Polydactyl CatHISTORY

The American Polydactyl cat can be found across breeds. Born with a congenital physical anomaly known as polydactylism, these cats have more than the normal amount of toes on their paws. Polydactyl cats can be found mainly along the East Coast of the US and also in the South West of England and Wales. This trait is also found in Maine Coon cats, and it is thought that this trait evolved so that they could walk more easily through snowy landscapes. Polydactyl cats can have as many as nine digits on their front and hind paws. Normal cats have a total of 18 toes. Two cats, Jake, a Canadian ginger tabby, and Paws have been recognized in the Guiness Book of World Records as having the most toes on any cat, 28.

Polydactyl cats were seen as a symbol of good luck by sailors, and hence it stands to reason that these cats traveled on ships from Britain to the US or vice versa. However, on the flip side, polydactyl cats were also hunted and killed in Europe because of superstition and witchcraft. This could be the reason why they are not readily found outside the UK.

Polydactyl Cat Paw


Perhaps the most famous polydactyl cats belonged to Ernest Hemingway who was given one by a ship’s captain in 1930. Snow White is the ancestor of about 40-50 descendants who roam the Hemingway home, now a museum, in Key West, Florida.


Ernest Hemingway Polydactyl Cats

Ernest Hemingway and his sons play with kittens. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


A polydactyl cat at Hemingway’s house (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Cats with polydactylism have been nicknamed patty feet, hamburger feet, Hemingway cats, mitten cats, conch cats, boxing cats, mitten-foot cats, snowshoe cats, thumb cats, six-fingered cats, and Cardi-cats.  

Some cat fancier clubs recognize two specific breeds of polydactyl: the American Polydactyl and the Maine Coon Polydactyl.

American Polydactyl Kitten

American Polydactyl cats are bred as a specific cat breed, with specific physical and behavioral characteristics in addition to extra digits.




WEIGHT RANGE                10-20 pounds
EYE COLOR Depends on the breed
COAT Silky and Smooth, Short to Long Length.  Depends on the breed
COAT COLORSDepends on the breed. Can be any coat color. 
OVERALL APPEARANCEMost polydactyls are strong and sturdy with square faces and wide set ears. Polydactyls can have bobtails as well. 
PRICE $300-500 Recognized by some Cat Fanciers Clubs



 The American Polydactyl is generally a sturdy cat and the gene that causes the polydactylism is no hinderance to its good health. Care must be taken of its extra toes and nails, however. Life expectancy is from 14-16 years.   



Hemingway Polydactyl Rescue

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