How Rare Is It For Cats To Have Thumbs?

Have you ever laid eyes on a cat with thumbs? Not the little bumps on their paw pads, but actual thumbs that can grip objects like a human hand. It may sound ludicrous, but it’s not entirely impossible. The concept of cats having thumbs is captivating and has sparked numerous discussions among both cat enthusiasts and experts. So, just how rare is it for cats to have thumbs?

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of polydactyl cats – a genetic variation where felines are born with extra toes that sometimes resemble thumbs. We’ll explore the science behind it, the history of polydactyl cats, and even highlight some famous examples of these unique kitties.

Polydactyly isn’t life-threatening and can even be beneficial for cats who’ve lost their paws due to accidents or illnesses. However, these kitties face certain challenges such as finding properly fitting footwear or being mistaken for feral cats due to their unusual appearance.

So come along with me on this curious journey as we uncover the rare world of cats with thumbs and discover just how exceptional these furry creatures truly are.

The Genetic Anomaly of Polydactylism in Cats

Polydactylism is a mesmerizing genetic anomaly that results in cats having extra toes, or “thumbs,” as they are commonly called. This condition is caused by a dominant gene, which means that it only takes one parent with polydactylism to pass the trait on to their offspring.

The prevalence of polydactylism varies depending on the breed of cat. For instance, Maine Coons are known for having a higher incidence of polydactylism, with up to 40% of the breed having extra toes. In contrast, Siamese cats are rarely polydactyl. However, just because a cat has extra toes doesn’t necessarily mean they have full use of them as thumbs.

In some cases, the extra toes may be smaller and less functional than a regular digit. Nevertheless, in other cases, the extra toes can be fully functional and even give cats an advantage in certain situations, such as climbing or hunting.

It’s important to note that while some people may find polydactylism in cats to be cute or unique, it’s still a genetic anomaly and can potentially lead to health problems. For example, extra toes can make it difficult for cats to groom themselves properly, leading to matting and potential skin infections. Therefore, owners of polydactyl cats must monitor their grooming habits and take extra care when trimming their nails.

Interestingly, sailors used to highly prize this trait, believing that polydactyl cats brought good luck to their ships. Polydactylism in cats was also historically more common in certain regions due to adaptation to cold climates and better grip on slippery surfaces.

Prevalence of Polydactylism in Different Cat Breeds

Research suggests that certain breeds such as the Maine Coon, American Shorthair, Pixiebob, Japanese Bobtail, and Hemingway cat (also known as the polydactyl cat) may have a higher prevalence of polydactylism. In fact, up to 40 percent of Maine Coons are known to have extra toes. However, not all cats within these breeds will exhibit this trait.

Outside of these specific breeds, polydactylism is generally considered rare in the general population of cats. In some regions of the world, such as Europe, it’s even viewed as a defect and can disqualify cats from cat shows. However, in North America, polydactyl cats are celebrated for their unique feature.

While having extra toes may seem fun and quirky, it’s important to recognize that it can also lead to some health concerns. Extra toes can cause difficulty in grooming and may require more frequent maintenance to prevent matting or infection. Additionally, some cats with polydactylism may experience joint issues or discomfort due to the added weight on their paws.

If you’re considering adopting a polydactyl cat, it’s crucial to do your research and understand any potential health concerns associated with this unique trait. But no matter if your feline friend has extra toes or not, they’re still a cherished member of your family.

Adaptation of Polydactyly in Cold Climates and Its Popularity Among Sailors

Enter the world of polydactyl cats, felines with more than the typical number of toes on their paws. These unique creatures have adapted to harsh, cold climates in ways that are both intriguing and beneficial.

In areas with colder temperatures, such as Maine and Nova Scotia, polydactyly is more common among cats. The extra toes provide them with additional traction and balance on slippery surfaces. This adaptation has allowed them to navigate icy surroundings with greater ease, which is essential for survival in harsh conditions.

But that’s not all there is to this story. Polydactyl cats also have a historical connection to sailors, who believed that these felines brought good luck. Sailors would often bring these cats aboard ships to keep them safe from storms and vermin. The sailors’ belief in the lucky charm status of these cats has contributed to their popularity among cat lovers today.

Many of the polydactyl cats found in North America today are thought to be descendants of cats brought over by sailors centuries ago. Some breeds, such as the Maine Coon and American Polydactyl, are even specifically bred for their extra toes. These unique and fascinating creatures have a rich history that connects them with humans in a special way.

Identification of a Cat with Thumbs

These unique felines have captured the hearts of many with their adorable and quirky extra digits. But how can you identify a cat with thumbs? Let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors to consider.

Firstly, it’s important to note that not all cats with extra digits have thumbs. Some may have dewclaws, which are non-functional digits located higher up on their leg. Therefore, to identify a cat with thumbs, start by observing their paws. Look for any extra digits, particularly on their front paws. Interestingly, polydactyl cats are more common than cats with fully opposable thumbs.

Polydactyl cats may have one or more extra toes that resemble a thumb. These toes can be fully formed or only partially formed and can be located anywhere on the paw. However, not all extra digits are functional thumbs. Therefore, if you spot an extra toe that looks like a thumb, try to observe how the cat uses it. If the toe is opposable and can move independently from the other toes, then the cat has an opposable thumb. This type of thumb is much rarer than polydactyl thumbs and is usually only found in certain breeds such as the Japanese Bobtail.

Interestingly, polydactyly is thought to have been an adaptation to cold environments, allowing cats to gain extra traction and balance on slippery surfaces. In fact, polydactyl cats were considered lucky charms by sailors who believed they would bring good luck and safe passage.

Common Locations for Extra Toes on Cats

These little quirks, also known as polydactyly, are a result of a genetic mutation and can occur in various locations on the paw. Let’s dive into the most common locations for extra toes on cats.

First up, we have “mitten” polydactyly, which is the most frequent location for extra toes. This type of polydactyly is found on the inner side of the front paw and can result in an extra digit that resembles a tiny thumb. It’s no wonder why many cat lovers find this feature adorable.

But wait, there’s more. The outer side of the paw can also have extra toes, known as “snowshoe” polydactyly, resulting in a wider paw with an extra toe on each side. This type of polydactyly resembles a snowshoe, hence the name. Some cats may even have extra toes on both their front and back paws, making them agile climbers and jumpers.

While these extra toes may be cute and unique, it’s essential to keep an eye on your cat’s paw health. Extra digits can lead to issues such as ingrown nails or difficulty walking. So always monitor your furry friend’s paws and seek veterinary care if any problems arise.

Health Concerns Related to Having an Extra Toe on a Cat

Polydactyl cats, with their extra toes that resemble tiny thumbs or wider paws with extra toes on each side, are fascinating and unique. However, these cute little quirks can lead to certain health concerns for your feline friend. Here are some health concerns related to having an extra toe on a cat.

One of the primary health concerns related to polydactylism in cats is ingrown nails. Extra toes often mean nails that grow at odd angles, making them more prone to becoming embedded in the skin of their paw pads. This can be excruciatingly painful for your kitty and may require veterinary attention to remove the nail and prevent infection.

Another health concern is the possibility of arthritis due to the extra strain placed on the joints of the paw. This is especially true if the extra toe is not fully functional or if the cat has multiple extra toes. If you notice any signs of limping or discomfort, it’s important to seek veterinary care.

In addition to these concerns, polydactyl cats may also be more prone to developing certain skin conditions such as interdigital cysts or infections between their toes. This can be due to increased friction and moisture in those areas. Regular grooming and nail trimming are essential to prevent such issues from occurring.

Moreover, cats with polydactyly may have reduced mobility due to their altered gait, which can affect their quality of life. Owners should make sure to provide a comfortable environment that is easily accessible for their cat.

Furthermore, some polydactyl cats may experience problems with litter box use due to their extra toes getting stuck in litter or litter boxes that are too small. Therefore, it’s important for owners to provide larger litter boxes with enough space for their cat’s paws.

The Uniqueness of Polydactyl Cats

These adorable felines possess a genetic mutation that results in extra toes on their paws, making them stand out from other cats. While this condition can occur in any breed, certain breeds such as Maine Coons, American Shorthairs, and Norwegian Forest Cats are more commonly associated with polydactylism.

The uniqueness of polydactyl cats lies within their extra toes, which can vary in number and appearance, giving them an almost human-like appearance. Some cats have fully functional extra toes that resemble thumbs, leading to people calling them “thumb cats.” Although it is not unusual to see a few extra-toed cats in a litter, true polydactylism is still considered rare. It is estimated that only 2-3% of all domestic cats possess this trait. However, in some regions such as particular parts of the United States and Canada, polydactylism is more prevalent due to specific breeding populations.

Apart from their charming appearance, polydactyl cats are known for their exceptional climbing and hunting abilities. The extra toes provide them with added balance and grip, enabling them to navigate challenging terrains with ease. This has made them popular among sailors and fishermen who believed they brought good luck on sea voyages. Today, many polydactyls are kept as pets and admired for their unique features.

It is essential to note that while polydactylism brings several benefits, it can also pose health concerns such as ingrown nails, arthritis, skin conditions, reduced mobility, and litter box problems. Therefore, proper veterinary attention and regular grooming are crucial to prevent discomfort and infection.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Cat with Thumbs

If you’re looking for a unique and entertaining addition, you may want to consider a cat with thumbs. Also known as polydactyl cats, these rare creatures possess extra toes that resemble human thumbs. While the idea of owning a cat with thumbs is intriguing, there are pros and cons to this decision that must be considered.

Let’s start with the pros. One of the most significant benefits of owning a cat with thumbs is their remarkable dexterity. Watching them pick up and manipulate objects in ways that other cats cannot is both fascinating and adorable. From batting toys around to opening doors, these cats can provide endless entertainment.

Another advantage of having a cat with thumbs is their ability to perform certain tasks better than other cats. They may be able to open doors or unscrew lids with ease, making them ideal for cat owners with curious felines who like to explore and get into things they shouldn’t.

Despite the benefits, there are also some potential downsides to owning a cat with thumbs. One of the main cons is that their enhanced abilities may lead to trouble. They may be more likely to break things or access areas where they shouldn’t be, causing damage or injury.

Furthermore, cats with thumbs may require more attention and care than other cats. They need plenty of stimulation and enrichment in order to keep their minds and bodies active, which can require more time and effort from their owners.


In conclusion, cats with thumbs are a rare and captivating genetic variation that has captured the attention of cat enthusiasts and experts alike. These polydactyl cats can be found in any breed, but certain breeds like Maine Coons and American Shorthairs are more commonly associated with this trait. Despite their rarity, it is estimated that only 2-3% of all domestic cats possess this unique feature.

Polydactyly is caused by a dominant gene that results in extra toes or “thumbs” which can vary in number and appearance. These additional digits can be fully functional or less so than regular toes, leading to potential health concerns such as arthritis, ingrown nails, skin conditions, reduced mobility, and litter box problems. However, some polydactyl cats may benefit from their enhanced abilities to climb and hunt due to added balance and grip.

Owning a cat with thumbs may provide endless entertainment due to their remarkable dexterity and ability to perform certain tasks better than other cats. However, it may also require more attention and care from owners due to the potential health issues associated with this condition.

The world of polydactyl cats is a fascinating one that connects these unique felines with humans in a special way through history, adaptation to cold climates, and lucky charm status among sailors.

Whether you have a polydactyl cat or not, all feline friends are cherished members of our families who deserve proper veterinary attention and care.