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Super Paws! What Is A Polydactyl Cat?

Polydactyl cat via Wikimedia Commons -
Polydactyl cat via Wikimedia Commons -

We love paws here at Paw Print Pet Blog!  When it comes to paws, some cats have more to love.  Have you ever seen a polydactyl cat?  The word 'polydactyl' is Greek in origin, and means "many digits".  Basically, polydactyl cats have extra toes.  According to the Guinness Records, a tabby cat named Jake holds the world record for being the cat with the most toes.  Jake has a grand total of 28 toes - 7 on each paw.

Polydactyl is more common in some cat breeds, Maine Coons being one of them.  The trait seems to be prevent in cats from the eastern US, SW England, and Wales.  However, having extra toes is a genetic abnormality that can be present in any breed.  Although it's not as common, dogs and humans can also be polydactyl. 

Polydactyl cats are sometimes known as "Hemingway cats" due to author Earnest Hemingway's fascination with the extra toed felines.  His obsession started with a polydactyl cat named Snowball, who the author reportedly got from a ship captain.  The Hemingway house, in Key West FL, is still home to over 40 polydactyl cats, some of whom are direct descendents of Hemingway's cat Snowball!


Polydactyl cats seem to be so prevalent today, at least in part, due to the fact that they were historically considered by sailors to be good luck.  Prized mousers, one theory suggests that all those extra toes helped them to balance better while traveling the high seas!

Good luck on ships, perhaps, but I bet polydactyl cats don't feel so lucky at nail cutting time with all those extra toes!



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