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5 Things I Love About Polydactyl Cats

Mitten cats, Hemingway cats, seven-toed cats -- whatever you call them, they are full of awesome!

 |  Jun 20th 2013  |   20 Contributions


I was born and raised in Maine, a state with an amazingly high proportion of polydactyl cats. In the shelter where I volunteer, I can name four or five right off the top of my head. Every Mainer who lives with or even observes cats knows at least one “double-pawed” cat.

This is Wilma, one of the polydactyl cats at HART of Maine, the shelter where I volunteer. If you want to find out more about her, check out her Sugar Kitty Wednesday interview on my blog.

This isn’t surprising, given that New England was the shipping hub of the United States for a couple hundred years, and as Angela Lutz mentioned in a recent Catster article, sailors considered polydactyl cats to be good luck.

I’ve got to confess that I especially love those big-footed cats, and here’s why.

1. They’ve got built-in snowshoes

Snowshoe cats have nothing on a good old seven-toed Maine Coon when it comes to actually being able to walk on top of thick Maine winter snowdrifts.

Orange polydactyl kitten, (CC-BY-SA) by Wikimedia user Asilverstein

2. They’re really cute as kittens

With all those extra toes, polydactyl kittens have a slightly more, um, interesting time learning to walk than their peers, with five toes on the front paws and four on the back.

3. They’ve got lots more foot to massage

One of the best ways to get your cat comfortable with having his nails trimmed is to get him used to having his feet handled first. I’ve found that lots of cats enjoy having their paws stroked and their toes stretched -- and polydactyl cats seem to like it even more than most.

Left rear paw of a polydactyl Maine Coon kitten, released into the public domain by Wikimedia user Onyxrain

4. They give you lots of nail trimming practice

Because polydactyl cats have so many toes, they need more claw care than cats with the regular number of digits. Some of these extra toes may be in awkward positions, which makes it hard for a thumb-cat to wear down his claws with scratching, resulting in claws being caught in rugs and furniture, leading to possible injury. If the claws aren’t worn down, they can also grow back around into the paw pad, causing infection and great pain.

5. Those extra toes can work almost like thumbs

Some polydactyl cats do seem to be able to grab things between their paw and extra toes, almost as if they were using those digits as opposable thumbs. Fortunately, can openers seem to be too big for even the most rugged mitten cats to manage, and they haven’t figured out how to hold a pencil in order to write a note to the ASPCA complaining of the abuse they suffer at the hands of caretakers who won’t feed them every 10 minutes and whose unreasonable need for sleep causes them to be unable to be petted and loved whenever and wherever they feel like it.

Have you ever had a polydactyl cat of your own? What did you love best about those massive feet? Did your mitten-kitten ever accomplish any amazing feats thanks to his extra digits? Please share your stories in the comments!

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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