Cats are mysterious creatures that can constantly surprise a person. Even the most devoted fans of these animals, often, do not know all their features. Therefore, owners often have questions: a polydactyl cat – what does this mean, how dangerous is this condition, and is it necessary to take measures? In fact, there is nothing wrong here. Polydactyl cats do not need special care or treatment. It is enough to fully satisfy the natural needs of the animal.
The nature and features of the anomaly
Polydactyly is an inherited anatomical disorder. With such a genetic abnormality, cats have extra fingers, the number of which can be almost any. They are located on the side, like a person’s thumb, or flush with the main ones.
The first option is called preaxial polydactyly, and the owners affectionately say that their pets have “mitten paws”. If we are talking about extra fingers growing flush with the rest, this anomaly is called postaxial polydactyly. And about such cats they say that they have “snowshoe paws”. Both conditions are considered a variant of the norm, since they do not cause discomfort to animals and do not complicate their life.
A typical kitten has eighteen toes. Ten of them are located on the front legs, and eight on the hind legs. But if one of the parents had polydactyly, at least one cub will definitely inherit it. The anomaly can manifest itself in animals of different sexes and breeds. Most often, additional toes grow on the front legs or on the front and hind legs at the same time. Cases when only the hind legs are modified in a cat are very rare.
Polydactyly is inherited. However, even if both parents have extra toes, some of their offspring may have standard paws. But ordinary cats never give birth to polydactyl kittens. For the anomaly to manifest itself, at least one of the parents must be a clear carrier of this gene.
Benefits of polydactyly
Now that you know what a polydactyl kitten means, you need to understand how this condition affects the life and development of the animal. The appearance of extra fingers does not affect the functioning of the cat’s musculoskeletal system. Except that some breeds of animals with this feature have a heavier bone structure (first of all, this concerns the chest and forepaws).
The benefits of polydactyly are:
- The ability of an animal to maintain balance on any surfaces (which is why ship cats were often multi-fingered).
- Agility, developed hunting abilities.
- Tenacity. Cats and cats with “mitten paws” perfectly open doors, turn handles.
- Ability to swim well, walk on snow.
- Light and soft step.
In most cases, this condition does not require correction. Cats and cats with extra fingers have healthy offspring, live a full life, do not get sick. However, there are exceptions to the rule.
Disadvantages and dangers of polydactyly
In some cases, polydactyly is caused by a gene that leads to the development of other pathologies in the animal. These are limb deformities, abnormal bone development, joint diseases, ingrowth of claws. Then the animal requires qualified treatment.
One of the dangerous anomalies is the appearance of a triphalangeal thumb. In cats with this pathology, underdeveloped offspring are often born. Their kittens may have deformed forearms, and therefore such animals are usually spayed.
Polydactyl cats: in the past and today
Poly-fingering has been observed in felines at all times. But if today breeders and veterinarians know what features a polydactyl cat has – what kind of anomaly it is, how it affects the animal, etc., then in the past the attitude towards such cats was ambiguous.
In Europe during the “witch hunt” they were often destroyed, considering them accomplices of evil spirits. And in America, on the contrary, they were considered animals that bring good luck. Many famous people, including Ernest Hemingway and Theodore Roosevelt, kept such cats.
Today polydactyly is seen in cats of different breeds. Especially often it is diagnosed in Maine Coons. About 40% of individuals are born with a similar anomaly. It is believed that this is a natural feature for the breed, which helped the ancestors of modern Maine Coons to walk in deep snow without falling into it.
Maine Coons diagnosed with multiple fingers are registered with specialized felinological systems in the United States. They are not used for breeding and cannot qualify for champion status, as polydactyly is considered a deviation from the standard. However, recently, representatives of the MCBFA association have created a special standard for multi-toed Maine Coons, which the owners of these wonderful animals are very happy with.