Animals of different cat breeds can be polydacty, which means such an anomaly as six-fingeredness. It is clearly visible externally – due to the presence of an extra finger, the paws of cats are wider and more dexterous. And this does not interfere with them, but rather helps them lead a fulfilling lifestyle, providing many benefits.
Advantages and disadvantages
Polydact, in relation to people and animals, means “many-fingered.” This is a feature that is transmitted at the genetic level. In humans, such a hereditary defect occurs, but it is usually one extra finger, and mostly the little finger. In polydactyl cats, there is a preaxial form of pathology – an extra thumb, although in fact there may be two. There are such fingers on the side, but they can also be located on the same level with other, main ones.
In the latter case, the anatomical feature is called post-axial. However, both options are considered normal.
Extra fingers are found on the forelimbs, but sometimes they are also observed on the hind limbs. Extremely rarely, such a defect is noted only on the hind legs of the animal.
Certain advantages of having another part of the body are:
- excellent sense of balance;
- a stronger grip and the ability to cling better, unlike five-fingered cats;
- increased skill of swimming and movement on snow;
- light tread, by which it is impossible to hear the approach of the animal.
The fantastic tenacity of six-toed cats is amazing: with their wide paws, they can easily open cabinets and doors by deftly turning the handle. Such an animal is a real godsend for a professional trainer, especially since most individuals are smart and easy to train. Not to mention the fact that all of these qualities make the animals excellent hunters.
But, along with such advantages, there are also disadvantages. Often excellent anatomy entails:
- joint diseases;
- ingrowth of claws into the tissues of the paws;
- limb deformity.
The presence of extra phalanges is a predisposition to injury, and spliced fingers with claw growth can cause pain. In addition, the anomaly is often accompanied by infectious lesions of the nail base, horny plate dysbacteriosis, and uneven growth. In this case, the animal needs medical attention. Sometimes the best solution to the problem is surgical removal.
Fortunately, some pathologies can be cured, but the most unpleasant consequence of polydactyly is the birth of weak, unviable cubs with health problems, especially in cats with a triphalangeal thumb.
Sick kittens have a congenital deformity of the forearms, therefore, in order to exclude the appearance of the next generation with obvious malformations, the animals have to be sterilized.
At different times, polydactyl animals were treated differently: as accomplices of witches or as a talisman that brings luck. Today, the phenomenon of six paws has been studied, and thoroughbred animals born with one or more additional fingers are registered in special felinological systems, at least in America.
Multiplicity in nature most common in Maine Coons – large individuals, which their natural habitat forced them to adapt to the harsh conditions of life: move quickly and easily over ice and a thick layer of snow in order to overtake prey.
In accordance with the studies of the genetics of this breed, it turned out that the six-fingered felines are the result of the natural evolution of American cats.
The largest population of individuals with this mutation is noted in the city of Boston. Such animals were kept on ships to get rid of rodents, and thus they became widespread in different parts of the world. According to statistics, polydactyls are most often found in port cities.
Until some time, polydactyly was considered a marriage, so even animals with a pedigree did not participate in breeding and exhibition shows. But now in Maine Coons this feature is the standard, and six-toed cats take part in championships organized for broad-legged representatives of the breed.
Breeding six-fingered individuals is very specific, which is due to the unpredictability of cat genetics. And yet, we managed to figure out how to breed Maine Coon offspring with polydactyly:
- to get kittens with paw anomalies, only one parent with polydactyly is needed, and then the success rate of mating will be 56%;
- two polydactyl parents increase the chances of having polydactyls by another 20%;
- if at least one parent has a homozygote – homologous chromosomes that do not give splitting in subsequent generations, then all offspring may have a so-called anomaly.
By the way, the number of polydactyl felines is not limited to Maine Coons. At the moment, experts are engaged in the selection of such animals, and there is even an artificially bred breed – the pixie-bob.
When purchasing a polydactyl kitten, the owner does not need to worry that he will need special care. Animals differ in needs identical to those of ordinary, five-toed cats. On the other hand, the superior qualities of the polydactus will certainly interest the owner, moreover, these animals have a lively mind, good memory and are easy to train.
Characteristics of Hemingway’s pets
Ernest Hemingway, a well-known writer and military journalist, did not bypass unusual six-toed animals with his love. It all started with a pet named F. Keys, who anxiously guarded Ham’s firstborn in the absence of the owners. Later, on the island of Key West, near Florida, the writer received a white kitten as a gift from a friend of the captain, on the front paws of which there were six fingers.
At that time, sailors believed that the six-toed cat brought good luck, protected the ship from storms, and also destroyed rats.
Snowball, as Ham and his wife named the cat, became the ancestor of all polydactyl cats, and currently 50 of his descendants still live in the writer’s dwelling, which has become a museum house.
In Hemingway’s cat paradise, on a small island, animals of different sizes and colors were collected, and each of them had its own character, but they were all treated kindly and awarded with bright nicknames in honor of world-famous singers, actors and politicians. Half of their offspring, thanks to Snowball, were born with six fingers, and now animals live in the house, which have two, and even three extra fingers. This is a reliable fact, so there is no need to doubt that a wide variety of cat breeds are subject to a rare mutation.
In general, polydactyly is not welcomed by both veterinarians and breeders., but polydactyl pets have become so popular and in demand that they are still bred for sale. Many experts directly speak out about the inhumane attitude towards mutating cats, since complications due to birth defects often lead to animal suffering, but this is only one opinion among many other judgments.
For Hemingway’s six-toed cats, see below.