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I adopted an eight-week-old kitten three days ago. I took him to the vet, and she gave him a clean bill of health. But a friend of mine says that my kitten has extra toes on his front feet. He has seven toes on one foot, and six on the other. How many should he have? Do I need to have the extra toes removed?

Tempe, Arizona

Your kitten has extra toes. And there is no reason to remove them.

Most cats have a total of eighteen toes. Each front foot usually has five toes, and each rear foot has four. On the front feet, one of the toes is unique and is located further up the leg than the others. It is called the dewclaw, and it corresponds anatomically to our thumbs.

In real life, there is a wide variation in the number of toes that cats (and dogs) have. Some have dewclaws on their rear feet. Some have no dewclaws on the front feet. And some have multiple extra toes, usually in the area of the dewclaws. Extra toes (or, for that matter, missing toes) on any foot are nothing to worry about.

In fact, huge numbers of cats have extra toes. In my experience, it is especially common in male tuxedo (black and white) cats and in male blue or gray cats. However, it can occur in any type or gender of cat or dog. The syndrome is called polydactyly, but it is not a medical problem.

Animals with polydactyly generally lead completely normal lives. However, the nails on the extra toes sometimes grow abnormally long, and can even grow into and damage the surrounding skin. So check your cat’s nails regularly and trim them as needed. Other than that, don’t worry.

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