It seems our guest today has big feet, why is that?
The extra big feet are due to the extra toes on the feet.
Extra toes? Doctors have medical terms for everything, so let's hear this one. What is the medical terminology for extra toes?
Polydactyl, which means many toes, or more toes than normal. A couple lay terms would be mitten toes or snow shoed.
How many toes should a normal cat have?
Normally, cats have five toes on their front feet which includes the dewclaw, which is like a thumb for cats. On the back feet, they have four toes and usually cats do not have dewclaws on their back feet. Quick math total eighteen toes all together.
How about a mitten toed cat? How many toes do they have?
It can vary from one extra toe on one foot to as many as eight to ten total on each foot. Usually the front feet have more extra toes than the back feet. Sometimes the extra number of toes is not the same for each foot.
Is this extra toe or toes condition hereditary?
Yes, it is. In fact, it is a very easy trait to follow and trace back from either mom or dad. It is called a dominant genetic trait, meaning either parent carries this extra toe gene then it will be passed on to some or all of the kittens. Also the parent will have the extra toes to begin with.
Because it is genetic, is there any special breed of cat that is more likely to have this mitten toe trait?
Yes, there is. What is more, is can be traced to the United States as its origin. The Main Coon cat, which is a breed of cat that was developed in the United States on the East Coast during the time of the Pilgrims, has the highest incidence of the polydactyl trait. Because this was considered to be an undesirable trait for the purebred cats, most Main Coon cat breeders attempt to breed away from it.
Does a cat with mitten toes suffer any ill effects from the extra toes?
As far as veterinary concern, there are just a few. The most common problem seen with these cats is the extra toes will grow nails that tend to not wear down like a normal nail and will curl and grow into the skin under the affected toe, so that needs to be watched. Sometimes the toe itself or the nail will catch on something and get injured.
How common are mitten toed cats?
They are not rare. I would guess that two percent of the non-purebred cats locally have polydactia. If we would go to the East Coast, especially in the Boston area where the trait was formed, that percentage could be as high as 30 to 40 percent in the non-purebred cat population.
Is there any reason that a pet owner should shy away from having a cat with mitten toes?
Not really. As a matter of fact, they are usually the most popular and will be the first one selected from a litter of kittens that are getting adopted because they are just a little unusual.