Can big cats be polydactyl? The answer is probably, yes. Although, having read a lot about the big cats and all wild cat species and seen many photographs, I have not seen one polydactyl paw on any wild cat of any size or description. That does not mean that they don’t exist. Update: my instinct has been proved correct. Please read the comment below!
The only question that I have is whether the mutation which causes cats to be polydactyl is confined to domestic cats because of their evolution over about 10,000 years of domestication. I would doubt that this dominant mutated gene is confined to domestic cats and therefore I have to presume that it exists among wild cats in the wild.
A responder on the Quora.com website writes that polydactylism has been seen in lions and ‘panthers’ and other creatures outside the feline family. I can believe it but she does not present any hard evidence. And there is no reference to this well-known congenital condition being present in wild cat species in the best books that I have. Neither can I find, on a rather quick search online, a reference to this. All the references are in relation to domestic cats. Indeed, it is only in reference to domestic cats that we read about polydactylism. If a visitor can point to a reference, I’d be very grateful and will amend the page accordingly – please see comment.
As mentioned, the lack of a reference online or in books is not conclusive as to the existence or otherwise of polydactylism in big cats. It’s simply creates a question mark in my mind. Sadly, there is no clean answer but logic dictates that it does exist amongst the big cats although perhaps very rarely.
Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.