Extra-special cat has 26 toes
By KAREN KOTZE - East And Bays Courier | Wednesday, 21 February 2007
FELINE FINE: Extra the kitten has been aptly named by her owners - she has 26 toes that give her a distinct advantage over her naturally climbing moggie mates.
Extra the kitten has been aptly named by her owners - she has 26 toes that give her a distinct advantage over her naturally climbing moggie mates.
Her human family noticed there was something different with the three-month-old kitten when she started scratching more than other cats.
"You would sort of want to wear boxing gloves when you play with her," says Kaelene Gerrard, who lives with her partner Eli Eliu and daughters Mercy, six, and 12-year-old Shardae.
She examined the frisky feline's paws and did a double take at what she found.
"We counted and then recounted but we had it right the first time," she says.
Extra has seven toes on each front paw and six toes on each back paw - instead of the normal five on each.
"Her mum Star is a normal cat but her grandmother had six toes on each paw as well and so does her brother. But we've never even heard of a kitten with seven toes on each front paw," says Kaelene.
"Extra's a good climber and runs really fast.
"We won't have to worry about her too much because she will sure be able to look after herself."
Staff at Glendowie Veterinary Clinic in Auckland say Extra's trait is relatively common and an inherited genetic condition called polydactyly.
It usually produces six toes, so Extra is that little bit special.
SPCA education officer Shelley Ryan says polydactyl cats come through "from time to time" and most appear to have no setbacks from their condition.
"It seems pedigree cats and bigger cats, such maine coons, often show a strain of polydactyly, although we do see moggies with it too," she says.
"Cats with this genetic trait are often very placid.
"I have seen some cases, but not too many, with 26 toes. How fast and well will that cat climb?"
Polydactyly, or extra digits, in cats is most common on parts of the United States' east coast and in south west England.
It is a naturally occurring genetic variation and has even been found in fossil reptiles.
Polydactyly varies from the classic `mitten cat' - unevenly numbered toes on each front paw – through to those that simply have more toes than normal but no thumb.
Some cat owners say the innermost extra toes on the front paws are often opposable and some use them with quite startling proficiency to manipulate small objects with almost human dexterity.
Others joke that because of that condition their animals are more intelligent, while others feel their pets represent the next stage in feline evolution - the ability to open cartons and cans unaided.
In times past, cats with polydactyly were favoured ship cats and were considered to be the preferred familiars of witches.