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