Skip to Content

5 Facts About Polydactyl Cats And This Amazing Mutation

5 Facts About Polydactyl Cats And This Amazing Mutation

There is nothing more amazing than sporting a cat with an extra toe on at least one paw. It makes a cat’s foot look like mittens and exceptionally cute. Such a situation might be common or uncommon depending on the part of the world you are in, but a common genetic mutation in felines causes it.

Polydactyl cats are generally loved and are sometimes referred to as mitten cats, conch cats, snowshoe cats, Hemingway cats, etc., in the United States. These cats usually have more than four and five toes in each paw, and this is because they have a predominant genetic mutation that is inherited from parents. 

Polydactylism, a genetic mutation quite common in cats, is surrounded by myths about making them unique felines. These myths are inaccurate as this genetic mutation offers no extended health benefits or disadvantages. Many cat lovers think of these cats as mysterious, and they are stunning creatures loved by feline owners.

cat playing

Brief Introduction To Polydactyls

Polydactyl cats are born from mutated parents. They are also known as mitten cats or Hemingway cats. The nickname Hemingway cats began when Ernest Hemingway got Snow White, a white polydactyl kitten, as a gift from Stanley Dexter, a sea captain in the 1930s.

It was a famous cat usually found on ships due to their ability to balance better on rocky seas and because sailors believed they were good luck charms. Several descendants of these polydactyl cats still roam the grounds of this property, now regarded as the Hemingway home and museum.

Most of the cats in this museum are polydactyls and have extra toes, but even those that do not have the physical indication of this genetic mutation carry the gene. In other words, they can produce kittens with this gene.

5 Facts About Polydactyl Cats

Cats with extra toes are perceived as mythical, but is this true? Let’s take a look at five facts about polydactyl cats.

This Condition Is A Genetic Mutation

Polydactyl is a physical abnormality caused by a genetic mutation that causes extra toes. Typically, they are not a breed but are most familiar to Maine Coons in the past. Nowadays, their genetic mutation spreads widely across species.

The condition, as mentioned above, was familiar to Maine Coons. They originated from a harsh snowy climate in Maine and were considered lucky because polydactyl gave them more enormous, wider paws with more insulation to survive the severe weather.

The front feet are most affected by these conditions, and it’s infrequent for it to occur only on the hind paws or on all paws, but there are rare situations like that.

For instance, Jake, a Canadian polydactyl ginger tabby who holds the world record according to the Guinness book of records for having seven toes on each paw, making a whole of 28 toes rather than the usual five on each of the front toe and four on the back making 18 toes in total.

These Mitten Foot Cats Are More Common In Certain Parts Of The World.

These mitten cats are more common on the Eastern coast of West America, southwest of England and Wales. It is common to assume that the mutation originated in the UK and was transported to other places via cargo. Still, recent studies show that might be untrue as the mutation in pterodactyl cats from the UK is different from those from New England.

Reliable sources state that three distinct genetic variants cause this mutation, and they are explicitly located in the UK and the United States. Although one could still use cargo to transport these Hemingway cats, they are more common in some parts of the world.

They are more common around transatlantic regions such as Maine and Wales, and this is sometimes associated with their supposed accessibility on old cargo ships.

Hemingway Cats Are Considered Good Luck Charms

Hemingway cats have long been seen as unique and good luck charms for sailors. Sailors respected them, and they were a common sight on ships on a long journey. Perhaps, here is why they are now more common in areas near old Port, but like many other cats such as calico cats, they were considered good luck.

Several also believed that Hemingway cats are excellent mouse hunters with the help of their large wide paws. In addition, their large feet helped them balance better on rocky terrains, which made them a good companion for the journey.

Their Extra Toes Could Be An Advantage

Generally, having an extra toe can be a disadvantage if the extra toe grows at an uncomfortable angle, causing discomfort to your cat. Yet, the large paws can be beneficial in helping them keep a better grip either for picking up items, navigating difficult paths, or climbing trees.

They are also thought to hunt and capture prey better because of their wider paws. However, it is advisable to buy a scratching post if you have one of these muffin cats to reduce the scratch your furry friends could inflict on your furniture.

Polydactyl Is Not A Condition Only Found In Cats

The condition of extra toes is primarily found in cats, but they aren’t the only ones with this genetic variation. Polydactyl is also found in dogs, chickens, guinea pigs, and many other mammals.

Although there is no health impact of polydactyl on cats. Yet, in some cases, surgical removal of the extra toe is performed commonly to solve this issue in cats.


Do Polydactyl Cats Have Problems?

No, they do not have problems. Polydactyls cats are generally healthy, and their extra toes usually don’t affect their health and life span, but those extras can sometimes cause some infections related to a cat’s claw and skin on the foot area.

However, they live like normal cats and enjoy a higher chance of firm grip and other minor benefits. Still, even though these cute mitten cats are generally loved, breeding them for sale is not encouraged.

How Much Is A Polydactyl Cat Worth?

A polydactyl cat’s worth varies depending on several factors such as its parent, breed, bloodline, type, and age. Averagely, an adult polydactyl cat can be worth $400 to $1000, but a kitten can cost as high as $1300.

In comparison, a polydactyl cat would be worth more than a regular cat because of high demand. Thus, cat owners love them for their low maintenance, and their ability to provide even more pterodactyl kittens makes them exceptionally pricey.

Is Polydactyly More Common In Male Or Female Cats?

Polydactyl is a feline genetic mutation that can affect male or female cats of any breed. Gender differences do not affect polydactyl in cats, whether female or male. In addition, cats with extra toes aren’t rare; the gene is a common one that is not related to the gender of your cat.

Typically, a mitten cat can parent more polydactyl kittens, even though all the children in the litter might not be Hemingway kittens. But, there’s more tendency for most of them to be as unique as one of their parents, and you can rest assured they do not have severe health problems.

Final Thoughts

The unique mutation that causes polydactyls in cats isn’t unusual and can be found in several cats across several breeds. It doesn’t have serious health consequences for your little furry friends. Although sometimes they may have claw problems if the growth of the extra toe is at an uncomfortable place. Still, they are great pets to keep around.

Keep Reading: