Cats can have 7 claws and this is normal. Most cats have five claws on their front paws, and four on their rear paws. The fifth front claw (the dewclaw) is proximal to the other claws.
A polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as hyperdactyly), a type of cat body type genetic mutation that causes the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws. Cats with this genetically inherited trait are most commonly found along the East Coast of North America (in the United States and Canada) and in South West England and Wales.
The true polydactyly is a congenital abnormality, genetically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait of the Pd gene with incomplete penetrance.
Normal cats have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on each hind paw; polydactyl cats may have as many as eight digits on their front and/or hind paws. Tiger, a Canadian polydactyl cat with 27 toes, was recognised by Guinness World Records as having the highest number of toes on a cat. Various combinations of anywhere from four to seven toes per paw are common, and the number of toes on either the front or rear paws is typically the same. Polydactyly is most commonly found on the front paws only, it is rare for a cat to have polydactyl hind paws only, and polydactyly of all four paws is even less common.
The nickname "double-pawed cat" is a misnomer since there is a specific double paw condition, although this condition may be interrelated with polydactyly.
Feline radial hypoplasia (see squitten) is a mimic of polydactyly and is considered a severe condition. Radial hypoplasia may cause the formation of extra jointed toes, but it is not a result of the Pd gene normally associated with polydactyls. It thus does not cause the "mitten cat" or "thumb cat" condition where the extra toes occur separated from the normal ones just like a dewclaw, usually associated with an additional pad which makes them look like an underdeveloped foot sticking out near the base of the normal toes. Rather, radial hypoplasia-related extra toes are immediately adjacent to the normal ones, giving the cat overly large, flat feet — colloquially known as "patty feet" or "hamburger feet". Though this looks less serious than true polydactyly (as the feet appear "normal" apart from having one or two extra toes), breeding such cats will eventually result in severely crippled offspring. Cats used in polydactyl breeding programs can be screened by x-ray for indicators of radial hypoplasia, and cats suspected to have radial hypoplasia should not be used for breeding.
The condition seems to be most commonly found in cats along the East Coast of North America (in the United States and Canada) and in South West England, Wales and Kingston-upon-Hull. Polydactyl cats have been extremely popular as ship's cats. Although there is some controversy over whether the most common variant of the trait originated as a mutation in New England or was brought there from Britain, there seems to be agreement that it spread widely as a result of cats carried on ships originating in Boston, Massachusetts, and the prevalence of polydactyly among the cat population of various ports correlates with the dates when they first established trade with Boston. Contributing to the spread of polydactyl cats by this means, sailors were long known to value polydactyl cats especially for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents. Some sailors also considered them to be extremely good luck when at sea.
Genetic work studying the DNA basis of the condition however indicates that many different mutations can all lead to polydactyly and since samples from the UK and USA were shown to possess different mutations it seems likely that these cats have originated multiple times independently, rather than spreading from a single origin.
Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was one of the more famous lovers of polydactyl cats, after being first given a six-toed cat by a ship's captain. Upon Hemingway's death in 1961, his former home in Key West, Florida, became a museum and a home for his cats, and it currently houses approximately fifty descendants of his cats (about half of which are polydactyl). Because of his love for these animals, polydactyl cats are sometimes referred to as "Hemingway Cats".
Some sources state that these cats are rare in Europe because they were killed as witches' familiars, but other sources indicate that they are quite common in southern Britain.
Nicknames for polydactyl cats include "conch cats", "boxing cats", "mitten cats", "mitten-foot cats", "snowshoe cats", "thumb cats", "six-fingered cats", "Cardi-cats", and "Hemingway cats". Two specific breeds recognized by some but not all cat fancier clubs are the American Polydactyl and Maine Coon Polydactyl, and named regional populations include the Boston thumb cat, Cardi-cat, Ithacat, and Vermont snowshoe cat.
American Polydactyl cats are bred as a specific cat breed, with specific physical and behavioral characteristics in addition to extra digits.
The American Polydactyl is not to be confused with the pedigree Maine Coon polydactyl. The polydactyl form of the Maine Coon is being reinstated by some breeders.
A particular strain of polydactyl cats native to Ithaca, New York is known as the Ithacat. Polydactyls are very common in the Cardigan area of Wales, where they are known as "Cardi-cats."
A dewclaw (commonly referred to as a Dog's thumb) is a vestigial digit on the foot of many mammals, birds, and reptiles (including some extinct orders, like certain theropods). It commonly grows high on the leg so that in digitigrade species, when the animal is standing, it does not make contact with the ground. Dewclaws are often removed in young puppies, though there is debate on whether this is necessary.
Dogs almost always have dewclaws on the inside of the front legs and occasionally also on the hind legs. Unlike front dewclaws, rear dewclaws tend to have little bone or muscle structure in most breeds. Sometimes some dogs will even have more than one dewclaw on the same paw; at least one of these dewclaws will be poorly connected to the leg and in this case it is often surgically removed. When a dog has extra dewclaws in addition to the usual one on each front leg, the dog is said to be double dewclawed. There is some debate about whether a dewclaw helps dogs to gain traction when they run because in some dogs, the dewclaw makes contact when they are running and the nail on the dewclaw often wears down in the same way that the nails on their other toes do, from contact with the ground. However, in many dogs the dewclaws never make contact with the ground; in this case, the dewclaw's nail never wears away, and it is then often trimmed to keep it to a safe length.
The dewclaws are not dead appendages. They can be used to lightly grip bones and other items that dogs hold with the paws. However, in some dogs these claws may not appear to be connected to the leg at all except by a flap of skin; in such dogs the claws do not have a use for gripping as the claw can easily fold or turn.
There is also some debate as to whether dewclaws should be surgically removed.][ The argument for removal states that dewclaws are a weak digit, barely attached to the leg, so that they can rip partway off or easily catch on something and break, which can be extremely painful and prone to infection. Others say the pain of removing a dewclaw is far greater than any other risk.][ For this reason, removal of dewclaws is illegal in many countries. There is, perhaps, an exception for hunting dogs, who can sometimes tear the dewclaw while running in overgrown vegetation. If a dewclaw is to be removed, this should be done when the dog is a puppy, around 2–5 days of age, though it can also be performed on older dogs if necessary (though the surgery may be more difficult then). The surgery is fairly straightforward and may even be done with only local anesthetics if the digit is not well connected to the leg. Unfortunately many dogs can't resist licking at their sore paws following the surgery, so owners need to remain vigilant.
One breed for which lack of dewclaws is considered a fault is the Great Pyrenees. Dewclaws in the Great Pyrenees are attached to the bony structure of the leg. Removal is detrimental to this breed.
In addition, for those dogs whose dewclaws make contact with the ground when they run, it is possible that removing them could be a disadvantage for a dog's speed in running and changing of direction, particularly in performance dog sports such as dog agility.
In America, some pups are commonly sold by breeders "dewclawed", that is with the dewclaws removed (as by a veterinarian) for perceived health and safety reasons. A few breed standards also call for it.
Canids have four claws on the rear feet, although some domestic dog breeds or individuals have an additional claw. A more technical term for this fifth claw on the rear legs is hind-limb-specific preaxial polydactyly. Several genetic mechanisms can cause rear dewclaws; they involve the LMBR1 gene and related parts of the genome. Rear dewclaws often have no phalanx bones and are attached by skin only.
Hoofed animals walk on the tips of special toes, the hoofs. Cloven-hoofed animals walk on a central pair of hoofs, but many also have an outer pair of dewclaws on each foot. These are a little farther up the leg than the main hoofs, and similar in structure to them. In some species (such as cattle) the dewclaws are much smaller than the hoofs and never touch the ground. In others (such as pigs and many deer), they are only a little smaller than the hoofs, and may reach the ground in soft conditions or when jumping. Some hoofed animals (such as giraffes and modern horses) have no dewclaws.
A paw is the soft foot of a mammal, generally a quadruped, that has claws or nails. A hard foot is called a hoof. An animal's front paw is known as a forepaw. Paws are used to pad feet for walking and increase friction.
The paw is characterised by thin, pigmented, keratinised, hairless epidermis covering subcutaneous, collagenous, and adipose tissue, which make up the pads. These pads act as a cushion for the load-bearing limbs of the animal. The paw consists of the large, heart-shaped metacarpal or palmar pad (forelimb) or metatarsal or plantar pad (rear limb), and generally four load-bearing digital pads, although there can be five or six toes in the case of bears and the Giant Panda. A carpal pad is also found on the forelimb which is used for additional traction when stopping or descending a slope in digitigrade species. Additional dewclaws can also be present.
The paw also includes a horny, beak shaped claw on each digit. Though usually hairless, certain animals do have fur on the soles of their paws. An example is the Red Panda, whose furry soles help insulate them in their snowy habitat.
A dog's paw resting on a hard concrete surface
A tiger's paw, showing pads
A cat's paw, showing pads
Structures of the leg and paw of a dog
Skeleton of a dog paw
A claw is a curved, pointed appendage, found at the end of a toe or finger in most amniotes (mammals and reptiles, including birds). However, the word "claw" is also often used in reference to an invertebrate. Somewhat similar fine hooked structures are found in arthropods such as beetles and spiders, at the end of the leg or tarsus for gripping a surface as the creature walks. Crabs', lobsters' and scorpions' pincers, or more formally, their "chelae", are sometimes called claws.
A claw is made of hard protein called keratin. Claws are used to catch and hold prey in carnivorous mammals such as cats and dogs, but may also be used for such purposes as digging, climbing trees, self-defense etc., in those and other species.
Similar appendages that are flat and do not come to a sharp point are called nails instead. Claw-like projections that do not form at the end of digits, but spring from other parts of the foot are properly named spurs.
Claws of animals like tigers, lions, and bears were used in making items such as ornaments, pendants, and brooches. Tigers' and lions' claws are illegal to trade.
The correct term for an arthropod's "claw" is a chela (plural chelae). Legs bearing a chela are called chelipeds. Chelae are also called pincers.
In tetrapods, claws are made of keratin and consist of two layers. The unguis is the harder external layer, which consists of keratin fibers arranged perpendicular to the direction of growth and in layers at an oblique angle. The subunguis is the softer, flaky underside layer whose grain is parallel to the direction of growth. The claw grows outward from the nail matrix at the base of the unguis and the subunguis grows thicker while travelling across the nail bed. The unguis grows outward faster than the subunguis to produce a curve and the thinner sides of the claw wear away faster than their thicker middle, producing a more or less sharp point. Tetrapods use their claws in many ways, commonly to grasp or kill prey, to dig and to climb and hang.
The only amphibians to bear claws are the African clawed frogs. Claws appear to have evolved separately in the amphibian and amniote line.
Most lizards have toes ending in stout claws. The claws form from the last scale on the toe. Most reptiles have well-developed claws. In snakes, feet and claws are absent, but in many boids such as Boa constrictor, remnants of highly reduced hind-limbs emerge with a single claw as "spurs" on each side of the anal opening.
Lizard claws are used as aids in climbing, and in holding down prey in carnivorous species.
A talon is the claw of a bird of prey, its primary hunting tool. The talons are very important; without them, most birds of prey would not be able to catch their food. Some birds also use claws for defensive purposes. Cassowaries use claws on their inner toe (digit II) for defence, and have been known to disembowel people. All birds however have claws, which are used as general holdfasts and protection for the tip of the digits.
The hoatzin is unique among extant birds in having functional claws on the thumb and index finger (digit I and II) on the forelimbs as chicks, allowing them to climb trees until the adult plumage with flight feathers develop. However, several birds have a claw- or nail-like structure hidden under the feathers at the end of the hand digits, notably ducks, geese and kiwis.
A nail is homologous to a claw but is flatter and has a curved edge instead of a point. A nail that is big enough to bear weight is called a 'hoof' (see also Horse hoof. However, one side of the cloven-hoof of artiodactyl ungulates may also be called a claw).
Every so often, the growth of claws stops and restarts, as does hair. In hair, this results in the hair falling out and being replaced by a new one. In claws, this results in an abscission layer, and the old segment breaks off. This process takes several months for human thumbnails. Cats are often seen working old unguis layers off on wood or on boards made for the purpose. Ungulates' hooves wear or self-trim by ground contact. Domesticated equids (horses, donkeys and mules) usually need regular trimming by a farrier, as a consequence of reduced activity on hard ground.
Many predatory mammals have protractile claws that can partially hide inside the animal's paw, especially the Felidae, where almost all of its members have fully protractible claws.
Primate nails consist of the unguis alone, as the subunguis has disappeared. With the evolution of grasping hands and feet, claws are no longer necessary for locomotion, and instead most digits exhibit nails. However, claw-like nails are found in small-bodied callitrichids on all digits except the hallux or big toe, and in prosimians, which possess one or two laterally flattened toilet claws, used for grooming. These can be found on the second toe in lemurs and lorises, and the second and third in tarsiers. Aye-ayes have functional claws on all other digits except the hallux, including a toilet claw on the second toe.
Tendonectomy is the surgical cutting of tendons, and is generally only practiced in veterinary medicine.
Performing a tendonectomy on a cat is an alternative to onychectomy ("declawing") which severs the end of the digit. Tendonectomy may be considered less painful for the cat than onychectomy; however, it is not recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
In the tendonectomy, a small portion of the tendon in each of a cat's toes is surgically removed to prevent the cat from being able to extend the claws. Unable to extend the claws, the cat is no longer capable of scratching.
Claws will continue to grow following tendonectomy, and because the cat can no longer extend the claws to scratch, the cat will not wear down the claws as before.
Therefore, among other considerations, the cat owner should evaluate the ongoing maintenance required in the form of regular claw trimming thereafter when considering this procedure.
In terms of studies on the impact of onychectomy ("declawing") versus tendonectomy, the American Veterinary Medical Association reported, in its August 1, 1998 issue, on any major complications and drawbacks among the two operations. Their report included pain, future complications, and owner satisfaction. Cats who underwent tendonectomy displayed significantly lower pain immediately following the procedure versus those who underwent onychectomy ("declawing"). However, both procedures showed an equal frequency of other complications, such as bleeding, lameness, and infection. Cats took the same number of days to recover from both operations (as measured by normalcy in walking), and owners were equally satisfied with both options.
One complication to watch out for later on in the cats life with a tendonectomy is the nails getting brittle. Nails that are more brittle are prone to spliting and shattering when trimed by the owner which is quite painful for the cat.
Cat's paw (nail puller)
The Spanish tickler (or cat's paw) is a type of torture instrument, consisting of long, sharp iron spikes curved so as to resemble claws. It was often attached to a handle, or else used as an extension of the torturer's hand. In this way it was used to rip and tear flesh away from the bone, from any part of the body. It was rather used as a weapon.
The Spanish Tickler (or the Cat’s Paw) is a torture device so sharp and cleverly designed that bones and flesh will not get in its way. The Cat’s Paw was a 3 pronged device that shredded through human flesh. The Spanish Tickler was a 4 pronged device very similar to the Cat's Paw. This device was commonly used on thieves and unfaithful wives. Most who were tortured in this manner died not at the time, but afterwards. Especially with the Cat’s Paw, the device would cause infections as the device would cut so deep. The prongs were nearly never washed, so the chances of these infections were very high. Often the device was placed on the end of a long stick, and torn down the persons back (although it was not limited to the back) as they were hung up by the wrists.
A cat's paw is a standard carpenter's tool, consisting of a round or hexagonal bar that curves at one end to form a pointed, cup-shaped tip with a V-shaped cleft for gripping nailheads. To use the tool the user holds the tool's shank with one hand and drives the claw around a nailhead with a hammer. When the V is firmly seated around the nail's shank, the users pull the bar back to raise the head, then finishes pulling the nail with the hammer's claw. The cat's paw is well designed for demolition work, but because it tears up the wood around the nailhead, it should not be used for finish work.
Over one hundred years ago, nails were individually hand-made by blacksmiths, and were therefore far more valuable than the wood they were driven into. The book Nail Pullers with Patent Reference by Raymond P. Fredrich says that in the mid-19th century, wood was viewed as so plentiful in North America that if it became necessary to change one's location, "you might even burn your house down and pick up the nails in the ashes". Back then, nail pullers were designed to preserve the condition of the nail for reuse, and thus the design of most nail pullers ended up being what is known as the slide hammer type, which is still used today.
Old lumber has now become much more valuable than the nails that might hold it in place, so there has been a move toward designs that take out nails with less damage to the old growth wood. The cat's paw is still in use, but due to its design, which features an open "V" shape out at the end of a pry bar, the opening is widest right at the point where it is driven into the wood, and it causes a fair amount of damage to the wood fibers.