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Home / Blog / Health, cat health, ochoa / Polydactyl Cats: The Extra Toe Gene

August 31, 2018 |4 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

Polydactyl Cats: The Extra Toe Gene

How many toes does your cat have? Go ahead and count. We'll wait.
Back already? Great! How many did you count? Eighteen, right? Congratulations! Your cat has a normal number of toes. Indeed, most cats have five toes on each front paw and four toes on each back toe. But did you know there is a condition known as "polydactyly" in which cats can be born with more than eighteen toes? Does this affect a cat's health? Is this something to be concerned about?

What Causes Polydactyly?

Even though you might never have encountered it yourself, polydactyly in cats is not rare. In fact, it even used to be common among some breeds, such as Maine Coon cats, until it was selectively bred out of them. It also occurs in other mammals, including dogs, mice, and even humans.

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The exact gene responsible for the extra toes is unknown, but we do know it's a genetic mutation that is the result of an "incomplete" dominant gene inheritance. This means that any cat born with the gene should display the trait and be born with at least one extra toe; in clinical observation, however, the trait is only displayed about 50% of the time, meaning it is an "incomplete" dominance.


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Is Polydactyly Harmful?

In most cases, polydactyly in cats does not produce any adverse health effects. While the extra toes won't grant a cat superpowers, it also typically won't lead to health problems. It also does not indicate other, related health issues. For the most part, polydactyly is merely a physical oddity and not necessarily a deformity, as most cats can run, jump, play, climb, and do all the things expected of cats with a normal number of toes.

Do Polydactyl Cats Require Extra Care?


Kitten with Extra Toes
While polydactyly is usually harmless, pet parents should still check their cats routinely for signs of nail overgrowth, infection, or soreness. Generally speaking, polydactyl cats require more consistent and careful nail clipping.
In some extreme cases, such as when the claws of one or more extra toes interferes with the cat's quality of life and regular claw trimming and other measures fail, the extra claw or claws might need to be surgically removed. However, this should only be a last resort, as declawing itself can have its own set of complications.

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Polydactyl Cat Trivia

 Sources:

1. https://icatcare.org/advice/polydactyl-cats-cats-with-extra-toes/

2. https://www.thesprucepets.com/polydactyl-cats-4175908

3. https://www.floridawildvethospital.com/polydactyl-cats-an-amazing-genetic-mutation/

Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.

Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-tasci-68ab815b (opens in a new window)

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Sara Ochoa

Sara Ochoa, DVM graduated from St. George's University Veterinary School in 2015. Since then, she has been at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her free time, she loves making quilts and spending time with her husband Greg and their 4 fur kids. Two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.

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