Why Do Cats Have Extra Toes?
Cats are fascinating creatures, known for their agility, independence, and of course, their adorable paws. While most cats have the standard number of toes, did you know that some cats have more than the usual amount? These cats are known as polydactyl cats, and their extra toes have captivated cat lovers for centuries. In this article, we will explore why cats have extra toes and share five interesting facts about polydactyl cats.
1. Genetic Mutation:
Polydactyly in cats is a genetic mutation that causes them to have more than the usual number of toes. While most cats have 18 toes, with five toes on their front paws and four on their back paws, polydactyl cats can have up to eight toes on their front paws and seven on their back paws. This mutation is thought to be inherited, and it is believed to have originated in New England in the 18th century.
2. Enhanced Dexterity:
One of the advantages of having extra toes is improved dexterity. Polydactyl cats often display remarkable agility and coordination due to their increased number of toes. With more toes to grip onto surfaces, they can navigate challenging terrains and climb with greater ease. This enhanced dexterity has made polydactyl cats popular choices for ship cats, as they were believed to be excellent mousers on sailing vessels.
3. Unique Paw Prints:
Polydactyl cats have paw prints that are truly unique. Instead of the usual small, oval-shaped paw print, their prints often resemble tiny mittens. The extra toes create a broader and rounder shape, making their paw prints instantly recognizable. This unique feature adds to the charm of these adorable felines.
4. Increased Balance:
Having extra toes also contributes to better balance for polydactyl cats. The additional toes provide them with a wider base of support, allowing them to maintain stability even on narrow surfaces. This advantage is particularly beneficial for cats that spend a lot of time climbing trees or navigating uneven terrain.
5. Popularity Among Writers and Sailors:
Polydactyl cats have a long history of popularity among writers and sailors. Famous authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain were known for their love of polydactyl cats, and their homes were often filled with them. In fact, the polydactyl cats on Hemingway’s estate in Key West, Florida, are still descendants of his original pet cat, Snowball. Similarly, sailors believed that polydactyl cats brought good luck, and it was common to have them on board ships.
Common Questions about Polydactyl Cats:
1. Are polydactyl cats rare?
Polydactyl cats are relatively rare, with only a small percentage of cats having extra toes.
2. Are polydactyl cats a specific breed?
Polydactyl cats are not a specific breed. The trait can be found in various cat breeds and mixed-breed cats.
3. Can polydactyl cats use their extra toes?
Yes, polydactyl cats can use their extra toes just like regular toes. In fact, their extra toes often provide them with enhanced dexterity and balance.
4. Are polydactyl cats more prone to health problems?
No, there is no evidence to suggest that polydactyl cats are more prone to health problems than cats with the usual number of toes.
5. Can polydactyl cats have extra toes on all four paws?
Yes, polydactyl cats can have extra toes on both their front and back paws, although the number of extra toes can vary.
6. How many toes can polydactyl cats have?
The number of toes on polydactyl cats can range from a few extra toes to having double the usual number of toes.
7. Can polydactyl cats have different numbers of toes on each paw?
Yes, it is possible for polydactyl cats to have different numbers of toes on each paw.
8. Can polydactyl cats breed with regular cats?
Yes, polydactyl cats can breed with regular cats, and they can both produce polydactyl and non-polydactyl kittens.
9. Can polydactyl cats participate in cat shows?
Polydactyl cats can participate in cat shows, although some breed standards may not allow them to compete in certain categories due to their extra toes.
10. Can the extra toes be surgically removed?
The extra toes in polydactyl cats should not be surgically removed unless there is a medical reason to do so.
11. Are polydactyl cats more expensive than regular cats?
The price of a polydactyl cat can vary, but they are generally not more expensive than regular cats.
12. Can polydactyl cats open doors or manipulate objects with their extra toes?
Polydactyl cats can use their extra toes to open doors or manipulate objects, although not all polydactyl cats display these abilities.
13. Is it true that polydactyl cats are good luck?
Polydactyl cats were believed to bring good luck sailors, but the notion of luck is subjective and varies from culture to culture.
14. Can polydactyl cats have health issues related to their extra toes?
Polydactyl cats can develop certain health issues related to their extra toes, such as ingrown nails or arthritis, but these issues can usually be managed with proper care and veterinary attention.
In conclusion, polydactyl cats have intrigued cat lovers for generations. Their extra toes provide them with enhanced dexterity, balance, and a unique look. Whether you find polydactyl cats fascinating for their genetics, historical significance, or simply for their adorable paw prints, they are truly a remarkable and cherished part of the feline world.