Categories: Genetics

Why does polydactyly occur in cats?

Polydactylism occurs in cats because of a spontaneous genetic mutation. It just happened because the reproduction of animals through conception and birth is not perfect. Nature is not perfect. Copies of DNA are sometimes imperfect and these imperfect copies are mutations.

Genetic mutation causes polydactylism. Illustration by PoC. Images in public domain.

If a mutation results in a phenotype which is beneficial to the animal such that it survives more easily the mutation sticks around in perpetuity. This is evolution per Charles Darwin. It is the natural selection of the fittest per Darwin’s theory.

In the case of polydactyl cats the mutation causes cats to have extra toes. This is neither here nor there in terms of survival. It does not benefit survival and it does not detract from survival either. So the cats with extra toes did not fade away. Also they are liked by people who may have deliberately allowed them to breed.

But the bottom line is that polydactyly in cats occurs because of a defect in nature which allows a genetic mutation to occur randomly. There are many examples of genetic mutations affecting cats’ anatomy and appearance. Well known ones are the hairless cats: Sphynx and Don Sphynx. Another is the folded ears cat, the Scottish Fold and another is the tailless cat: the Manx. There are more. The hairless cats would not have survived normally because a lack of hair is severely detrimental to survival. They survive because humans want them to survive.

SOME MORE ON GENETICS:

Father’s influence on his kitten’s personality

A kitten's personality is dictated by inherited behaviours and environmental experiences; the nature and nurture argument, which has been around ...
Read More

What is a tabby cat?

A tabby cat can be any one of the following: a random bred domestic cat, a feral cat, a stray ...
Read More

What is Bengal cat glitter?

I wrote about Bengal cat glitter in 2008. More is known about this phenomenon nowadays. I thought, therefore, that I ...
Read More

Why does the Manx cat have no tail?

Although there are ten imaginative hypotheses as to why Manx cats have no tails, there is one genuine and less ...
Read More

Why do domestic cats still hunt?

Domestic cats still hunt because it is in their DNA to do so. It is a characteristic which is a ...
Read More

Why are domestic cats white?

The question effectively asks why cats are white all over. It is because they have a dominant gene symbolised by ...
Read More

Difference between domestic cats and tigers

Athough they look very different, there are relatively few differences between domestic cats and tigers. They are 99% the same ...
Read More
Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

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

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

Don’t blame cats for destroying wildlife – shaky logic is leading to moral panic

Are cats really to blame for the worldwide loss of biodiversity? Dzurag/iStock via Getty Images…

9 hours ago

Young ginger tabby cat fished from the ocean!

A young ginger tabby cat was seen swimming in the ocean, in the Gulf of…

13 hours ago

Can a cheetah breed with a leopard?

There is some interest as to whether the cheetah can breed with any one of…

18 hours ago

Don’t ignore homeopathy as a possible treatment for your cat

Homeopathy is a controversial treatment for ailments in people. It can also be used as…

22 hours ago

The reason why cats feel pain when they eat ice cream

There was a craze on the Internet recently about cats eating ice cream and filming…

23 hours ago

Dog never barks and likes to be on elevated surfaces (he thinks he is a cat)

Mako acts like a cat and his human leader thinks it is because he was…

1 day ago