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What is a Polydactyl cat? Ask our Bluebell

Updated on March 28, 2013

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.

POLYDACTYL CAT- Bluebell shows she is quite normal apart from her feet
POLYDACTYL CAT- Bluebell shows she is quite normal apart from her feet

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.

Buebell's delicate polydactyl paw! She didn't like the camera one bit!
Buebell's delicate polydactyl paw! She didn't like the camera one bit!

Ernest Hemingway

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.

Buebell- wants access and wants it now!
Buebell- wants access and wants it now!

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.


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    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Since I wrote this some time ago, Bluebell and my mum have comet to live with us and I notice occasionally she sheds her claws- the spare claws seem quite light - not real claws- as she is getting older she is quite unsteady on her feet and is often to be seen sitting on mum's lap on the chair lift going upstairs

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Beautiful Bluebell. I love the stuffed mittens. I have a polydactyl, too! His name is Gunter, and he was a stray (I prefer "volunteer") from our neighborhood. His front paws have gobs of extra toes. Every time we think we've finished counting, it seems like we find another hiding between two toes! I thought the back ones did not have extra toes but lo and behold he has some there too -- just one extra set. I adore him and am trying to make him an indoor cat. He doesn't like me touching the toes all the time though. The nails have to be maintained, else they curl around and cause him discomfort.

    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Oh my..............she is so beautiful ....but an absolute shy baby who would not be involved in anything like that!

      Ta for the visit

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 

      8 years ago

      I think there might be a witch missing a familiar out there. lol.

    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      katyzzz- Thank you for your visit- It is really was an elightening comment- she does not know what it is like to have smaller paws- I had not thought of that!

    • katyzzz profile image


      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Bluebell is such a lovely cat and I love all animal tales, even with polydactyl feet, maybe she finds those extra feet useful, but as she knows no other she will never know, lovely hub

    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Cybersheley- It was a surprise to me to! Thanks for your visit and kind comments

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      8 years ago

      Case1Worker, I am a cat lover yet I have never heard of or seen polydactyl paws. She looks great though and lucky to have you who lets her have a manicure! Voted up, interesting and follow! Thank you!

    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Sparkle Chi- Thanks for your visit, she is beautiful and it is great to be able to share her photos

    • Sparkle Chi profile image


      9 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      Bluebell is beautiful!

      Thank you for the informative hub about this condition. We once had a neighborhood cat that adopted our family for a while that had six toes on each foot. She was a wonderful girl.

    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      christin53- thanks for your visit- I think you are in Norfolk and maybe they are not common there- certainly not in the midlands where I live

      Lucky Cats- wow what a lovely descriptor- toesy cats- I totally agree with the spaying, it is what all responsible owners should do- Thanks for your visit

    • Lucky Cats profile image


      9 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      hi CASE1WORKER. Such an interesting hub you've written. As a young girl, I used to go w/my mother to visit her friend, Doris, who loved "toesy cats."

      Her way of referring to her polydactyl cats, of which she had at least 5 at any given time. We were fascinated with those feet! I have one with me now (a recent rescue) and her feet covered with thick fur, look like elephants' feet...they're so BIG! We call her our dinosaur kitty, too. Love the little bit about Hemingway...this is what I am doing, as well...leaving all I have to support my companion kitties (all spayed and neutered so there will be no descendants)...and then, what is left goes to a trusted animal rescue/welfare/rights group. thank you for a great hub.

    • christin53 profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      I have never heard of this condition before it was a really interesting read and Bluebell looks adorable :)

    • CASE1WORKER profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      jasmith1- Thank you for your visit- it is so amazing that they have the extra toes! At least you can now tell your friend what her cat is!

    • jasmith1 profile image

      Jen Smith 

      9 years ago from UK

      What a cute cat! Thank you for this info - I'd never heard of this before but I know someone who's cat has similar looking paws so I will mention it to them when I see them next.


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