Mighty Mouser Mitts: Facts About Polydactylism In Cats


If your kitty is padding around the house on what look like oversized baseball mitts, then you are the proud pet parent of a polydactyl cat, also commonly known as a Hemingway cat. Find out why some cats are blessed with extra toes and how to keep your feline friend's extra digits healthy.

What Is Polydactylism?

In the Greek language, poly means many, and dakulos means fingers. Normally, cats sport five digits on each front paw and four digits on each rear paw. When a naturally occurring genetic mutation occurs that results in a polydactyl cat, that kitty has extra digits, each of which consists of a claw, a toe pad and the same bony structure as any other toe. These extra digits most commonly appear on the front paws, but the rear paws can also be affected. One of the most adorable presentations of polydactylism occurs when the cat has a large extra dewclaw on each front paw, giving the illusion that she is wearing a pair of furry mittens.

Polydactyl Paws Probably Pose No Problem

Having extra fingers or toes does not usually pose any health problems for your cat. In some instances, polydactylism may present as a genetic defect in the cat's bone growth and development, resulting in a deforming and disabling condition called feline radial hypoplasia. This is not the common presentation of polydactylism, however. Polydactylism is not usually detrimental, but you need to remember that the extra toes mean that there are extra claws to trim. If you miss any claw during a nail trim, it can continue to grow and penetrate into the paw pad, resulting in pain and infection.

Professional nail trimming is a veterinary service that your veterinarian is happy to provide. Get your cat accustomed to having her paws handled so that you can carry out the following paw care measures:

  • Inspect in between each of her toes regularly for cuts, lesions, splinters or swelling. Bring any such findings to your veterinarian's attention as soon as possible for proper treatment.
  • If your polydactyl cat is a longhaired breed, such hair growth between her toes may be irritating to her. Ask your groomer to trim the hair.
  • Keep your cat's paws clean. With smaller spaces in between her crowded toes, it can be easy for litter and other debris to become trapped in between her toes.
  • Bring your cat to the veterinarian for an examination if you observe her limping or licking a paw excessively.

In most cases, polydactyl cats live perfectly normal and happy lives with fully developed extra toes, and polydactylism is typically viewed as an endearing attribute to the cat's charming appearance.


14 December 2016

Diseases in Dogs

Do you know the types of diseases that are most likely to cause death in dogs? My name is Anne, and I have owned several dogs in the my lifetime. I enjoy training, playing with, and caring for dogs of all sizes and breeds. Throughout my time as a dog owner, I have discovered that there are several illnesses that are common causes of death in dogs and that some breeds are more likely to get these diseases than other breeds. This blog will explain various common deadly diseases in dogs and give advice about how to prevent and treat these illnesses.