Have you ever wondered how may toes do cats have? In this article you can learn how many toes do cats have normally and you can also get to know what polydactyl means.
First of all, let’s make it clear; a cat’s paw, toe, and claw are not the same things. They are in fact separate parts of a feline’s leg.
To make it easier to understand, think of it as your leg. Your feet are the cat’s paws, your toes are her toes and as each of your toes has a nail, her each toe has a claw.
Cats walk on their paw pads (including small paw pads under each toe and a bigger central paw pad) which help them move silently.
They also use them for detecting the temperature and texture of objects, grooming their faces, grabbing objects like prey or toys and detecting dangers by feeling the vibration through them.
Normal – How many toes do normal cats have?
Cats are normally born with four paws (as they have four legs) and a total of eighteen toes. Each of the front paws has five toes while each of the hind paws has four toes.
The fifth toe of the front paws is known as a dewclaw, and as it is a little bit raised it does not touch the ground but helps to improve balance and climbing abilities.
So normally, most cats have 18 toes, though it is not uncommon to find cats with more toes.
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Polydactyl cats – Cats with extra toes
As we discussed, cats normally have eighteen toes, but once in a while, some felines are born with more than this usual number of toes and have a few extras.
This is not at all unusual, and the extra one, two or three toes are most commonly found on the front paws only, though in very rare occasions you might find cats with extra toes on their hind legs.
Sometimes the extra toe on the front paw has the appearance of a thumb, making the cat look as she is wearing a mitten. These cats are known as mitten cats, although the official name is polydactyl which is Greek in origin and has a meaning of many toes.
Other names for cats with extra toes are conch cats, boxing cats, thumb cats, big-foot cats or snowshoe cats.
Being polydactyl is a genetic mutation and can be passed down from generation to generation, and there is a 50-50 chance that a kitten will be born polydactyl if one of the parents is polydactyl.
Although currently there is no specific breed recognized as having more polydactyl cats than other breeds, at one time 40% of all Main Coon cats have had extra toes functioned as snowshoes helping them cope with the annual over 90 inches snowfall.
Even though there is no certain polydactyl cat breed, there are some particular parts of the world where this trait is more common. They can mainly be found in the United States, Canada, England and Wales due to their popularity on ships.
The extra-toed cats were more valued in sailors’ community because they were rumored to be great hunters and were expected to keep a check on the rodent population aboard the ship which in turn kept the food safe. They were also considered as a good luck charm.
Extra-toed cats – Guinness Record
According to the Guinness World Records, the award for most toes on a cat is currently held by Jake, a male Canadian ginger tabby cat who has a total of 28 toes, seven on each paw.
Famous people with their extra-toed cat
Polydactyl cats were not only popular at the sailors’ community, but some famous people also liked these big-foot cats.
Nobel Prize-winning author, Ernest Hemingway was a huge fan of polydactyl cats after getting an extra-toed cat gifted by a ship captain. Since polydactyly is a genetic mutation, this cat went on to contribute its genes to the future polydactyl cats so even today, after the author’s death, his former home in Key West, Florida (currently operating as a museum) houses around 50 cats, about half of which are polydactyl. Because of his love and obsession for these cats with extra toes, polydactyl cats are often called Hemingway Cats.
President Theodore Roosevelt also had a six-toed gray cat, named Slippers.
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Health risk – Do I have to worry?
Having many toes is quite interesting, but it does not bring any benefit to its owner.
On the other hand, it does not pose any risk to the cat, it does not affect any of her abilities nor does it affect her behavior.
Some people even actively seek out polydactyl cats to keep it as a pet, so no need to worry, everything is fine.