What is Polydact?
The trait for polydact comes from a dominant gene, and only a polydactyl cat can parent another polydact. Although the Maine Coon (whose ancestors are also thought to have immigrated to the U.S. aboard ships) is believed to have been the first breed to have this trait, polydact is considered a fault in that breed, and indeed in every other breed except the Pixie Bob, a relatively new breed.
So, rather than a breed, polydact is just a genetic trait, somewhat like the genetics for the tabby pattern. Instead of the normal 18 toes (five on each front foot and four on the rear) found on most cats, polydacts have six or more toes on the front feet, and sometimes an extra toe on the rear. (The cat depicted in the photo has seven toes in front, which makes it easy to understand why they are sometimes called "Mitten Cats.") However, unlike the popular tabby, whose pattern can be found in many breeds, the polydact is frowned upon by breed registries. Why? According to Barbara French, although not inherently dangerous, there is a possibility that the extra toes could be malformed, either with two toes fusing, or with ingrown toenails.
Although not approved as "purebreds," polydacts are adored by their human companions. Whether called "polydactyls," "Hemingway Cats," or "Mittens," these many-toed cats warm the hearts and hearths of those people fortunate to share a home with one.