Do Polydactyl Cats Have Extra Claws?

Calling all cat enthusiasts. Are you familiar with polydactyl cats? These adorable felines have a genetic mutation that causes them to have extra toes on their paws, making them stand out from the crowd. But what about their claws – do they have extras of those too?

The answer is both yes and no. Polydactyl cats can have additional toes, but the claws on these digits may or may not be present. With anywhere from six to eight toes on their front paws and four to seven on their back ones, these kitties are certainly unique.

But what’s the significance of having extra toes (and possibly extra claws)? It turns out that polydactyl cats often have an advantage over their standard-toed counterparts. They’re better climbers and balance with ease, while some even boast increased dexterity in their paws, making them excellent hunters and playful companions.

What’s more, the history behind polydactyl cats is fascinating. These cats are prevalent in coastal towns like Boston and parts of England with long histories of sailing. Many believe that the mutation was originally advantageous for catching mice aboard ships.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the captivating world of polydactyl cats – from their extra toes and claws to their unique history and characteristics. So sit tight and get ready to be wowed as we explore the world of these charming and mysterious felines.

Causes of Extra Toes in Polydactyl Cats

Polydactyl cats, also known as “Hemingway cats,” are a unique and fascinating breed with extra toes on their paws. This genetic mutation affects the development of the paw during fetal growth, resulting in more than the usual number of digits. The extra toes can vary in number and positioning, and some may even come with extra claws.

So, what exactly causes this genetic mutation? Well, it’s believed to be an inherited trait caused by a dominant gene. In other words, if one parent has the mutation, there is a 50% chance that their offspring will inherit it as well. However, polydactyly can also occur spontaneously due to a genetic mutation.

While extra toes can give polydactyl cats a unique appearance, they can also cause discomfort and pain if not properly maintained. Extra claws can grow too long and start digging into the paw pads or skin, causing pain for the cat. It’s important for owners to regularly trim their cat’s nails to prevent this from happening.

Despite this potential discomfort, polydactyl cats may actually have an advantage in certain situations. The extra digits can provide better balance or grip when climbing or hunting. In fact, these cats were once highly prized by sailors for their ability to catch mice on ships.

Number of Claws in Polydactyl Cats

These felines have extra toes that can result in varying numbers of digits on their paws. But what about their claws? Let’s dive into the fascinating world of polydactyl cat claws.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand that not all polydactyl cats have extra claws. The number of claws depends on the digit count of each paw. Each digit contains one claw, so a polydactyl cat with five toes on its front paw will have five claws – just like a regular cat. However, it’s not uncommon for some polydactyl cats to have an additional claw that is not attached to any toe. These floating claws can be found anywhere on the paw and may or may not be functional.

So, while some polydactyl cats may have extra claws in addition to their extra toes, it’s not a guarantee. In fact, some polydactyl cats may have the same number of claws as a regular cat. The number of claws in these unique felines ultimately depends on their specific digit count.

It’s also important to note that not all cats with extra toes are considered polydactyl. For example, Maine Coon cats are known for having extra toes without being considered polydactyl. These cats are known as “double-pawed” or “mitten-footed” and typically have an extra toe on their front paws only.

Advantages of Having Extra Toes

These unique felines possess an extraordinary genetic mutation that grants them more than the typical number of toes on their paws. While some might think this is a disadvantage, there are actually some surprising benefits to having extra toes.

One significant advantage of having extra toes is that it can provide better balance and stability for the cat. This is especially helpful for active polydactyl cats who enjoy climbing or running around. With more surface area to grip onto surfaces, these cats are less likely to slip and fall, which can help prevent injuries. So if you have a polydactyl cat at home, you can rest easy knowing that they are agile and well-balanced in their movements.

Not only do these extra toes provide stability, but they also give the cat’s paws a larger and more impressive appearance. Certain breeds, such as the Maine Coon, are known for their large and striking paws. Polydactyl Maine Coons are especially prized for their unique appearance, making them an ideal companion if you’re looking for a feline that will turn heads.

Moreover, some believe that having extra toes can make polydactyl cats better hunters than their regular-toed counterparts. While this hasn’t been scientifically proven, it’s possible that more claws could give a cat an advantage in catching prey. If you live in an area with plenty of small rodents or insects, a polydactyl cat might just be the perfect pest control solution.

Ernest Hemingway and His Love for Polydactyl Cats

It wasn’t just any cat that captured Hemingway’s heart – it was the polydactyl cat, with their unique extra toes and impressive paws.

Hemingway’s love for these felines began when he was gifted a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain. This feline quickly became a cherished pet of the author, and it wasn’t long before he had amassed a large number of these unique cats. Today, Hemingway’s former home in Key West, Florida, which is now a museum, boasts a population of around 40-50 cats – all descendants of that original six-toed feline.

But what makes the polydactyl cat so special? For starters, their extra toes can provide better balance and stability, making them more agile hunters. Additionally, their larger paws give them an imposing presence that demands attention. Although it is a common misconception that these cats have extra claws, they actually have the same number of claws as any other cat – five on each front paw and four on each back paw. However, some polydactyl cats may have small, non-functional claws on their extra toes.

Hemingway’s love for these unique cats was not only limited to their physical attributes; he also gave them unique names. From President Roosevelt and Snow White to F. Puss and Uncle Willie, Hemingway’s cats had monikers as distinctive as their appearance.

How to Care for Polydactyl Cats

Polydactyl cats, also known as Hemingway cats or mitten cats, are beloved for their unique paws that boast more than the typical number of toes. Caring for these special felines requires a few extra considerations, but with the right care and attention, they can live happy and healthy lives. Here are five tips for giving your polydactyl cat the best care possible:

Trim their extra claws

Some polydactyl cats may have extra claws on their paws, which can cause discomfort or potential injury if left untrimmed. Regular trimming with a pet nail clipper or file is essential to keep their claws at a comfortable length.

Provide appropriate scratching surfaces

To help your polydactyl cat keep their claws healthy and sharp, provide them with scratching posts or pads made of sisal, cardboard, or carpet. This will also prevent them from scratching furniture or other household items.

Regular grooming

Polydactyl cats may have extra fur between their toes, making regular grooming essential to prevent mats or tangles. Brush your cat regularly and check between their toes for any debris or irritation that could lead to skin infections.

Safe environment

Your polydactyl cat’s unique paws require a safe and comfortable environment. Make sure to provide them with a litter box that is large enough for them to maneuver with their larger paws and ensure that any toys or objects they play with won’t cause harm to their extra toes or claws.

Balanced and nutritious diet

Polydactyl cats may have a higher risk of weight gain due to their larger size and extra toes. Monitor their food intake and provide regular exercise to keep them at a healthy weight.


In summary, polydactyl cats possess an intriguing feature that sets them apart from other felines – extra toes on their paws. However, it’s important to note that not all of these additional digits come with an extra claw. The number of claws in polydactyl cats varies based on the digit count of each paw.

Despite this, having extra toes can be advantageous for polydactyl cats. Their larger paws provide them with increased stability and grip, making them excellent climbers and hunters. Moreover, their unique appearance is sure to turn heads.

Caring for these special cats requires a bit of extra effort, but responsible cat owners can handle it with ease. Regular grooming, trimming of extra claws, providing appropriate scratching surfaces, maintaining a safe environment, and ensuring a balanced diet are all crucial aspects of caring for polydactyl cats.

So, there’s no denying that polydactyl cats are captivating creatures with a rich history and fascinating characteristics.