What is a Polydactyl cat? Ask our Bluebell
Bluebell- the Polydactyl cat!
Isn’t Bluebell beautiful?
She is a polydactyl cat. It’s not a breed; it is a physical anomaly that she has. If you look closely her beautiful silky furry legs lead down to what can only be described as cart horse feet. The reason? Bluebell has more than five toes on her paws. To be honest we find it difficult to search and count her toes, estimating somewhere between 7 and 9 toes on each paw, all with their own little claw attached.
Origins of the Polydactyl cat
The condition is inherited and research seems to suggest that the polydactyl cat originated in the South West of England and spread to Boston in the United States as the cats were adopted as ships cats and were carried on trading ships. These cats were valued by the sailors because of their climbing and rat catching abilities. Bluebell has not inherited this gene as far as we can see, preferring the comfort of her mums lap and the little delicacies that mum feeds her, although she has been known to jump out of the ground floor window on occasion.
Clusters of Polydactyl cats
Bluebell lives in South East England and joined the family when she was 8 years old. We had never heard of this condition and thought her to be highly unusual. With great excitement we registered her with the local veterinarian only to be told that there were many of her cousins in the area. In fact the area that she lives in has a large colony of Polydactyl cats.
Perhaps the most famous person to be associated with Polydactyl cats is Ernest Hemingway who, after his death in 1961, left his home in Key West, Florida, to his cats. There are believed to be around 50 cats living there, descendants of his original cats and about half are polydactyl. I questioned my mother about this knowing that she had visited Key West but she denied all knowledge of the extra toes.
Caring for a Polydactyl cat
Bluebell was adopted after she had spent some time in a rescue centre- can you imagine anyone letting such a pretty cat go? She is quite timid and is more than happy to live inside the house and her small walled garden with its large bushes to hide under. Like all household cats she does have trouble with her nails (claws) and cannot find the right angle to get a good scratch to trim them all. When we looked at trimming her claws we instantly gave up, we just could not work out where they went- now her manicure forms part of her check up with the veterinarian.
The encyclopaedia tells me that the world record for toes on a cat is 27- I think Bluebell is not far off that amount; and that it is really rare for a cat to have polydactyl paws on all four of her legs- well done Bluebell you are rare! However the most important thing is that you are a precious friend to your mum and her family.