What Does It Mean If A Cat Has Thumbs?

Have you ever looked at your furry feline and wondered what it would be like if they had an extra set of fingers? It may seem far-fetched, but some cats have this incredible physical attribute. These cats are known as polydactyl cats or cats with thumbs. But what does it mean if a cat has thumbs?

Polydactyl cats have a genetic mutation that leads to extra toes on one or more paws. In rare cases, some cats can even have up to seven toes per paw. Although this trait is hereditary, any breed of cat can develop it. However, the American Polydactyls, also known as Hemingway cats, are famous for having six or seven toes.

Surprisingly, these additional toes serve various purposes for polydactyl cats. Acting like a thumb, the extra digit allows them to grip objects easily and open doors effortlessly. It also helps them climb trees and catch prey by providing a tighter grip. But does having an extra toe offer any health benefits to your kitty?

In this blog post, we’ll explore everything about polydactyl cats and their unique trait of having thumbs. From their origin and popular breeds to whether having an extra finger is beneficial or not – we’ve got you covered. So keep reading to learn more about these fascinating felines with an extraordinary feature.

Definition of Polydactyly

Polydactyly is a fascinating genetic condition that affects cats, causing them to have extra toes or thumbs on their paws. The term “polydactyly” comes from the Greek words “poly,” meaning many, and “daktylos,” meaning finger or toe. This condition affects any breed of cat, but it is more common in certain breeds like Maine Coons and American Shorthairs.

Cats with polydactyly can have up to seven toes on their front paws and five toes on their back paws, providing them with added grip and balance. This advantage makes them more adept at climbing and hunting, as well as manipulating objects with their paws. It’s no wonder why sailors believed that polydactyl cats brought good luck to their ships.

However, despite the potential benefits of having extra toes, it’s essential to be aware of the possible effects that polydactyly can have on cats. Some cats with polydactyly may develop arthritis or joint problems because the extra toes are not always properly aligned with the rest of the paw. Additionally, some breeds of cats with polydactyly may be more prone to certain health conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

As a responsible cat owner, it’s critical to monitor your cat’s health and consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns. By taking appropriate measures to ensure their well-being, owners of polydactyl cats can help their feline friends thrive and enjoy all the benefits that come with having thumbs.

Advantages of Extra Toes for Cats

These feline friends are known as polydactyl cats, and their extra toes may seem like a genetic mutation, but they actually have several advantages.

Firstly, having extra toes provides these cats with better balance and stability. With a wider base of support, polydactyl cats can maintain their balance while jumping or climbing. This is especially helpful for outdoor cats who need to navigate uneven terrain or climb trees to escape predators.

Secondly, the additional toes make polydactyl cats better hunters. These cats have a larger surface area to grip prey, making it easier for them to catch and hold onto smaller animals like mice or birds. In fact, many polydactyl cats were bred as ship’s cats because their extra toes made them better at catching rats and mice onboard ships.

But that’s not all – polydactyl cats also tend to have a unique personality. Many owners report that their polydactyl cats are more playful and intelligent than their non-polydactyl counterparts. This could be because the genetic mutation responsible for the extra toes also affects other aspects of the cat’s development.

In addition to these advantages, polydactyl cats are often considered lucky in many cultures. For example, in the United States, they are sometimes called “Hemingway Cats” because author Ernest Hemingway was a famous lover of these unique felines. Hemingway had over 50 polydactyl cats at his home in Key West, Florida, and their descendants still live there today.

Historical Prevalence of Polydactyl Cats

Polydactyl cats, also known as “Hemingway cats,” are fascinating feline creatures that have been around for centuries. The term “polydactyl” comes from the Greek words “poly,” meaning many, and “daktylos,” meaning fingers. This genetic mutation results in cats having extra toes on their paws, which can resemble thumbs.

Interestingly, polydactyl cats were historically prevalent in port towns, particularly in New England in the United States and parts of England. They were highly regarded for their exceptional rodent management skills on ships and in warehouses, aided by their extra toes providing them with better balance and grip. In fact, some people even believed that having a polydactyl cat onboard would bring good luck to the ship.

Ernest Hemingway was one of the most famous lovers of polydactyl cats. He was gifted a six-toed cat by a sea captain and became so enamored with them that he began collecting them at his home in Key West, Florida. Today, his former home is now a museum and still has dozens of polydactyl cats living there, honoring his love for these unique feline creatures.

Despite their historical prevalence, polydactyl cats are still relatively rare compared to regular cats. However, they are more commonly found in certain breeds, such as Maine Coons and American Shorthairs. If you’re interested in adopting one of these delightful felines, be sure to check out your local animal shelter as they may have polydactyl cats available for adoption.

Potential Health Issues Related to Having Thumbs

Polydactyl cats, or “Hemingway cats,” are a fascinating and unique breed with extra toes that resemble thumbs. While these adorable felines are often praised for their exceptional hunting skills and cute appearance, it’s important to understand the potential health issues related to having thumbs.

One of the most common issues that can arise is ingrown nails. Cats with extra digits may have nails that grow in a way that causes them to dig into the paw pad, leading to pain and discomfort for your furry friend. This can be especially troublesome for polydactyl cats, as they have more nails than usual. If you notice your cat limping or favoring a paw, it’s crucial to visit a veterinarian who can provide proper treatment.

Another potential problem is arthritis. Having extra digits can put more strain on a cat’s joints, which can lead to arthritis and mobility issues. As an owner of a polydactyl cat, it’s essential to monitor your cat closely for any signs of joint pain or stiffness and discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin may help prevent joint issues.

Polydactyl cats may also be more prone to injuries related to their thumbs. Cats with extra toes can get caught in things while climbing or jumping, which could cause sprains or even fractures. It’s important to keep a watchful eye on your cat’s behavior and provide them with a safe and secure environment. A good option is providing soft surfaces for your cat to land on when jumping from heights.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to be aware of the possibility of genetic disorders related to extra toes. Breeds such as Maine Coons and American Shorthairs are more likely to have polydactyly due to genetic mutation, which can lead to other genetic disorders such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). It’s important to discuss the risks with your vet if you’re considering breeding polydactyl cats.

Benefits of Polydactyly for Cats

Polydactyly, or having extra toes, may seem like an oddity to some, but it is actually a beneficial trait for cats. In fact, certain breeds like the Maine Coon and American Polydactyl have been intentionally bred for it. As an expert on polydactyl cats, I am here to share with you the fascinating benefits of this genetic mutation.

Firstly, having extra toes provides cats with increased dexterity. This means they can easily grasp things while climbing trees, catching prey, and grooming themselves. The extra toes allow them to reach difficult-to-reach areas that other cats may struggle with.

Moreover, polydactyl cats are often more stable and agile than their non-polydactyl counterparts. The additional toes provide a wider base for support, making them less susceptible to slipping or falling. This can be especially helpful for outdoor cats who roam rough terrain.

Another surprising benefit of polydactyly is that it may make cats more adaptable to cold environments. The extra toes act as built-in snowshoes, providing additional traction and insulation against the cold ground. It’s no wonder that polydactyl cats are more common in colder regions such as New England and Canada.

While there are potential downsides to this genetic mutation, such as health issues like ingrown nails or arthritis, with proper care and attention these risks can be minimized.

Prevention and Treatment of Health Issues in Polydactyl Cats

One of the most common health issues polydactyl cats face is the development of ingrown nails. These occur when the nails grow too long and curve into the paw pad, causing discomfort and pain for your feline friend. To avoid this problem, make sure you trim your cat’s nails regularly. Pay extra attention to the extra toes with thumbs as they tend to have thicker nails that can be more prone to ingrown issues.

Moreover, arthritis in the extra toes is another health issue that pet owners should look out for. The added pressure on these joints can lead to wear and tear over time, which can cause stiffness and pain. Keep a close eye on your cat’s mobility and consult a veterinarian if you suspect any joint issues. Treatment options may include pain medication or physical therapy.

In addition, polydactyl cats may be more susceptible to developing certain skin conditions due to the extra folds of skin around their paws. It is essential to keep your cat’s paws clean and dry regularly to prevent fungal infections and bacterial dermatitis from emerging. If needed, don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian for further diagnosis and treatment.

Tips for Caring for a Cat with Thumbs

Cats with thumbs, also known as polydactyl cats, are fascinating and require special care. Their extra digits can make it difficult for them to walk, jump, and climb, so it’s important to take extra precautions to keep them healthy and happy. Here are some tips for caring for a cat with thumbs:

Trim Their Claws Regularly

One of the most important things you can do for your polydactyl cat is to regularly trim their claws. The extra digits can make it harder for them to naturally wear down their nails, which can lead to discomfort and even pain. Trimming their nails every few weeks can help prevent this issue and keep your cat comfortable. Additionally, providing scratch pads and toys can also help keep their claws in good condition.

Be Mindful of Their Paw Pads

The extra digit on a polydactyl cat’s paw can put additional pressure on their paw pads, which may require more frequent cleaning and moisturizing to prevent cracking or dryness. You can use a gentle moisturizer designed specifically for cats to keep their paw pads healthy and hydrated.

Monitor Their Mobility

Polydactyl cats may be more prone to joint issues or arthritis due to the extra digit, so it’s important to monitor their mobility, especially as they age. Regular exercise and vet check-ups can help keep them healthy and active.

Provide Plenty of Stimulation

Polydactyl cats may be more curious and playful due to their extra digits, so providing them with plenty of stimulation through interactive playtime, puzzles, and toys can help keep them happy and fulfilled.

Keep an Eye on Their Weight

Polydactyl cats may be more prone to obesity due to decreased mobility, so it’s important to monitor their weight and diet. Feeding them a balanced diet and providing opportunities for exercise can help prevent weight gain and associated health problems.

Embrace Their Uniqueness

Polydactyl cats are special and unique, so embrace their quirks and provide them with plenty of love and attention to keep them happy and thriving. They may have a natural urge to scratch and climb, so providing appropriate toys and scratching surfaces can also help keep them mentally stimulated and physically active.


To sum it up, cats with thumbs, or polydactyl cats, are an intriguing species that have been around for centuries. While their extra toes may seem like a genetic anomaly, they actually provide numerous benefits to these felines. The additional digits act as natural snowshoes, providing extra traction and insulation against the cold ground. They also make cats more agile and stable, giving them better balance and control.

However, it’s important to be aware of the potential consequences of polydactyly on cats. Some may develop arthritis or joint problems due to the extra toes not being properly aligned with the rest of their paw. Certain breeds of polydactyl cats may also be more susceptible to specific health conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

As a responsible cat owner, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your cat’s health and seek veterinary care if necessary. By taking appropriate measures to ensure their well-being, owners of polydactyl cats can help their feline friends thrive and enjoy all the advantages of having thumbs.

Caring for a cat with thumbs requires special attention and care. Regular nail trimming is essential in preventing any discomfort or mobility issues caused by overgrown nails. Monitoring their weight and mobility is crucial in detecting any potential health problems early on. Providing stimulation through toys and playtime is also important in keeping them happy and healthy.

Embracing your cat’s uniqueness is key in building a strong bond with your furry friend.