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Home > Cats > 8 Fascinating Facts About Polydactyl Cats (Vet-Approved)

8 Fascinating Facts About Polydactyl Cats (Vet-Approved)

rear feet of a polydactyl cat

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From sailors to novelists, there are many cat parents that love the extra digits on a polydactyl cat. The word polydactyl is a Greek word meaning “many digits.” If you have never seen one, or are not familiar with a polydactyl cat, here are eight fascinating facts to pique your interest and make you fall in love just like Hemingway and cat lovers everywhere.


The 8 Facts About Polydactyl Cats

1. Polydactyl Toes Are a Genetic Mutation

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A typical cat has 18 toes. They have four on the back paws and five on the front. The genetic mutation that causes a cat to have more than the typical number of toes is called polydactyl. The genetic mutation is caused by a dominant gene from one or both feline’s parents. Although polydactyl toes are usually harmless, this condition can sometimes lead to problems like overgrown or ingrown nails, so they should be trimmed regularly.

2. Polydactyl Cats Are Considered Good Luck

Like the Irish finding luck in four-leaf clovers, sailors considered polydactyl cats to be good luck since they would make their way onto boats and had exceptional balance during stormy weather. The sailors believed they were better at catching mice too.

However, since these cats were rare in Europe, they were thought to belong to witches and often met untimely demises.

3. Jake of Canada Has a World Record for the Most Toes

cute paws polydactyl
Image By: Sel_Sanders, Shutterstock

The Guinness World Record for the cat with the most toes goes to Jake of Bonfield, Ontario, for having a total of 28 toes. The cat’s toes were counted by a veterinarian on September 24, 2002. The cat has seven toes on each paw, for a total of 28 toes.

4. Polydactyl Cats Are Also Referred to as “Hemingway Cats”

A Sea Captain by the name of Stanley Dexter gave a polydactyl cat to Ernest Hemingway. The captain owned a polydactyl cat named Snowball. The cat that he gifted to Hemmingway was one of Snowball’s kittens.

Snow White was the name of Hemingway’s new kitten. Over time, she gave birth to several polydactyl kittens in Hemingway’s home in Florida.

Today, the Hemingway House and Museum is home to about 50 polydactyl cats that are the descendants of Snow White. They are considered historical treasures and have a protected status.

5. Polydactyl Paws Are Called “Mitten Paws.”

Playful polydactyl Maine Coon Cat
Image By: Seregraff, Shutterstock

When a polydactyl cat has an extra toe on the inside of its paw, it has the appearance of a thumb. Sometimes an extra toe on this side makes the cat look as though it has large feet or mittens.

Owners of cats with polydactyl paws claim their cats are capable of opening windows and latches. Cats with mitten paws have been given names like “big-foot cats,” “pancake feet,” and “snowshoe paws.”

6. Polydactyly Can Be Beneficial

While having extra digits can lead to snagging of their claws, the wider claws can also be beneficial for the felines.

Cravendale, a polydactyl cat from Warrington, England, was known to use his extra digits to climb like a human and pick up his toys. The toes allowed him to walk and climb on surfaces like snow and sand. The extra toes not only gave the feline the ability to have a better grip on treats but also made it easier to hunt and catch its prey.

7. Polydactyl Cats Are More Common in Certain Areas

polydactyl cat on the couch
Image By By: Meetmow, Shutterstock

These unique felines are considered good luck and are more likely to be found on the east coast than in any other region in the United States.

8. Polydactyl Paws are Common Among Maine Coon Cats

Maine Coon cats originated in the state of Maine. Due to the snowy and harsh weather conditions, their paws evolved into large paws that are insulated like snow boots. The extra toes were common for Maine Coons, with as much as 40% having wider and larger paws. The extra digits gave the cats’ paws extra insulation and added traction in the snow.

Although the polydactyl Maine Coon is still recognized by some associations, the extra digits have been bred out of many of them.



There you have it! These eight fascinating facts about polydactyl cats will help you appreciate these special felines even more. And who knows? Maybe if you decide to live your life on the high seas, remember that polydactyl cats are considered good luck among sailors. And if you do ever get one just to have as a pet, count their toes to see if it breaks the current world record!

Featured Image Credit: Constance Mannes, Shutterstock

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