Growing up, my aunt and her partner had the coolest cat; Scout. Black and white and pretty much average in every possible way, Scout had a few very interesting features that you might not notice at first, but they were there. He looked like the cat next door, but he was so much cooler. Scout as polydactyl. He had extra toes on his front paws. He was also like a very cool person trapped inside a cat’s body; you could see it in his body language and his expression. This cat was so cool that he invented the term cool cat. I miss that cat. He lived his long, long life and ended it in a way that probably doesn’t come with much complaint, so he’s in a better place now. However, I still miss that cat.
I remember being a little girl and thinking that he had weird feet. That’s when my aunt explained to me about polydactyl cats. When I tried to tell my friends, they didn’t believe me. My teacher allowed me to do a little project on the cat to teach the rest of the class – because I was that know-it-all – so that we could all learn about the coolest cat that ever lived. And that is the story of how I became a certified 10-year-old polydactyl cat expert (or whatever). I still have a few things stored away that I’m happy to share with you since it is a trait that’s a lot more common than you might think.
The Term Polydactyl Isn’t Just Fun
It might sound like a dinosaur cousin of some sort, but it’s actually a medical term. It’s a congenital health issue that causes one to be born with additional toes on one foot. If you are going to be born with a congenital health issue, this is the one, right?
They’ve Got Lots of Toes
Here’s a fun fact that might win you an episode of Jeopardy some day; cats have 18 toes. They have four toes on each back paw and five on each front paw. Except, polydactyls can have as many as 8 toes on each paw; that’s a lot of paws. While most don’t have an additional four toes on each, there have been cases and it’s been shown possible. That would mean that a cat with as many polydactyl toes as possible could have 16 additional toes for a grand total of 34 toes. Ouch; that sounds like it would be difficult to shop for cat shoes.
They’re Sailor’s Favorites
Polydactyl cats have an interesting place in history. They were thought to be good lucky by sailors who believed these cats had better balance with that extra toe, so they’d be better equipped to keep their ships free of mice. I mean, who wants to ride with mice, right?
They’re First Cats
That’s right; they’re first cats. No, polydactyl cats were not the first cats to roam the earth. I mean, they could have been; what do we know? And with a prehistoric-sounding name like polydactyl, they might as well have been. I digress, though. It turns out that these cats are so cool that former President Roosevelt has his own polydactyl cat and he lived in the White House. His name, Slippers, is pretty good, too.
Maine Coons Were Once the Most Likely Polydactyls
They’re huge, they look like lions and they get to be the cats that have the most toes? It seems a little bit like it’s an unfair advantage that this breed once had all the cool stuff happen to it. While the Maine Coon was once the cat with the most polydactyl members of the breed, it seems this congenital defect is now one that affects all cat breeds pretty equally. No longer do extra toes discriminate smaller cats without lion’s manes.
They’re Gifted Cats
Okay, maybe not so much in the intelligent sense. I mean, they were literally gifted cats. The famous writer you might have heard of once or twice in your life who went by the name Ernest Hemingway was given one by a ship captain at one point. The cat’s name was Snowball. Now dozens of this cat’s family from generations ago live in the home that Hemingway called home in the Florida Keys.
Front Toes are More Likely
When it comes to polydactyl cats, it’s more likely that they will have extra toes only on the front paws. Why? We have no idea, really. It seems that it just is what it is. If you’re going to see a cat with additional toes, that’s where it’s most likely going to be.
It’s Very Rare to Have Additional Toes on All Four Paws
Sorry cats; you’re not that cool. It’s not all that likely for your cats to have additional paws on just his back paws or on all four. For the most part, you’re going to find them on one or two of the front paws, but very few have them elsewhere. A cat with extra toes on each foot is considered the coolest of the coolest.
They’re Most Common on the East Coast
If you want to have a cat with some additional toes, you’re going to want to check the East Coast of the US. It turns out that these cats are far more likely to live here than anywhere else in the United States. They are also more common in other parts of the world than they are in some places, but for us Americans it is all about the East Coast. They’re more common in the UK, too, and it’s thought that they were brought over on ships in the past and that’s why the population on the East Coast of the US is so much higher.
The Cat with the Most Toes (Known at the Moment) has 28 Toes
Guinness knows all the cool cats in the world, including Jake. Jake is a Canadian cat with 7 toes on each of his paws. He’s currently the cat with the most toes on record but if anyone else has one with more, now is the time to step forward and call Guinness to set the new world record.
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