Got thumbs? These cats sure do!
Prepare for toe beans, and make it double...or triple, or even quadruple! We're here to learn about polydactyly in cats. Not to be confused with pterodactyls (though how cute would a pterodactyl cat be?), polydactyly in felines is when cats are born with extra toes on their paws.
1. All those extra toes are thanks to a genetic mutation.
Asilverstein, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Cats normally have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four on each hind paw. Polydactyl cats may have as many as eight toes on each paw! These extra toe beans are usually found on the front paws, but polydactyly can also occur on a cat's hind paws as well. It's fairly rare to have a cat with extra toes on all four paws.
If one parent is polydactyl and one parent has normal paws, then 40 to 50 percent of the kittens will also be polydactyl.
The term polydactyly is Greek in origin, where "poly" means "many" and daktylos" meaning "digits."
2. They're also called "Hemingway Cats."
This is thanks to famed writer Ernest Hemingway! Hemingway was gifted an all-white, polydactyl cat by a ship captain and started a tradition of polydactyl cats. He soon had over 50 cats on his estate in Key West, Florida, a majority of them with multiple toes. Today, you can visit Hemingway's estate, which has been turned into a museum, where many polydactyl cats (direct descendants of Snow White herself) are still in residence and are well cared for by museum staff.
3. Maine Coons are commonly polydactyls
In the past, nearly 40 percent of Maine Coon cats had polydactyly. This may be due to the fact that the breed is descended from multi-toed cats that were commonly kept on ships as good luck charms. Though the trait is no longer as predominant in the breed, Maine Coon polydactyls are still recognized as an official breed by many cat fanciers.
4. They've made it to the White House.
President Theodore Roosevelt had a polydactyl cat by the name of Slippers, a six-toed kitty who stalked the halls of the White House and demanded the respect a kitty deserves. Once, during a formal dinner, Slippers flopped himself down for a nap right in the middle of the corridor that the dignitaries were using to get to the dining room - forcing them to walk around him, lest they disturb his nap.
5. They were considered good luck charms.
Like calico cats, polydactyl cats were often seen as good luck charms on the high seas. They would accompany fishermen and sailors on their long journeys, likely used as mousers to hunt the rats and mice that would destroy vital food supplies. It's said their extra toes gave them better balance on the ship's gunnels and rails if they hit rough waters.
6. The world record for Most Toe (beans) is 28
There are two cats that currently hold the title for Guinness' World Record for Most Toes on a Cat.
A white tabby by the name of Paws shares the title with a ginger tabby named Jake. According to Guinness, each toe must have its own claw, pad and bone structure to qualify as an official toe bean.
Have a polydactyl cat of your very own? Now you can get their photo printed on any custom item, like a mug or blanket! Click below for more details.