Polydactyl Cats: 7 Amazing Facts

Tan and white polydactal cat lying on brown surface

Polydactyl cats are born with extra toes on their paws than other cats. Polydactyl cats have six (or more) toes on each paw, whereas most cats have five on their front paws and four on their hind paws.

Polydactyly is a genetic anomaly that causes additional digits and is more frequent in certain parts of the world than in others. Any cat breed, male or female, large or little, can be affected.

Read on to learn more about the genetic factors that contribute to polydactyly and to check out some adorable photos of polydactyl cats.

  • 01 of 07

    Polydactyly Is Caused by a Genetic Mutation

    Polydactyl calico cat

    Polydactyly is caused by a mutation in a dominant gene, and it generally results in the production of four to seven toes on a cat's paws. Polydactyly most commonly affects the front paws, but it can also affect the back paws; a cat with polydactyly on all four paws is exceedingly unusual.

    Polydactyly is often unharmful to a cat's health and well-being. It can make nail trimming more difficult—and if you've ever tried to clip your cat's nails, you know how tough it is—but there are plenty of happy, healthy cats with a few extra toes.

    It's crucial to remember that feline radial hypoplasia, which is commonly mistaken with polydactyly, can be dangerous to a cat's health. Feline radial hypoplasia, like polydactyly, results in the production of additional toes. The main distinction is that the additional toes grow right alongside the cat's regular toes, resulting in extraordinarily huge, flat feet. If feline radial hypoplasia is passed down through the generations, it can result in severe paw malformations.

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  • 02 of 07

    Some Polydactyl Cats Have “Mittens”


    Mitten paws are formed when additional toes grow in the center of a polydactyl cat's paw, giving it a thumb-like—or mitten-like—appearance. Although they resemble thumbs, these additional digits are not opposable.

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  • 03 of 07

    Polydactyly Can Actually Benefit Some Cats


    The toes of polydactyl cats aren't simply attractive; they also give certain benefits to cats. Polydactyl cats are better able to balance on different surfaces, climb, hunt, and catch their prey because their paws are broader and bigger.

    If you have a polydactyl cat, be sure to buy it a scratching post or board. Those extra toes can seriously do a number on your furniture.

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  • 04 of 07

    Polydactyl Cats Are Considered Lucky


    Polydactyl cats, like many other cats (including black and calico cats), were thought to bring sailors good luck. Polydactyl cats were a regular sight on lengthy sea voyages back in the day.

    With the help of their large, wide paws, polydactyl cats made excellent mousers and could keep the ship’s supplies vermin-free. Plus, their paws helped them balance on rocky seas.

    Polydactyl cats are most frequent in Western England, Wales, Canada, and the Eastern United States, and their ubiquity in those areas is attributed to their time on trans-continental ships. Polydactyl cats in England are said to have been carried across the Atlantic Ocean, where they mated with non-polydactyl cats and spread the genetic characteristic.

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  • 05 of 07

    Ernest Hemingway Loved Polydactyl Cats


    Have you ever wondered why Hemingway cats are often called polydactyl cats? It's because Ernest Hemingway was a huge fan of them. Ernest Hemingway acquired a strong fondness for these multi-toed kittens after receiving a white polydactyl cat named Snow Ball from a ship's captain.

    His house in Key West, Florida, was turned into a museum and a refuge for his pet cats after his death in 1961. Roughly 50 offspring of his original pack of cats live in the kitty colony now, with about half of them being polydactyl.

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  • 06 of 07

    The Condition Was Very Common Among Maine Coon Cats


    Maine coon cats have huge, insulated paws that function as small, built-in snow boots since they developed in Maine's harsh, snowy circumstances. And, fortunately for Maine coons, polydactyly was fairly frequent in the breed—about 40% of possessed additional digits at one point. Why is it fortunate? have broader, wider paws with greater insulation to help them navigate the icy circumstances.

    Today, polydactyly has been bred out of many Maine coon cats, but the breed polydactyl Maine coon is still recognized by some cat fanciers.

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  • 07 of 07

    One Cat Holds the World Record for Most Toes


    Jake, a polydactyl ginger tabby, holds the global record for having the most toes, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Jake had a remarkable 28 toes on each paw, each with its own claw, pad, and bone structure.

  • How rare are polydactyl cats?

    Polydactyl cats are not rare are all. In fact, they're very common.

  • How long do polydactyl cats live?

    Polydactyl cats live long as regular cats, about 15 years.

  • How much are polydactyl cats worth?

    Polydactyl cats aren't worth more than regular cats, unless they are also purebred.


"Lockwood, A. Montgomery, R. McEwen, V. Bilateral radial hemimelia, polydactyly and cardiomegaly in two cats. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol, vol 22, no. 6, pp. 511-513, 2009. doi:10.3415/VCOT-08-12-0124", "Understanding the Polydactyl Cat. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.", "Most toes on a cat. Guinness World Records." ;