How Many Claws Does A Cat Have?

The average cat has 5 claws on each front paw (4 claws + 1 dewclaw), and 4 claws on each back paw – 18 toes total.  The dew claw is set apart from the other toes, a bit like a thumb.  It is raised above the ground when walking, and is believed to be used for hunting.  There is also a protuberance further back on the front legs, in the wrist area, which looks a little like an unfinished sixth toe.  This is known as the “carpal pad”.  It’s not necessary for walking, but is believed to be used as an anti-skid for jumping.

A polydactyl cat has a genetic mutation causing it to have more than the normal number of toes and claws on one or more paws.  Polydactylism can give a cat as many as seven toes per paw, though having polydactyly affect all four paws is very rare.  Most polydactyl cats will have the extra digits on their front paws only.  Polydactylism is not a health issue, and doesn’t appear to adversely affect quality of life.  Polydactyl kittens seem to take a little longer to learn to walk, but have no mobility issues once they do.

Though cats born with extra claws have a mutation and are not any specific breed of cat, breeders have taken to deliberately cultivating cats with 6 or more toes – creating the American Polydactyl cat breed, similar in concept to the genetically mutated Scottish Fold cat.

Polydactyl Cat

Polydactyl Cat photo by