The Webbed Feet of Domestic Cats

Sphynx cat showing webbed feet

Sphynx cat showing webbed feet and no claws as far as I can tell..

You don’t get the chance to notice the partially webbed feet of domestic cats unless the cat has no fur or if you feel between the toes of your cat. The space between a cat’s toes is not like the space between a human’s fingers. There is noticeable webbing akin to that found on a duck. Of course the webbing is not as complete as on a duck.

Incidentally, my observation of the Sphynx cat it that the breed has longer than average toes. This would make the webbing more apparent as does the fact that the cat is naked. It interesting to see that the Sphynx cat in the picture has almost totally webbed feet.

There seems to be the idea that some individual cats have webbed feet but most do not. Also, there might be a tendency to say that the Bengal cat has webbed feet as it is a wildcat hybrid.

I say that all domestic cats have webbed feet as do wild cats but the amount of webbing varies. There are wild cat species that specialise in fishing; the fishing cat and the flat-headed cat come to mind. The toes of the fishing cat are described as being, “partially webbed’¹. This seems to be a slight understatement as all domestic cats have ‘partial webbing’. As a fishing cat is designed by nature to swim and catch fish I would have thought that the webbing would be more pronounced than average.

But other wild cat species are good swimmers (e.g tiger) and all can cope nicely in the water if they have to. The jaguarundi is another small wild cat species that likes water.

The African – Asian wildcat is the wild cat ancestor of the domestic cat. This small wild cat has a very wide distribution on the planet and therefore lives in a variety of habitats including wetlands and rivers (e.g in Botswana).

Nature gave all wild cats webbed feet because prey is often near water courses. The small wild cats need to get into water sometimes and catch prey. Webbing between the toes presents a larger surface against which the water is pushed. The general consensus is that domestic cats don’t like water but this is incorrect.

The domestic cats has distanced him/herself from his wild cat ancestor and so some cats aren’t that fond of getting wet but all domestic cats are decent if not good swimmers when called upon to swim. Wild cat hybrids usually like water.

A cat is able to negotiate and travel on dry land and water because it is part of surviving. Lots of prey live in and around water. It would be poor evolution if the cat lost the ability to negotiate water to catch prey species.

You don’t see references to a cat’s webbed feet very often but they are ‘standard’ and part of the domestic cat’s anatomy. Have a feel or look sometime and leave a comment…

Reference: 1. Wild Cats of the World page 242.

Associated page: The Cat Paw


Comments

The Webbed Feet of Domestic Cats — 18 Comments

  1. There is a trend here in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Since our summers are very hot 110-118F/44-47.8C we have a lot of swimming pools. People think they need to teach their cats to swim. That is just insane! As you point out, they do just fine when they have to swim. Just crazy!

    I never knew all cats feet were webbed. That is really cool.

  2. Our 5 month old kitten has webbed toes. I think he is a “Ticked Tabby” from pictures I have searched. Rex has a beautiful coat. Also his fur is soft like a rabbits. My vet also commented on his unusually soft fur. We love Rex!

    • He sounds adorable. Some cats do have very soft and dense coats. It might be because there is a thick undercoat there as well. The undercoat is downy fur and very soft. It may this that you are feeling.

  3. The information you provided was very helpful and I appreciate that. My two kittens have webbed feet. I would however ask you to correct your grammar/spelling in your commentary.

    • Thanks Megan. I am not sure what you are referring to when you mention the need to correct spelling and grammar. It looks OK to me. Please tell me what is wrong.

  4. Thanks for clarifying this! My cat is mostly Maine Coon, all the features except she’s a shorthair. I’ve often wondered about her webbed paws since I got her.

      • Unless you have since edited/corrected this article, except for a few missing commas, I see no spelling or grammatical errors. And I am a book editor. ;)

          • Don’t thank Frances so easily, unless for the sake of civility. If I were a book editor that proof-read ur column, (I know, I wrote ‘ur,’ it’s proof I’m no spelling/grammar nazi lol.
            However if u start reading from ur second paragraph onward, u’ll perhaps notice a couple on ur own b4 uv even finished said paragraph, (clue 1 = It, for ‘Is,’ which are probably more typos than real errors.)
            A general rule on commas is to insert @places where ur speech in a sentence pauses (even if brief.) Or that was @least how I was educated in my primary school, many, many, moons ago, in fact, a quarter of a century before the new millennium, so perhaps those grammatical formalities are a little Dated.
            It’s also quite obvious that the “Cat paw” comment was not directed @you personally and perhaps you should’ve read the reply again until you’d understood that, Or @least before calling out the commentor as ‘…rude.’
            Aside from the subsequent I believe you wrote an incredibly informative piece, on a topic it’s hard to find a lot of data on, especially if one’s cat has toes that are obviously webbed and said cat doesn’t appear ‘polydactyl’ when you Google the condition, lol.
            So, leave the article or edit it, either way it’s still very informative and the minor errors, barely noticeable (@1’st reading that is,) given the general standard of authorship on the Internet, even with short sentences and few commas, it’s still very readable too, (@least Imo.)

            • Thanks Charles. I do make the odd typo due to pressure of time (working too fast) and going word blind ;) Also I dictate some articles using Dragon Dictate which is good but it can make some silly errors which can he hard to spot.

              Yes, I agree I was wrong in calling that person rude. I misread the comment.

  5. In my opinion, if you don’t know whether or not your cat has webbed feet, you don’t touch your cat enough. We make it a point to teach our cats to let us touch their paws, just in case we ever have to examine them. Anyway, our new shelter cat is nearly 100% Turkish Van and has webbed feet, which are easily visible when she stretches for us in an attempt to get treats. She has one of the best personalities I’ve ever seen in a cat, and has helped our Tortie become much more social and happier.
    Anyway, this is a great article!

    As far as your grammar goes, I think the earlier commenter might have meant your short, incomplete sentences. But, I must admit that I didn’t notice them until I read the article a second time, so no worries. :-)

    • Thank you for your rude comment RM. I have no idea what you are saying when you are referring to grammar or not knowing if my cat has webbed feet. How do you expect your comment to be published if you insult people? I have published it to show others what a rude person you are.

      • @Michael, I don’t think he meant YOU in particular, in the comment about not touching your cat enough. I think he meant it in a more general sense, but you took it personally. I think he meant that anybody who doesn’t know whether their cat has webbed feet doesn’t touch their cat enough.

        @RM, short, incomplete sentences have come to be accepted in writing, even in books, because they are meant to indicate afterthoughts.

        • Thanks Frances. Yes, looking back I don’t RM was insulting me, but someone else but I don’t have the inclination to dig around. I get insulted quite a lot though ;) . Perhaps I have become a little sensitive to it or I read comments too fast and get the gist (incorrectly in this instance).

          I deliberately keep sentences short because it makes the text easier to read. Web site owners have to provide information to everyone and a lot of people have difficulty in understanding long sentences on tricky topics.

          It is about clarity. Also there are no strict rules on commas etc. as I am sure you know. They exist to help the reader but they can also break up the flow and make the sentence visually disjointed.

  6. THANK YOU !!!! Well explained. I was looking for info since my kitty has webbed feet. As far the others go that are being rude. Ignore it or they can write on themselves :)

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