This is a really nice polydactyl tabby cat picture by Helmi Flick. Octavia is a beautiful polydactyl tabby cat. People call them polycats. And they have polyfeet! The polydactyl world throws up some nice terminology. For people new to polydactyl cats, it means cats with extra toes.
Robinson’s Genetics calls it “polydactyly”. They say that it is a genetic anomaly that is “impairing”. Impairing means that the physical anomaly is non-cosmetic and non-lethal. That seems a bit strong to me as polydactylism is a pretty benign condition that many people find attractive.
Apparently the anomaly was first formally noticed in 1868 or earlier. Although the polydactyl tabby cat must be fairly common. The number of extra toes and how they are formed varies. Sometimes the condition takes the form of an enlargement of the inside digit to form what appears to be a thumb. This is the case with Octavia in the picture above.
Alternatively you may see three nicely formed extra toes making a total of eight on the front paw. The record is 28 toes, 7 on each paw.
Polydactylism nearly always affects the forepaws and if the forepaws are affected sometimes the hind paws are too.
It is caused by a dominant gene mutation it seems. Although only one polydactyly gene is currently recognised, symbolised by Pd, there is apparently more than one mutated gene. These genes exist at different geographic locations.
As I said, the condition is benign. There are no associated health issues bar one. The extra toes can sometimes grow too long as they are not worn down in use. This is because the claws make less contact with the ground or are used less generally. Claws that are not naturally shortened in use can grow into the paw pad causing pain and infection. These claws need to be checked and trimmed if required.
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