Exploring the Unique World of Polydactyl Cats

Polydactyl cats, a special feline breed boasting an extra set of toes on one or more paws, captivate with their unique charm. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey to uncover the intriguing realm of polydactyl cats, delving into their historical significance, the underlying genetics, and the distinct types of polydactyly they may exhibit.


Polydactyl cats, cherished companions for centuries, found their niche as esteemed ship’s cats. A historical debate persists about whether the prevalent trait originated as a mutation in New England or was imported from Britain. Nonetheless, consensus prevails that the trait spread extensively through cats aboard ships originating in Boston, Massachusetts. The prevalence of polydactyly in various port cat populations correlates with the initiation of trade with Boston, narrating a captivating tale of feline migration.


Polydactyly, a congenital anomaly, can be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, manifesting primarily in the front paws. Though less common, it may extend to the hind paws, with all four paws rarely affected. Some instances of polydactyly stem from mutations in the ZRS, a genetic enhancer governing the expression of the sonic hedgehog (SHH) gene. The SHH protein plays a crucial role in signaling, influencing the pattern formation of various body elements, including limbs and digits.

Types of Polydactyly

Polydactyly manifests in several distinct types, each showcasing its own set of unique characteristics:

  1. Preaxial Polydactyly: The most prevalent type, distinguished by an additional digit on the inside of the paw, adjacent to the dewclaw.
  2. Postaxial Polydactyly: Characterized by an extra digit on the outer side of the paw, distanced from the dewclaw.
  3. Central Polydactyly: Marked by an extra digit in the middle of the paw, presenting a distinctive variation.
  4. Ulnar Polydactyly: Featuring an extra digit on the pinky side of the paw, adding a quirky touch to the feline’s anatomy.
  5. Radial Polydactyly: Displaying an extra digit on the thumb side of the paw, contributing to the cat’s unique paw structure.


Polydactyl cats stand out as captivating and beloved companions, their unique physical anomaly rooted in centuries of history. The diverse types of polydactyly further enhance the charm of these extraordinary felines. This guide aims to deepen your understanding and appreciation for these remarkable cats, shedding light on the intriguing interplay of genetics that shapes their distinct paw formations.

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