Having double paws doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your furry chum, you just have more of him to love. Once in a while, double paws are a result of inbreeding, although that isn’t always the cause. Sometimes extra paws or toes are just a random genetic fluke.
Normally, kitties have four paws and 18 toes in all – five toes on each front paw and four toes on each back foot. Double pawed cats, known as polydactyl kitties, don’t necessarily have two full sets of toes on one foot. Little Mittens simply could have a few extra toes on the side of his paw or an extra large dewclaw that looks like a thumb. Sometimes the gene affects just one paw, although some kitties have double paws on two or more feet.
Certain breeds are more prone to have double paws through inbreeding. Maine Coon and pixiebob felines top the list of frequency of double paws in litters. Many breeders work hard to breed out the polydactyl deformity to adhere to strict cat show guidelines. If you have a purebred kitty you plan to breed, you might want to check and make sure that his parents do not have double paws anywhere in their bloodlines. Otherwise the pint-size furry offspring might not be show worthy. Inbred purebred cats aren’t the only ones who can have polydactyl babies. If you have a double-pawed kitty who mates with a “normal-pawed” feline, then 40 to 50 percent of the kittens could be polydactyl furballs, explains Dr. Arnold Plotnick, a New York-based veterinarian.
Double paws aren’t a health concern, they’re simply a fun quirk about your four-legged family member. In some polydactyl felines, the claws grow more quickly than normal, curl under his toes or shed abnormally. These complications aren’t harming your feline, you’ll just want to take a little extra care of his tootsies to prevent any ingrown toenails from forming.
Imagine if you had an extra toe or two next to your pinky toe. You’d have more spaces for debris to get stuck in. The same is true for your purring pal. Several times a week you’ll want to set aside time to check his feet, especially if he goes outdoors. Spread apart his toes and remove anything that is stuck in between. Simon also might need more regular manicures than the other kitties in your home. Take him to your vet or groomer every few weeks, or according to their recommendations, to get a thorough nail trim.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.