cat with extra toesRegular 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 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.
Polydactyl cats are known by many names, from "Hemingway cat" and "mitten cat" to "big-foot cat" and "six-toed cat" - or even "cats with thumbs."
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- The first scientific record of polydactyls is in 1868. They were mostly found in the northwestern United States and Nova Scotia. One theory is that the first mitten kittens were brought to America by English Puritans in the 1600s.
- Famed American writer Ernest Hemingway became a fan after a ship's captain gave him a six-toed cat. Descendants of that cat still live in his Key West home, which is now a museum. And President Theodore Roosevelt's poly kitty Slippers was one of the first cats to purr around the White House.
- Polydactyl cats often found their way onto boats because sailors believed they were good luck. They were widely recognized as top-notch mousers, and their extra toes were rumored to give them better balance while sailing the high seas.
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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.
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