Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A polydactyl cat is a cat
that has more than the usual number of toes on one or all of its paws. In
animals including humans, polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as
hyperdactyly) is the anatomical abnormality of having more than the usual number
of digits on the hands or feet.
Normal cats have five toes on
each front paw and four toes on each hind paw. Polydactyl cats may have as many
as seven digits on front and/or hind paws, and various combinations of anywhere
from four to seven are common, although each of the front and rear paws are
typically the same. Polydactyly is most commonly found on the front paws only,
with polydactyly of all four paws being less common. It is rare for a cat to
have polydactyl hind paws only.
Polydactyly is a congenital
abnormality, usually genetically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with
incomplete penetrance. Polydactyly is not life-threatening and usually not even
debilitating to a cat. In some cases it appears to improve the dexterity of the
animal. For example, a common variation of polydactyly with six toes on the
front paws, with two opposing digits on each, (comparable in use to human
thumbs) enables the cat to learn and perform feats of manual dexterity generally
not observed in non-polydactyl cats, such as opening latches on some cabinets,
doors and windows.
Some polydactyl kittens initially
have more difficulty in learning to walk and climb than normal animals. However,
their extra abilities, once developed, endear them to many owners.
Feline radial hypoplasia is a
mimic of polydactyly and is considered a severe condition. It is not a result of
the Pd gene normally associated with polydactyls. As a result, cats used in
polydactyl breeding programs can be screened (by x-ray) for indicators of radial
hypoplasia. Radial hypoplasia may cause the formation of extra jointed toes, it
does not cause the mitten cat form.
The condition seems to be most
commonly found in cats along the eastern coast of the United States and in South
West England. Some sources state that these cats are rare in Europe because they
were killed as witches' familiars, but other sources indicate that they are
quite common in England.
Although there is some
controversy over whether the commonest variant of the trait originated as a
mutation in New England or was brought there from England, there does seem to be
agreement that it spread widely as a result of cats carried on ships originating
in Boston, and the prevalence of polydactylism among the cat population of
various ports correlates with the dates when they first established trade with
Boston. Contributing to the spread of polydactyl cats by this means, sailors
were long-known to especially value polydactyl cats for their extraordinary
climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents. Some
sailors also considered them to be extremely good luck when at sea.
Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest
Hemingway was one of the more famous lovers of polydactyl cats, after being
first given a six-toed cat by a ship's captain. Upon Hemingway's death in 1961,
his former home in Key West, Florida, became a museum and a home for his cats,
and it currently houses approximately sixty descendants of his cats (about half
of which are polydactyl). Because of his love for these animals, Hemingway
cat, or simply Hemingway, is a slang term which has come to describe
polydactyls (Michael Palin describes one such cat named "Bill Clinton"
he found at a former residence of Hemingway's in Key West during the filming of
his "Hemingway Adventure" specia).
Other nicknames include
"boxers" or "boxing cats", "mitten cats",
"thumb cats", "six-finger cats", "Boston Thumb
Cats", and "double-pawed cats" (a misnomer since there is a
specific double paw condition).
American Polydactyl Cats are also
being bred as a specific cat breed, with specific physical and behavioral
characteristics in addition to extra digits.A particular strain native to
Ithaca, New York, is known as the "Ithacats". The American Polydactyl
is not to be confused with the pedigree Maine Coon polydactyl. The polydactyl
form of the Maine Coon is being reinstated by some breeders.Polydactyly has also been
observed in big cats.
At this moment there are, worldwide, a few breeders who are growing.
In the meantime they started a internatiol site where all Polybreeders arround
the world join together: The
and offcourse the Poly Maine Coon database:
Poly-katten are very special for us and will only be sold to serieus lovers of
the Poly Maine Coon.
If you are
interested after reading about the Polydactyl Maine Coon, than you can always
of Magic Craft,
Nympha van den Toorn