domestic cats

Fingers in cats: their functions and number

Cats have been living “side by side” with humans since ancient times. Despite their wayward and independent nature, these amazing creations of nature are universal favorites of cat lovers of all ages. It has been observed that people in whose homes cats live have a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. They have no equal in physical abilities.

They are able to perform masterful jumps, balance on a narrow strip with a minimum footprint, move silently, climb tall trees, respond quickly to changing situations, and much more. Not the last role in such abilities belongs to the structure of their limbs and fingers on them.

Paw features

The specific structure of the paws gives a special grace and elegance to the movements of all representatives of the cat family. There are many nerve endings and receptors on the paw pads, which provide high sensitivity. Felines are able to pick up the subtlest vibrations, which helps these versatile hunters locate prey at the slightest rustle. The cat will feel the upcoming earthquake much earlier than the owner.

Feline fingers have an elastic pad without wool, and in each pad there is a sharp sickle-shaped claw. With the help of tendons and muscles, cats retract their claws into a kind of “case” made of leather, resembling a scabbard. Retracted claws do not interfere with cats at all when walking. But if you need to climb vertically, defend yourself from enemies, grab prey, the animals instantly spread their fingers and “pull out” their formidable weapon – they release sharp claws.

Important! All cats are pacers: when walking, they rearrange both right and then both left legs at the same time.

The amble gives the cat additional maneuverability and stability, helps to quickly gain speed and change the direction of running, practically without slowing down.


Cats walk on their toes like ballerinas. It is the fingers that play the main role in the movement of cats. They do not step on the whole foot, but walk “on tiptoe”. The mobility and flexibility of the cat’s fingers allows animals to move quickly and silently, sneak up on prey unnoticed, make unexpected maneuvers and swift jumps, which is very important for predators. The fingers are able to move separately from one another and turn in the right direction, which allows the cat to stay on high-risk surfaces: slippery, almost vertical, vibrating, loose, uneven.

While jumping from a great height fingers serve as shock absorbers, elastic pads make the landing softer and safer, protecting the paws from injury. Most likely, everyone has seen more than once how cats “wash themselves” with the help of their front paws, and superstitious people associate all sorts of signs with this procedure.

In fact, cats do this solely for hygienic purposes, as these animals are clean by nature. These predators must stealthily approach their prey and not give themselves away in anything – neither the sound of footsteps, nor the smell of the body. For centuries, nature has noticed and fixed everything valuable and useful for the survival of any existing species.

Sweating occurs through the paws. There are sweat glands on the fingertips. Cats sweat not only in the heat, but also in stressful situations. Pillows provide thermoregulation, prevent overheating of the body. Cats catch and hold prey with their front fingers and claws, and their hind legs are percussive. Among felines, as well as among people, there are “right-handers” and “left-handers”, and cats prefer the left side, cats prefer the right side. On the “priority” limb, animals have more developed fingers.

Counting fingers and claws

As a standard, International organizations of felinologists consider the presence of 18 fingers to be the norm in ordinary cats. There are 5 fingers on the front legs, when walking, 4 come to the ground, located in one row, and the fifth is higher than the others, does not participate in walking, but helps animals to climb vertically and move along an inclined surface. Cats have 4 toes on their hind legs.

Among felines, there are frequent cases of the birth of offspring with a non-standard number of fingers. Most often, deviations from the norm are found on the front paws, but there are also on the hind limbs. Instead of 5 on the front paws, a kitten can have 6 or more fingers.

The Canadian cat Jake is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, who had 28 fingers, 7 on each foot. There is a known case of the birth of a cat with 32 fingers. Individuals with “extra” fingers are called polydacty, and the phenomenon itself is polydactyly (“poly” – a lot, “dactylos” – a finger).

Possible anomalies

Gene mutations are characteristic of all multicellular organisms, they are also found among cats. An abnormal number of fingers can be in both cats and cats. This genetic disorder is inherited. If at least one of the parents is a polydactyl, then the probability of having a polydactyl offspring is very high. “Extra” fingers can be on one paw of a kitten, on several or on all four at once.

Even if there is only one “extra” finger on one leg, then this is definitely nothing more than a manifestation polydactyly gene. This feature of the structure is not considered a genetic deformity, does not affect health, does not bring any discomfort to animals. The only problem – such animals cannot participate in exhibitions due to non-compliance with exhibition standards, which no one will regret if the cat is healthy, energetic and beautiful. When examining newborn kittens and discovering a “special” kitten, it is recommended to contact a felinologist and find out the prognosis for the development of an animal with an identified anomaly.

If everything is in order, there is no threat to the development of other organs and general health, no difficulties are foreseen in the normal life of the animal, the owner calmly raises the pet along with other kittens. This is usually the case with polydactyly.

Many owners of polydacts note increased intelligence in their pets, they even compare it with a human one and assure that cats have a special relationship and understanding with each family member, close to telepathy. Theodore Roosevelt had a polydactyl cat for a long time, in which the president “doted on” and often allowed him to attend official receptions, and in the close circle of the president it was jokingly said that the cat brings good luck to the White House. However, people who are prone to prejudice and believe in mysticism should not start multi-toed cats. In fact, this feature is nothing more than a peculiar appearance.

In addition to polydactyly, there is a hypodactyly mutation, when there are not enough fingers on the kitten’s paws. Unlike polydactyly, this is a serious illness that is usually accompanied by congenital pathology of the liver and urinary canals.

The hypodactyly gene activates “junk” genes that cause the development of severe pathologies of internal organs. Fortunately, this deviation is extremely rare, but it does happen. The foot has a non-standard look and resembles a claw.

Animals cannot fully move, run, jump, cope with natural needs. Such kittens rarely live to adulthood and constantly endure physical torment. Unfortunately, life consists not only of touching admiring fluffy pets. Having found a kitten with hypodactyly in the litter and having received an exhaustive consultation from a specialist, you will have to make a difficult decision and put the sufferer to sleep – this is more humane than dooming him to an unbearable existence.

Paw care

Cat paws need to be cared for no matter how many toes a cat has. Due to the increased sensitivity of the paws, felines do not tolerate sharp fluctuations in temperature and pressure, react painfully to the slightest damage to the pads, suffer from severe physical pain, eat poorly, and can become aggressive or depressed. The causes of damage can be very different. These are cuts with sharp objects on walks, thermal burns when accidentally jumping on a hot surface, chemical burns when jogging on chemically treated snow, frostbite in the cold.

All cats instinctively try to protect their paws from damage, as far as possible in the lifestyle of each animal. The task of the owners is to help the pet as much as possible. The paws of domestic cats should be carefully examined every day. In the presence of damage, scuffs and even minor scratches, you should consult a veterinarian and treat the pads with healing agents.

In addition, microcracks and weeping sores on the skin of the pads can appear from improper nutrition of the animal, from severe stress or a hidden disease of the internal organs. In this case, you will need a deep diagnosis, complex treatment and constant monitoring in the veterinary clinic.

The formidable-looking claws of pets are also very sensitive, so they must be trimmed with extreme care, without causing pain and without accidentally damaging the fingers, and not allowing the claws to grow too long so that they do not split. In the wild, natural sharpening of claws on natural materials is enough for cats; a pet should have a high-quality scratching post.

Cat claws are an integral part of natural life. Having settled a kitten at home, you need to be prepared not only for positive emotions, but also for less pleasant surprises. For example, a pet can ruin expensive interior items with its claws, which is not his fault at all – this is the owner’s “jamb” in education.

Unfortunately, some pet owners who have been irresponsible about acquiring a cat are quickly fed up with claw problems and decide to surgical operation onychectomy – removal of claws. This is a very complex procedure that only young healthy cats can bear. Together with the claws, the phalanges of the fingers are also amputated. Many owners, depriving their pet of protective equipment, have little idea of ​​what they doom their pets to. With any, even the most successful result of the operation, the future life of your beloved fluffy will not be full.

The reduced size of the paw redistributes the load on the foot, joint displacements and arthritis develop, the vestibular apparatus functions with disturbances until the end of the cat’s life. Negative attitudes towards such an operation are common among the vast majority of cat lovers and among veterinary surgeons themselves.

You can look at the six-toed cat further.