is my cat polydactyl?
The typical domestic cat has 5 toes on their front paws, and 4 toes on their hind paws. That is, unless they have more. In which case, it is a Polydactyl cat: a cat with more than the normal amount of toes. What is a polydactyl cat?
Polydactyl cats are not a particular breed, and the trait can appear in any breed: Calicos, Tabbies, white, black, etc. So what is a polydactyl cat?
A version of polydactyl is “mitten paws,” it occurs when the extra toes are attached on the medial side, the “thumb” side of the paw. These polydactyl cats look like they have opposable thumbs, and some act like they do. With increased dexterity, they are enable to open clasps and windows.
Cats that have multiple toes that aren’t “mitten paws” just appear to have big feet, which are called “snowshoe paws” or “pancake feet.”
These type of polydactyl paws are similar to the Canadian lynx, who have very large paws, enabling them to walk on top of snow.
Mariners valued polydactyl cats.They were traditionally seen on sailing ships when sail boats were used for trade. Sailors saw that polydactyl cats had extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities, useful for controlling rodents. Perhaps that’s why they considered polydactyl cats good luck on a ship.
Polydactyl cats have been popular for a while. President Theodore Roosevelt brought Slippers, who’s right paw had six toes, to the white house, around 1906. Photo is of his son Quentin, with Slippers.
Polydactyls were made even more popular by writer Ernest Hemingway. In the 1930’s, sea captain Stanley Dexter gave Hemingway a six-toed cat named Snowball. Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida is now a museum where around sixty cats live. At least half of the cats are polydacts, most likely the decendents of Hemingway’s cat Snowball.