each other.

Maine Coons Were Most Likely to be Polydactyl Cats

They had huge toes and looked like lions with the most toes, they are none other than Main Coon polydactyl cats. At one point, the polydactyl gene was most common in the Maine Coon breed. In fact, there were over 40% of Maine Coon cats who were polydactyl.

It may sound like a bit unfair that only this beautiful breed had the coolest stuff happen to them. But oh well, they are the largest domesticated cat breed. Eventually, as they were bred with other cat breeds, the polydactyl gene spread over them too. Since then, it has completely changed and not is as common as it used to be Maine Coons.

Maine Coon polydactyl cats are exceptional for feline enthusiasts.

More Toes Were Once Believed to be Exceptional for Hunting

Some time ago, there was a rumor that set spark among the feline enthusiasts that more toes mean excellent hunters. But does that mean it actually could be true?

As you already know, many ship captains would take Polydactyl cats with them just so they can sense danger better. That’s when the rumor set off that they were thought of as great mouse hunters. No mouse would have the aptitude of escaping a polydactyl cat.

Well, this unique abnormal hunter gene is more to be found in the United States, Wales, Canada and England.

cat with many toes

Polydactyl Cats are Harmless

Some of you may scare away from the thought that a cat may have more than 4 toes. But well, there’s nothing to be scared of. They are very much harmless and healthy. The only thing about them is that it may be difficult to trim their nails off.

However, we have come across a genetic term called feline radial hypoplasia, whereby, extra toes are common. Unfortunately, for some cats, it might actually be disabling because it may cause underdevelopment or twisted forelegs.

Here’s one bonus fact about polydactyl cats that we couldn’t help but include in the list:

Polydactyl Cats are Considered to be Lucky

We have all heard that black cats bring bad luck, and so do calico cats. But hey, they are all superstitious beliefs. All cats are awesome. Polydactyl cats are the same. In fact, sailors truly believe that polydactyl cats are in fact, luckier.

As they would bring the cats with them in their ship, the cats were believed to keep the ship’s supplies vermin-free and thus help them balance on the rocky seas. Well, it may not sound so legit to you, but it was just a belief back then. Each and every cat is blessed!

Polydactyl Cats Behavior

They are cats, and thus they have all the same traits just like any other cat. Polydactyl cats are equally mischievous, skittish, playful and friendly. In fact, there are not much additional personality traits that make them so different from other cats.

What makes them unique is their eighteen toes over their relatives. This gives them the advantage of being different from others.

Although some polydactyl cat parents have claimed that their cats are smarter than an average. That’s because their cats are able to switch off the lights, open cupboards and doors and so on. The cat parents put all the credit to their extra ‘thumb’ that allows them to do all that. Indeed, it’s a grasping ability!

On a different note, do you really think that it’s good quality? Say goodbye to all the snacks that you had saved for later.

But having a unique polydactyl cat is never going to be boring!

Related Post: Best Cat Treats

Polydactyl Cats Personality

They are merely cats. They are no different from other cat breeds except for having extra toes. However, as per observations, there are certain things different in a polydactyl cat than an average cat.

For example, a polydactyl Maine Coon cat will have the Maine Coon’s friendliness and high-sociable personality. Siamese polydactyl cat, on the other hand, are more likely to curious and vocal.

If you are looking forward to any specific personality that the polydactyl cat may have other than their extra toes, choose the breed that you think reflects your needs.

Polydactyl Cat Claw Problems

Oh yes, that’s an obvious problem in polydactyl cats. Having extra toes means additional problems. The most common problem is ingrown or embedded nails. Some of these sweeties may develop having premature toes to grow between the toes. These nails injure their paw pad or foot and may need surgery to get rid of it.

If you have a polydactyl cat, you need to pay attention to your cat’s nails by keeping them in shape and inspecting any signs of abnormalities that might appear on their toes. Sometimes the extra toes do not grow in suitably. And that is what leads to difficulty in walking, and again, they might need to undergo surgery.

Related Post: Best Cat Nail Clippers

One more problem is an injury. The nails that grow outward may catch on things and come off. Although it’s not really a life-threatening problem, it is awfully painful for the cat.

But it’s not like each, and every polydactyl cat would face these problems. It’s just that they are prone to having these problems because of the extra toes that they are born with.

Polydactyl Cat Health Issues

Polydactyl cats are naturally born normal and healthy cats with an inherited abnormality; extra toes. They are not linked to having any serious health issues, neither does having extra toes slow down the polydactyl cat.

Again, having extra toes increase their odds of injuries. They are more likely to get stepped on and get caught on something. Although they are not really serious injuries, some of them may cause extreme pain to your cat. You may need to visit your pet doctor for appropriate treatment.

Some other types of abnormalities include limb problems like radial hypoplasia. Polydactyl cats walking differently may have shortened limbs or twisted limbs in addition to polydactyly could lead to radial hypoplasia or other conditions.

These traits in cats are quite distinct and will only appear on an x-ray. Do take note of the fact that if your cat is diagnosed with hypoplasia, also known as ‘patty feet,’ ‘squittens’ or ‘hamburger feet’ should not be further bred. This is a severe condition in cats.

Caring for a Polydactyl Cat

Consider yourself lucky if you ever get to pet a polydactyl cat. Think of it this way, not everyone has the unique qualities of petting a polydactyl cat, so if you get one, you will need to take extra care of their paws. Their paws are shaped differently, which may interfere with their ability to groom and scratch. That’s when your part comes in. Help them scratch and groom whenever necessary.

Keep their nails short and trimmed at all times. Examine any problems that may appear to make sure that they are healthy. They can have a simple and normal life with just a little help from their parent. There is a special place for them in everyone’s heart.

Polydactyl Cats as Pets

Providing a forever home to these cats is just the sweetest thing because there’s no end to how many cat shelters have rescued polydactyl cats. So, if you are interested in adopting one, start your search today. Call up your local cat shelter and check if they have them, whom you could meet.

So, if you are really serious about this decision, know that polydactyl cats make fantastic pets, just like any other cats do. Although it may come home with some added responsibilities. If you have children to take care of and other animals in your house, will you have some spare time for the polydactyl sweetie? Plus, are you planning on keeping them indoors or outdoors? They may also come with some medicinal expenses, so can you afford that?

Once you answer all those questions, it will make your decision of adopting a polydactyl cat much easier. It’s entirely your decision whether you want to give a home to a polydactyl cat or a different type of breed.

They hardly come with any health issues, so you need to decide whether you find them cute or not. If the answer to your questions is yes, then you should start searching for one of them today!

Related Post: Best Nail Caps for Cats

cat paws

Bottom Line

Polydactyl cats hold a unique place in the history of cats as well as cat biology. The word polydactyl refers to the extra digits that are present on a cat’s paw. This is what makes them so unique. So, if you have ever seen a polydactyl cat, break into an “awww!” instead of getting scared over their fluffy toes. They are simply adorable!

Although the extra toes do not get much attention, think about them. They are extremely unique. Plus, if you’re a hunter, you may consider getting one for yourself. Legends say that the extra toe makes them a killer hunter!

What are your thoughts on polydactyl cats now? Do you plan on adopting one now? What’s another superstition that you have heard about polydactyl cats? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to know!


  1. C. H. Danforth, Morphology Of The Feet In Polydactyl Cats, Wiley Online Library
  2. Kate Hughes, 8 Unusual Genetic Anomalies in Cats, PetMD
  1. James
    Nov 04, 2021

    We just,today, adopted a polydactyl long hair kitten- mancoon tabby. He has 6 toes in front and 4 in the back. He is super cute, fluffy and cuddly. His paws are huge, for a little kitten. I was concerned about genetic health issues, but we were told he is healthy… just extra toes.

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