Have you found a kitten with one toe too many in your litter? Then you certainly haven’t miscounted. Because it may be that your cuddly is polydactile, i.e. has more toes than normal. Here you can find out what polydactyly in cats means for health and what else you should know about the controversial topic.
Table of Contents
- Mating “polys” – torture or preference?
- Symptoms: What are the signs of polydactyly in cats?
- Causes: What are the triggers of polydactyly in cats?
Mating “polys” – torture or preference?
Breeding with so-called “polys” is controversial. Therefore, the report on the interpretation of Section 11b of the Animal Welfare Act of the expert group “Animal Welfare and Pet Breeding” of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food (BMEL) recommends excluding cats with polydactyly from breeding.
Others, however, do not see polydactyly in cats as a flaw, but rather as an advantage. They assume that the house tigers affected are better able to climb and grip and are therefore superior to cats with a “normal” number of toes when hunting. In America, some breeders are even breeding specifically for polydactyly – namely in the “Superscratcher” cat breed.
What is certain is that you should not breed in Germany with cats that have the corresponding anomaly. This is important to avoid further poly pups and to comply with breed standards recognized by science in Germany.
Symptoms: What are the signs of polydactyly in cats?
Instead of five front toes and four back toes, cats with polydactyly usually have six toes on the front and five on the back – one toe too many.
However, the expression of the characteristic can vary. The gene can cause an extra toe to grow on all limbs or only one paw to be affected. There are also rarer cases where more than one toe is overdeveloped. The Guinness Book of Records reports a cat named Jake, who is said to have 28 toes instead of 18.
If your cat also has one or more toes too many, this is not painful for her. In rare cases it can happen that a claw tears and becomes inflamed. Major complications usually do not arise.
Depending on where the extra limb attaches to the paw, specialists divide multi-fingeredness in cats into two different forms:
1. The Mittens form
This term comes from the English (“in the middle”) and means something like “boxing glove” or “mitten”. The result is that the inherited gene mutation affects the inner side of the paw. The polydactyl cats have a thumb instead of a dewclaw on the front paws.
2. The Patty Foot Shape
The cat’s paw appears circular, like a hamburger patty. The reason: the polygene causes the toe to grow either in the middle or on the outside of the paw.
Causes: What are the triggers of polydactyly in cats?
The cause of polydactyly in cats is a special gene mutation that is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. Cat genetics typically dictate that cats have a total of 18 toes on their front and rear paws. If the gene responsible for this changes, the number of toes also changes.
Multi-toedness is particularly common in cat breeds Maine Coon in front. Various sources state that 40 percent of the original Maine Coon form had an extra toe.
Interesting to know: Since the cat of the world-renowned writer Ernest Hemingway was also a poly, polydactyl cats were given the name “Hemingway cats”. Cats with an additional toe on at least two paws are also known as “ship cats”.
Also the breed Pixiebob is known for its common polydactyly. In contrast to the Maine Coon, the Pixiebob’s polydactyly is one of the recognized breed standards according to TICA (The International Cat Association).
Polydactyly in cats (multi-toed) | See details