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American Polydactyl Cat Breed Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

American Polydactyl cat walking outside

American Polydactyl Cat Breed Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Breed Overview


8–11 inches


10–20 pounds


12–15 years


Any coat color on the cat spectrum

Suitable for:

Any cat-loving family, children older than 6


Lovable, even-keeled, fun-loving, smart

Otherwise known as Hemingway or mitten cats, the American Polydactyl displays a unique mutation that makes your cat’s feet even more adorable. That’s right—they are born with extra toes. How could you ask for anything more precious than that? Their dainty little paws are one of the many traits we know and love in our felines.

While this is a genetic defect, can you really seek out to find cats with this mutation? The answer is—absolutely. The American Polydactyl cat is recognized by a few Cat Fanciers’ clubs in America. But you can find a polydactyl cat anywhere, even in an ordinary litter of kittens.

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American Polydactyl Kittens – Before You Welcome One Into Your Family…

American Polydactyl
Image Credit: Eric Isselee, Shutterstock
A high-energy cat needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation to keep healthy and happy, while a low-energy cat needs minimal physical activity, but still needs mental stimulation. When choosing a cat, It’s important to ensure their energy levels match your lifestyle.
Cats that are easy-to-train are more willing and skilled at quickly learning prompts and actions with minimal training. Harder-to-train cats are usually more stubborn or aloof and require a bit more patience and practice.
Certain cat breeds are more prone to various genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat in those breeds will have these issues, but they do have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Due to their size or potential genetic health issues of a specific breed, some cats have shorter lifespans than others. Proper nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, and hygiene also play an important role in your cat’s lifespan and quality of life.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other cats and animals. Cats that are more social have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches or jump on laps for cuddles, while cats that are less social shy away, hide, are more cautious, and even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed or gender, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to many different situations.

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3 Little-Known Facts About American Polydactyl Cats

1. Ernest Hemingway Owned Polydactyl Cats

These cats didn’t get the nickname “Hemingway cats” for nothing. American novelist Ernest Hemingway owned several of these cats, and you can find his accounts throughout his lifetime.

2. Polydactyl Cats Are Considered Lucky

Long ago, sailors felt that if a cat sported extra toes, they were lucky to have aboard their ship. Because they were considered both lucky and excellent mouse-catchers, they joined many sailors on adventures. Their popularity exists in higher numbers in many coastal areas today.

3. ExtraToes Can Actually Benefit Polydactyl Cats

Having these extra toes has a few perks! It intensifies their hunting power, making it easier to catch prey in its clutches. It also helps them with overall balance, making them stealthier and quick on their feet (pun intended).

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Temperament & Intelligence of the American Polydactyl Cat

American Polydactyl cat personalities are wonderful with highly social attitudes. They tend to be very playful and fun-loving, taking to humans—strange and familiar alike. But because these cats can carry so many different genetic traits, you never know exactly what you’re going to get.

Think of them as a sweet surprise. You might have an American Polydactyl that is calm, sweet, and laidback. Alternatively, they may be lively, bouncy, and sporadic. Sometimes, it’s hard to pin down a solid personality type. But no matter their energy levels or particular personality, they’re usually very agreeable and affectionate overall. Each American Polydactyl has a speedy response time, so they are highly alert and excellent at hunting.

Historically, these cats are incredible mousers, so if you have any home intruders, your cat will take care of your problem. You won’t even have to set a trap!

Are These Cats Good for Families? 👪

American Polydactyls work well in families of all types because of their amiable and adaptable nature. These cats are a perfect combination of frisky and cuddly. You might find them wanting to chase your pant legs just to snuggle up with you 10 minutes later.

These cats are decently vocal but not overbearing. So, it won’t be like they’re annoying you while you’re sleeping with shrieks and cries on the regular. However, they may tell you if their food bowl is empty or if they want some attention by lightly meowing to get your attention.

They do exceptionally well with children who are older than 6 years because they can match their energy. Don’t let it deter you if you have very small kids. These cats are willing to run and hide rather than show any aggression toward children.

They are ideal companions in apartments, houses, condos, and practically any living circumstances. They even make decent candidates for outdoor living. While it isn’t recommended to have an outdoors-only cat, if you have a property for your kitty to roam, they may prefer it over in-home stays.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

American Polydactyls love having a playmate around whether it’s a human, another kitty, or even a friendly dog. They won’t turn away a new friend. Granted, mutual respect is necessary to build good relationships, but these cats are adaptable and good-natured.

So, they might be more inclined to handle a hyper puppy or grumpy cat, simply brushing off the behavior or leaving them alone completely. They aren’t usually aggressive or territorial.

However, if you have two cats of the same gender together—and neither is fixed—you may have some competition for the head of household. To prevent unwanted behavior, like spraying or marking, you can get both animals fixed as prevention.

Because American Polydactyls are insanely good hunters, this isn’t the best news for caged animals. Once your cat has their eye on your child’s rodent on a wheel or sees a fish swimming in a bowl, they may obsessively watch. And yes, they intend to kill—so be careful!

Always separate your cat from smaller animals. The prey drive merely is instinctual—not malicious. But there is little that can be done to prevent it. To keep everything running smoothly, never integrate the two—and always supervise any interactions regardless of whether you perceive there is a threat.

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Things to Know When Owning an American Polydactyl Cat:

Food & Diet Requirements 🐡

Your American Polydactyl will need a diet high in protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Most dry kibble on the market caters to a cat’s dietary needs with specifically designed formulas. Always make sure your cat food has minimal protein requirements, which is 35%.

Many cats have a rule—the stinkier the food, the more they love it. They might ogle over wet food and prefer nothing but. However, wet food is generally good as a topper for kibble rather than a standalone diet. Wet food can cause tooth decay and weight gain—but it’s fine in moderation.

American Polydactyls have a rich history. Their breeding has led to a modern-day hardy cat without many health concerns to mention. So, your cat probably won’t have any food restrictions right off the bat—but that doesn’t mean some can’t develop.

If you think their diet is causing symptoms or gastrointestinal issues, consult with your veterinarian to put a new diet plan in place.

Exercise 🐈

Your American Polydactyl should exercise themselves without help. That doesn’t mean you can’t partake in play since they won’t turn you down anytime you want to join in. However, their high energy levels typically help them take care of their minimal daily exercise requirement.

American Polydactyls will likely have a short 3-minute burst of energy a few times throughout the day. As long as their total daily exercise exceeds 15 minutes, you should be golden. As your cat ages, they may want to play less; this is also true after spaying or neutering.

To prevent obesity, offer lots of enticing toys to occupy your cat. Indoor cats tend to gain more weight than outdoor cats since they may be more lackadaisical. Having the appropriate exercise regimen and diet plan in place will keep your guy or gal in top-notch health.

Training 🧶

Training your American Polydactyl should be a breeze. They tend to be brilliant cats to pick up on concepts quickly. When they are kittens, litter training them should happen relatively fast.

Initially, you should restrict their space, allowing them to only be in one room rather than roaming the entire house. When you introduce them to their litter box and start using the bathroom there, don’t clean it out immediately. The more they get used to the scent of the litter box, they will remember that they relieve themselves there—and nowhere else. Soon, your cat can freely roam around with no restrictions.

Spraying is another story. If you allow your cat to reach sexual maturity without spaying or neutering, there is always a risk they will start marking. While you can try to curb this behavior, the best solution is to have them fixed before the problem begins.

If you want to teach your American Polydactyl tricks, good luck. They tend to have a mind of their own and typically only do things if it suits them. It doesn’t mean that if you work with them and if you can’t get them to do acts on command. It just means you may have to give them a little motivation first.

Grooming ✂️

When it comes to grooming, your American Polydactyl will do all of the hard work for you. They tend to groom themselves quite frequently, and you should only have to bathe them approximately once a month—if that. American Polydactyls have short hair, so you won’t have to worry about matting clumping, or tangling. Their slick coat offers a hassle-free care experience.

Health and Conditions 🏥

American Polydactyl cats are extremely resilient and don’t run into health issues often. If you are an owner who wants to minimize vet bills, this is a perfect breed to have. They have no long list of potential ailments specific to the breed, although they can run into any common issue among felines as a whole.

Because of their unique feet, it can sometimes cause issues with the paws and joints. If their toes or claws grow irregularly because of their extras, it can cause problems in the area. It isn’t common, but it can happen. It will depend on each individual polydactyl cat.

You can get ahead of any issues by keeping up with regular vet appointments to ensure the wellness and health of your kitty.

Minor Conditions
  • Paw and joint issues
Serious Conditions
  • None

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Male vs Female

There are notable differences between male and female American Polydactyls in terms of looks. The males are larger than the females and tend to have an all-around “blockier” look. Both of them are heavy-boned cats, but females are a bit lighter and more graceful.

Both male and female American Polydactyls are quite friendly. However, females tend to be a little more reserved or shy than their outgoing male counterparts. They might also be more attached to one person above all. Both might favor one person. It’s just that females can be a bit more particular about who they show their affection to. Males are a little more freely loving but are also slower to mature.

Both males and females can spray but it is much more common in males, especially if they are around unaltered cats. You can fix this issue by spaying at neutering before sexual maturity, which is around 6 months.

Any personality traits aren’t the same across the board. You might have an incredibly loving and social female and a male who is more aloof. These characteristics depend solely on the individual.

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Final Thoughts

If you’re even more in love with American Polydactyl kittens now, you probably want to begin the hunt for your very own. You can search for a reputable breeder in your area who has some of these adorable mittens cats.

Remember, it’s not uncommon to find one at a local shelter. There are lots of homeless kitties, extra toes and all, waiting for a forever home.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock

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