How to Best Care for a Polydactyl Kitten

So you decided to adopt a kitten and you found out that the kitten is polydactyl. At first, the term makes you re-consider adopting the cat, but once you hear what the word means, you realize it isn’t such a bad thing. For those who have never heard of the word, or for those who have, but aren’t sure what it means, it is simple, a polydactyl cat is just one who was born with one or more extra toes. A polydactyl cat can be born with one or more toes on just one foot, or have more than one toe on more than one paw. It is not a defect of sorts, but a genetic trait that has simply been passed down from one generation to the next, just like blue eyes, red hair, or any other trait is handed down from one generation to the next in humans. Here’s more about the condition known as Polydactyl, and how to care for a Polydactyl kitten.

What determines whether a kitten is born with the condition?

Polydactyl is a dominant trait, and whether or not a kitten is born with extra toes depends on how strong the gene is in its family, and a cat that has the genetic defect will typically pass this trait down to at least half of their kittens. The gene that is involved in this condition is known as the Sonic Hedgehog, but it isn’t this particular gene that is directly responsible. The Sonic Hedgehog gene is responsible for the development of fingers and toes, but it is further down the line of genes, where it starts. The regulatory gene of the Sonic Hedgehog is the one that gets mutated, and when it is defected, it can not regulate the Sonic Hedgehog gene properly to tell the Sonic Hedgehog gene when to turn on and off properly, and without proper regulation, more than 18 toes can grow on a kitten’s paws.

Where are the extra toes located?

Most cats are born with 18 toes in all, with 4 on each of the hind paws, and five on each of the front, however, a polydactyl cat will have at least one extra. Extra toes can develop on any of the four paws. Typically, a kitten with polydactyl feet will have an extra toe on a front paw, while some kittens born with polydactyl feet may have an extra toe on a hind paw, or more than one paw.

Is this more common in certain breeds?

Polydactyl genetic mutation can be found in any and all breeds, however, it is more often seen and known to be more common in the Maine Coon breed. Sometimes cats with the condition are referred to as a Hemingway, because the legendary author, Earnest Hemingway was known to have many cats with the condition. Polydactyl’s were also quite common to find on sailor’s ships due to the fact that they were believed to be good luck, and they had great balance with the extra toe(s) when out at high seas.

Do polydactyl cats require special care?

There is not usually any different care requirements between a polydactyl kitten and a normal kitten. There are some occasional cases of a polydactyl kitten who is just starting off in life, to have a bit of difficulty learning to walk or trouble with balance, however, over time, they usually learn to adapt to their condition pretty easily and are soon as agile and coordinated as any other cat. In fact, some polydactyl cats may actually even learn to do things that a normal cat can’t, such as open latches due to having extra leverage and dexterity with the extra toe(s).

One thing you will want to keep up with on a regular basis, is nail care. You will want to be sure to clip your polydactyl kitten’s nails on a regular basis in order to prevent ingrown nails, which can effect the way your cat walks, as well as they can be painful for your cat, and in some cases, may become infected, if left untreated too long.

Every cat has its own traits and characteristics they get from their mom and dad, and it is these genes that make them all unique, just as it is with humans. No two cats are the same, and it is their little differences that make them all who they are, and all so adorable.

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