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Vet Talks: What Is Polydactyly In Cats

Vet Talks 3 min read
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What Is Polydactyly In Cats?

The term polydactyly, meaning “many fingers” in Greek, is a condition that comes from extra fingers on the cat’s paw, which can manifest in one or all the paws (front and hind paws). It is an inherited “genetic defect” and generates additional little fingers to the kitty’s paw that vary in number and structure. It also can work perfectly or be just a small piece of soft tissue.

Polydactyly is a genetic condition that generates additional little fingers to the kitty’s paw.

If you noticed some extra little fingers on your kitten’s paw, you do not need to worry! Although known as a “genetic defect”, polydactyly does not mean that something is wrong with your little one. The front paws are usually the most affected by the condition, but it can also occur in the hind paws as well. In some cases, the extra finger looks like a big thumb, making your kitty appear to be wearing a small pair of mittens. It is extremely rare for cats to have polydactyly on all four paws.

Polydactyly can even benefit your kitty! Cats’ fingers are not just cute, but they are also responsible for helping their body’s balance. Since cats with polydactyly have bigger and wider paws, they can balance themselves better on different surfaces, climb, hunt, and capture their prey easier than other cats.


Polydactyl Cats Throughout History

This is perhaps why polydactyl cats have been revered in our history. Because of their unique ability to balance and were thought to be better hunters, sailors used to have them on their boats. Ernest Hemingway was given one such cat named Snow White by a ship captain, and Snow White’s descendants still live in the Hemingway House in Key West. President Roosevelt also had a polydactyl cat named Slippers that he kept with him in the White House! Another fun fact is that the Guinness Book Of World Records for most toes on a cat is 28. That’s 7 toes on each paw!


Some breeds such as Maine Coons are very well known for having this condition. Some studies indicate that Maine Coons have a 40% chance of being born with polydactyly.

Health Concerns In Polydactyl Cats

Even though there is no specific health problem associated with polydactyly in cats, it is essential that the pet owner maintains their kitty’s paws. That is because extra fingers mean more claws that can grow and hurt the cat. To avoid possible injuries, it is necessary to trim your cat’s nails as often as possible. To help keep your polydactyl furkiddo calm while trimming their nails, we recommend NHV Matricalm. Matricalm is a blend of organic and wild-crafted herbs that naturally help reduce stress and aggressive behavior in pets.

Polydactyl cats are healthy, sweet, and loveable just like any other kitty. These clever cats are better equipped to open doors, so hide the catnip up high!

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda completed her undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine in 2010 and graduate studies in veterinary pathology (MVSc. 2012 and PhD 2016) at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo. She completed her post-doctoral training at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Saskatchewan in 2018. Dr. Nascimento will be hosting her own blog series and sharing her knowledge with our extended NHV family.

Published: September 13, 2020

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