Categories: Genetics

Can big cats be polydactyl?

Tiger paw size

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.

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 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.

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.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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