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RSSBreeding and Genetics

Curled, Curved and Folded ear Cats – Part 1

| November 6, 2010
The only widely recognised fold-eared cat is the Scottish Fold and its longhaired version, the Highland Fold (Coupari). These have ears which form a close-lying cap. Also known as Scottish Lop, the Scottish Fold traces back to a female white shorthair farm kitten discovered near Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland in 1961.

The only widely recognised fold-eared cat is the Scottish Fold and its longhaired version, the Highland Fold (Coupari). These have ears which form a close-lying cap. Also known as Scottish Lop, the Scottish Fold traces back to a female white shorthair farm kitten discovered near Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland in 1961.

Cats generally have prick (upright ears) which are triangular in shape. The size, set and exact shape varies from the small ears of Persian cats to the “bat-like” flared ears of some Siamese cats. Some breeds require the base to be more widely flared than others. Some breeds have ears placed close together high on the head, others have wide-set ears with a broad expanse of forehead between. The tips may be rounded, pointed, tufted or fringed depending on the breed.

There is also a rare genetic condition causing the cat to have a second, smaller, pair of ears behind the normal ears. These are apparently non-functional and may be no more than ear flaps with no middle or inner ear section. Though affected cats are generally physically healthy, some have reportedly been lethargic or sluggish which suggests that the condition might affect the brain. This rare condition must not be confused with accounts of “four-eared cats” from China – these were Persian-type cats where the fur inside the ear gave the impression of extra ear-flaps.

In addition to variations on a general theme, there are two distinct ear shapes – folded forwards and curved backwards. Both mutations (or very similar mutations) have occurred more than once.


The Sumxu (Chinese Lop) is now regarded as extinct, but was once found in the area around Peking, China. They were described as longhaired cats with glossy black or yellow coats and pendulous ears. The Sumxu was described in early 1700s as a curiosity, and again in 1796 when a droop-eared cat brought back from China. In his book “Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication” Charles Darwin referred briefly to a drooping eared race of cats in China. In “The Cat” by Lady Cust (1870) it states “Bosman relates that in the province of Pe-chily, in China, there are cats with long hair and drooping ears, which are in great favour with the Chinese ladies; others say this is not a cat but an animal called ‘Samxces'”

This engraving is from Athanasii Kircheri’s book “China Monumentis, Qua Sacris qua Profanis” (1666). The book is written in Latin and describes the Sumxu as being like a cat. The engravings would have been done from descriptions or rough sketches rather than from life. It does not look very feline and is much larger than the domestic cat! Later authorities refer to droop-eared cats.

In volume 4 of his “Histoire Naturelle” (?1767), Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, wrote “The Natural History of The Cat”. This was translated into English in 1781 by William Smellie. According to Buffon, “Our domestic cats, though they differ in colour, form no distinct races. The climates of Spain and Syria have alone produced permanent varieties: To these may be added the climate of Pe-chi-ly in China, where the cats have long hair and pendulous ears, and are the favourites of the ladies. These domestic cats with pendulous ears, of which we have full descriptions, are still farther removed from the wild and primitive race, than those whose ears are erect.”

In a supplement, Buffon added that there was some doubt as to whether the Sumxu was a cat or some other animal: “I formerly remarked, that, in China, there were cats with pendulous ears. This variety is not found any where else, and perhaps it is an animal of a different species; for travellers, when mentioning an animal called Sumxu, which is entirely domestic, say, that they can compare it to nothing but the cat, with which it has a great resemblance. Its colour is black or yellow, and its hair very bright and glittering. The Chinese put silver collars about the necks of these animals, and render them extremely familiar. As they are not common, they give a high price, both on account of their beauty, and because they destroy rats.”

Though reports refer to the Chinese Lop having pendent or pendulous ears (suggesting abnormally long or floppy ears e.g. like a labrador dog) this is probably an exaggeration. In all likelihood, and in the absence of any current examples or pictorial evidence, the ears were folded in a manner similar to the Scottish Fold. In Frances Simpson’s “The Book of the Cat” (1903), contributor H C Brooke wrote “There is said to be a variety of Chinese cat which is remarkable for its pendent ears. We have never been able to ascertain anything definite with regard to this variety. Some years back a class was provided for them at a certain Continental cat show, and we went across in the hope of seeing, and if possible acquiring, some specimens; but alas the class was empty! We have seen a stuffed specimen in a Continental museum, which was a half long-haired cat, the ears being pendent down the sides of the head instead of erect; but do not attach much value to this.”

In 1926, Brooke wrote that “for donkey’s years” Continental cat shows had offered prizes for the Drop-eared Chinese Cat. On each occasion, the cat failed to materialise and Brooke considered it to be mythical. Other writers suggested it was the result of haematomas causing the ears to fold or crumple. Brooke noted that although no-one ever saw the cat itself, one always met “someone who knows someone whose friends has often seen them”. He had been assured by a Chinese gentleman he had met only once that “he knew them well”. HC Brooke, and other fanciers, made enquiries of the Chinese Embassy, of Hagenbeck’s (a major Hamburg animal dealer at the time) and of a “certain well known author, who has lived for years in China and knows that country well”, but to no avail. The American Express Company had instructed their representatives at Shanghai and Peking to make enquiries, again without success. None of the wild animal dealers knew of the Chinese Lop.

The German naturalist, Brehm, had given a very detailed description of the cat in the 1700s. Brehm was usually very accurate. In 1882, Brooke had seen a stuffed specimen in a Continental museum. The specimen was “half-coated with yellowish fur”. He admitted that it might have been a fake or a cat with its ears deformed by canker (i.e. cauliflower ears) that had been presented in all good faith. All avenues of enquiry exhausted, Brooke declared the Chinese Drop-eared cat extinct. The last reported sighting of the Chinese Lop seems to have been in 1938 when a droop-eared cat was imported from China. On that last occasion the mutation was thought to be restricted to white longhaired cats. It is hard say for certain whether these were isolated cases or whether the Chinese Lop was a genuine variety. It cannot even be said with certainty that the trait was an inherited one.

Cats with folded ears have been reported in the Hebrides, Germany and Belgium, but were apparently regarded as no more than isolated curiosities and not bred.

The only widely recognised fold-eared cat is the Scottish Fold and its longhaired version, the Highland Fold (Coupari). These have ears which form a close-lying cap. Also known as Scottish Lop, the Scottish Fold traces back to a female white shorthair farm kitten discovered near Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland in 1961. This cat, Susie, produced some fold-eared kittens. One of these, Snooks, became the founding mother of the breed after Susie’s unfortunate death in 1963. By 1967, numerous “Lop-eared Cats” had been born however the UK cat registries declared the trait to be a deformity and refused to accept the “Scottish Fold” for breed status because of potential ear problems (an inconsistency considering they recognised the tailless Manx). Interest in Scottish Folds in the USA led to breeding being continued there and it was recognised as a breed in 1973. The cat does not suffer undue ear problems and one British registry accepted it in 1983.

The Coupari is the name given to Longhair Folds in the UK, although these are known elsewhere as Highland Folds. The argument is that Coupar Angus is not in the Highlands, however Highland Fold is no more inaccurate than other breed names e.g. Balinese, Tonkinese. Longhaired cats were present in the original Scottish Fold, but the shorthaired variety was preferred because the ear shape was more visible. It was developed in the 1980s and recognised in 1986. It is known by various names: Coupari (in UK), Highland Fold, Longhair Fold and Scottish Fold Longhair.

Kittens are born prick-eared and start to develop the folding at around 4 weeks old. The fold is fully developed at around 3 months of age. The gene causing the folded ear trait is a dominant gene which causes skeletal problems if the cat inherits two copies of the gene. Scottish Folds are therefore always bred to prick-eared to keep the incidence of problems to a minimum. The problems are a thickened tail caused by tail vertebrae fusing and thickened legs with swollen feet due to overgrowth of cartilage around the paws. These side-effects cause problems with walking.

The Poodle Cat (Pudelkatze) is essentially a breed developed from the Scottish Fold and Devon Rex to create a curly coated fold-eared cat – a curly-coated Scottish Fold or fold-eared Devon Rex. It was developed initially in Germany where its future is threatened by rulings prohibiting the breeding of cats with harmful defects. This ruling affects Scottish Fold cats because of the skeletal abnormalities which can occur. The breed is attractive and if breeders are careful to breed only from healthy cats, there is no reason it should not be accepted. Astonishingly, there appears to be the intention of adding Manx into the mix so that the cats are tailless as well. This would create a more dangerous mix of semi-lethal genes since the Manx condition can cause other skeletal abnormalities.

Back in 1981, Phyllis Lauder wrote in “The British, European and American Shorthair Cat” wrote of news from Australia of “interference not beneficial to the domestic shorthairs”. A correspondent, Mrs Batten, had been asked for her views on the idea of crossing Manx with Scottish Folds. Scottish Folds had not yet been recognised. Lauder wrote that the idea was born of “love of change for its own sake and by the desire to meddle” since a Manx/Fold cross would not only produce a freakish-looking cat, it would be a tragedy for the cats – the two breeds had enough to contend with in refuting charges of deformity.

The unrecognised Oriental Fold is a Siamese/Oriental type cat with folded ears (I believe it came from attempts to breed colourpoint Scottish Folds). The Hemingway Fold is an unrecognised variety of fold-eared cat with extra toes. The term “Hemingway” is often used in America to describe polydactyl cats (mitten cats). It results either from a spontaneous folded ear mutation in a polydactyl cat or from accidental or deliberate crossed of Scottish Folds and polydactyls, possibly for curiosity or as attractive pets.
A fold-eared cat aiming for recognition is the Foldex or Exotic Fold. The Foldex is a cat of Exotic (shorthaired Persian) body type developed through crossing Scottish Folds with Exotics. It has a shorter nose than the Scottish Fold but not as short as the Exotic Shorthair. In other respects it is a fold-eared version of the Exotic Shorthair. Facially, the Foldex looks like “a little furry owl”. Like the Scottish Fold, it is prone to the same bone deformities and produces some non-folded offspring.

In 1986 there was a report of a “Hebridean Cat”. The owner said that the tiny ears were a feature of Hebridean and in addition the ears were folded like those of a Scottish Fold. No more was heard of the Hebridean breed.

In the mid-1990s, a fold-eared black cat turned up in a feral cat colony in Essex, England. It was not possible to determine whether the trait was inherited or was a birth defect. It is extremely unlikely to be due to a free-ranging Scottish Fold as these are uncommon in Britain – there would certainly be no free-ranging unneutered Scottish Fold males around.

Copyright & Credit:
Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy: Sarah Hartwell
Fallsvetclinic – Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic

Curled, Curved and Folded ear Cats – Part 2

| November 6, 2010

The only widely recognised fold-eared cat is the Scottish Fold and its longhaired version, the Highland Fold (Coupari). These have ears which form a close-lying cap. Also known as Scottish Lop, the Scottish Fold traces back to a female white shorthair farm kitten discovered near Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland in 1961.

The only widely recognised fold-eared cat is the Scottish Fold and its longhaired version, the Highland Fold (Coupari). These have ears which form a close-lying cap. Also known as Scottish Lop, the Scottish Fold traces back to a female white shorthair farm kitten discovered near Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland in 1961.


The first recognised curl-eared breed was the American Curl. The ears are curled or swept back on themselves and feel rigid to the touch. The originate from a stray kitten, Shulamith, in 1981. Shulamith was a black longhair female with strangely curled ears. She went on to produce kittens, some of which also had curled ears. These attracted attention when shown at a cat show in 1983 and in 1985/6 the American Curl breed was recognised.

The mutation is a dominant gene so litters will often contain a mix of curl-eared and prick-eared cats. It is impossible to tell which kittens will develop a good curl – they are all born prick eared. The ears curl up tightly over the next few days. During the next four months, the tight curl starts to relax until the final semi-curled state is reached. As far as is known, the gene does not cause detrimental side-effects.

The Hemingway Curl is a localised variety rather than a breed. The first Hemingway Curl appeared as a spontaneous curl-eared mutation in a colony of polydactyl cats known as Hemingway cats (after the polydactyl cats of Ernest Hemingway) on Key West. Hemingway Curls have since been crossed with African Jungle cat hybrids to produce the Jungle Curl breed. It occurs in shorthair and longhair versions and may attract sufficient interest for a breed to be established.

Having established the curl-eared trait, it became possible to cross American Curls with other breeds to create new varieties e.g. the Kinkalow which is a mix of American Curl and Munchkin to produce a short-legged curl-eared cat.

The Ruffle was, according to one source, an accidental side-effect resulting from attempts to improve the ear size of American Curls by introducing the Cornish Rex into a breeding line. Whether the Cornish Rex is an allowable outcross for the American Curl is another matter entirely. According to another source, the original mating was a deliberate attempt to produce a new breed. Progeny from this breeding line was apparently acquired by a breeder unaware of the Curl-to-Rex matings which had the side-effect of introducing the recessive gene for curled fur. The gene remained hidden until two carriers were mated and produced curly coated American Curls some generations later. The rippled effect of the fur reminded the breeder of a brand of potato snack hence the name Ruffle. Unfortunately the breeder’s circumstances changed and further development of the Ruffle breed could not be funded. Interestingly, the Rex coatd in American Curls was mentioned as early as 1991 by feline geneticist.

An experimental breed called the Jaguarundi Curl (shorthaired and longhaired) was reported in 2001, but its existence is unconfirmed. The Jaguarundi is a South American felid which is very un-cat-like in shape. It is suspected that the reporter had confused it with the Jungle Curl. The Jungle Curl does exist and is a hybrid of Jungle Cat (F chaus) and American Curl or Hemingway Curl with Serengetis, Jungle cat hybrids, pure Jungle Cats, Bengals, Egyptian Maus, Abyssinians and other domestic shorthairs contributing their genes to the mix. It is still in the developmental stage to produce wild looking cats, preferably with a spotted or rosetted pattern, with curled ears. Several breeders in Illinois are working with a curl-eared polydactyl cat called Tulips. Tulips were originally developed in the 1990s by crossing American Curls with polydactyls, creating a harlequin patterned semi-longhaired breed. The markings, which can be any colour, are restricted to the head, down the spine, shoulders, hips and tail.

The Australian Curl was a breed that never was, rather it was a single female cat, Matilda, which was discovered in 1996 and who failed to pass on the trait. The curl of the ears apparently differed from that of the American Curl though no precise details were provided. She was mated to a normal eared cat of similar type, but none of the kittens were curl-eared. She suffered severe illness after the birth (1997) and could not be bred from again. No back-crossing could be attempted to determine whether the gene was carried as a recessive. Although none of the offspring had curled ears, they were not bred to each other (or it was not possible to do so) to determine whether they carried the trait was carried in recessive form. It is possible that a breed opportunity has been missed due to Matilda’s unfortunate illness.


Described in a light-hearted book depicting cats which had been “painted” with vegetable dye (in fact all painted cats were photo-manipulations), the Irish Shortear is a mutant-eared cat that never was. This footnote has been included because people have asked where to find an Irish Shortear!

The book in question was the spoof “Why Paint Cats” and the fake breed among genuine breeds was the Irish Shortear. It was described as Burmilla x Scottish Fold with large protuberant eyes, short ears and very relaxed nature due its excellent vision. The photo was that of a Brown Burmilla which was been edited to give the cat larger eyes, narrower chin and short ears (the original ear tip had been photographically enlarged and grafted back onto the face). The face was then grafted back onto the image of the cat’s body. One giveaway was that the facial area had a “floating effect”, which is common in photo-composites. A Scottish Fold would have given folded not shortened ears. In addition, the partial-dominant “macro-retinal” gene mentioned in the text is fictional (and it should have been a macropthalmia gene since the retina is the back of the inside of the eye).

A cat is a warm, purring bundle of fun, always ready for a play with the kids or a peaceful moment curled in Mum or Dad’s lap. For time immemorial, cats have served, entertained and conjured thoughts of the simpler pleasures of home and health for their human companions.

A cat truly makes a house a home, so imagine the joy two cats can bring!

Two cats together can be like a 24 hour floorshow, which has you laughing in the aisles. Whether you’re the spectator to the frolicking good game of tail chasey or the ever-popular feline pastime of “let’s see if we can both fit in the space behind the fridge”, you’re sure never to experience a dull or lonely moment with two cats in your life.

But have you ever considered the benefits a second feline friend can be for your new or existing best friend?

So many of us lead such busy on-the-go lifestyles, that often our most loyal companions are left without the benefit of our company. But just because it may not be in your cat’s nature to loudly protest, doesn’t mean your feline friend doesn’t pine for your company or become bored or lonely.

Cat families usually play better in even numbers, so to create that balance of purrfect harmony in your home, think in pairs!

Introducing a second cat to keep an existing cat company, or adoptiong two cats together, can be the ideal solution.

If you’re currently ‘catless’, then for you, choosing your new cat family can be as simple as adopting two kittens from the same litter. The time between 2 and 12 weeks of age is critical in cat socialisation, so kittens over the age of 8 weeks from the same litter are already likely to share a strong bond.

However, don’t be discouraged if you already have a cat and want to adopt a second, or want two kittens from different litters. Kittens of any age are ideal to be introduced to all manner of new family members, including people, other cats and even the family dog!

But what about introducing an adult cat, or even a new cat to a ‘fixture cat’, that has always ruled the roost solo? Rest assured, even the most independent cat can make friends with a new arrival, but it is important you introduce the two cats slowly and give them time to get used to each other.

The following should prove helpful:
A supervised first meeting is essential. Allow both to meet each other at their own pace, they will soon get to know each other or avoid each other until they feel more comfortable and are ready to become friends.

Keep the two cat’s food, water, litter and sleeping areas seperate until they are comfortable with each other. Don’t expect them to eat out of the same bowl or share the same litter tray at first, as these are the chief areas of feline territoriality.

Introducing your cats might require a little patience, but it will definately be worth the wait! In no time at all you’ll be coming home to two friends frolicking madly around the house like that endless floorshow.

Owners of elderly cats might be particularly surprised to see the mature and dignified puss they thought would never leave its favourite cushion enjoying a second kittenhood and whole new lease on life with a second cat around.

So, consider a friend to give your best friend’s life a lift and discover why, for both you and your beloved feline, two cats are most definately better than one!

Copyright & Credit:
Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy:
Sarah Hartwell
Fallsvetclinic – Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary

Descriptions of the Donskoy & Peterbald Coat Types

| December 26, 2011
Brown tortie tabby brush coat Peterbald

Abrodiel 2 hot for u. Peterbald, Brown tortie tabby brush coat. Breeder: christina Schroede, Owner: Roeleen bloemohf

Hair types:

Born Bald {BB} – Born bald, total hairlessness, rubber feel -Show coat

Flocks {BF}- Feels soft to the touch, full hairlessness by 2 yrs of age- Show coat

Velour {BV}- Velour = crush velvet hair coat, residue remaining on face, legs and tail called points. Some may go full hairlessness by 2 yrs of age. – Show coat

Brush {bb}- “Brush” variety retains hair on the whole body, which is wavy, often harsh, except for several bald spots on head, upper side of neck or back. Admissible as a stud animal and for judging at cat shows, but can’t compete for the Championship Certificates.

A Born Bald is a cat that was born hairless and stayed forever hairless. In general, there are two types of Born Bald Peterbald, the Ultra-Bald and some of the Shami (see definitions below).

The Ultra Bald by definition is a Born Bald-it’s a cat that never has any hair throughout his lifetime. Shami cats can sometimes be Born-Balds as well. If a kitten is born Shami and stays Shami throughout all seasons and throughout his life, he is considered a Born Bald. If he grows hair at any point during his lifetime, even if he later looses the hair, then he is not considered a Born Bald.

The distinction is important only for breeding purposes since at this time it is not a good practice to mate Born Balds to each other. For Show, Pet or any other purposes, it is irrelevant whether the Peterbald gained or lost hair during the first few years of his life.

Ultra Bald

An Ultra Bald is a completely hairless cat. They are also known as Rubber Cat or Sticky Bald. An Ultra Bald is a special type of Born Bald kitten that does not ever grow any hair during any season or during any period of his life. They are born bald and they stay forever bald. Ultra Bald kittens are born with their eyes open. They are born without whiskers and eyebrows. Their skin is thick, warm and sticky to the touch with more than average wrinkling on the head and body. You can’t really run your hand down the back of an Ultra Bald when you pet them because the stickiness of the skin will stop your hand. You have to just pat them on the head or the back.

Often the Ultra Bald are much smaller at birth than the other kittens and can have a less well-developed immune system. Often the Ultra Bald are less active and less playful with a more introverted personality when compared to the other kittens. The Ultra Bald is extremely useful in a breeding program because he is capable of producing only brush coated or bald kittens.


A Shami coat is fur so short that you can not see or feel it. The skin is very thin, soft and warm but not sticky to the touch. You can run your hand down the back of a shami from his head to his tail when you pet him without getting “stuck”.

(Pictured above are 3 different cats)

The Shami coated cats have broken curled or bent whiskers as well as eyebrows. If a kitten is born Shami and never grows any hair during any season or point in his life, then he is considered a Born-Bald. A kitten that is born Shami may later grow hair to become a brush coat.

Or a kitten that is born Shami may later grow hair and then loose it, becoming Shami again.

(Pictured above is one cat from birth to 2 years)

A kitten that is born brush or suede may later loze the hair and become a Shami.

(Pictured above is one cat from kitten age to 2 years)

It can often take a Peterbald up to two years to reach his final coat. Many kittens with heavy thick brush coats can become Shami after a couple of years. Other kittens with short suede coats may never become Shami. There is no way to predict with absolute certainty if a kitten born with hair will become a Shami over the next couple of years. The coat type of the kitten is stated in terms of the amount of hair he currently has. If he was born Shami but has grown a Brush coat now, he is not a Shami. If he was born a Brush Coat but has lost it down to a Shami now, then he’s considered a Shami.


A Suede coat is composed of extremely short, fine hairs. When you look at a suede coat from a distance, you don’t see the hair but if you pet the kitten, it will feel like you are petting fur. When you closely examine the skin of a Suede coated cat, you can see fine downy or short hairs. The Suede coated cats have broken curled or bent whiskers as well as eyebrows. If a kitten is born with a suede coat, he may loose it later to become a shami or he may grow a brush coat. The suede coat is considered a bald cat for Show/Pet purposes even though there are short hairs. For purposes of mating, a suede coat is not considered a Born Bald. There would be no reservations about mating a suede coat with a Born Bald.


A Velvet coat is a very short, thick, soft coat of fur. You can both see and feel the Velvet coat. It is not considered a bald cat for Show or Mating purposes. A thinner version of the Velvet coat is sometimes called the Velour coat by some Breeders..


Often a cat that is born Brush or Velvet coated can loose all of his hair except for velvet points (velvet on the face, ears, feet and tail). Sometimes cats are born with no hair except for velvet points. These cats are considered Bald with Fur Points for Show purposes.


A Brush coat can range from short to medium length. Often it is comprised of coarse, kinky hairs comparable to a “Brillo” in texture.

Sometimes the hairs are a rough texture made of looser waves. The coat can be so thin you can see the skin thru it or it can be very thick.

Sometimes a Brush coat may appear to be mostly straight but will stick out all over due to the rough texture and frizziness. Some Brush coats are almost similar to a Straight coat except for the rough coarse texture in the last third of the hairs.

Over time, a Brush coat can grow longer, become thinner or become thicker, or it can be lost entirely. Usually if a cat is going to loose a Brush coat, it will gradually occur by the time he is two years old. Some Breeders, for simplicity, will refer to any coat type other than Straight or Bald as a Brush.


A Straight coat is a regular textured and length coat similar to what an Oriental Shorthair would have. The straight-coated cat will have long straight whiskers and eyebrows. This is a non-standard coat type and these cats cannot be shown at Cat Shows. At this time while the breed is still in such a developmental stage, it is often necessary to keep a Straight coat in a breeding program so that specific desirable traits can be incorporated into the existing lines. Straight coats will never loose hair.

Sometimes a brush coated Peterbald may be referred to as “hair-loosing”. If a particular cat or kitten is called “hair-loosing”, it means that at this specific current time, if you pull lightly on a clump of hair, it will easily fall out into your fingers. The kitten or cat is loosing its coat at this exact current time and appears to be going hairless. A cat or kitten is not “hair-loosing” just because it has a thin or short brush coat or because someone thinks that it might loose its hair. A cat or kitten is not “hair-loosing” just because it was born with a bald spot on top of its head or because it has lost hair in the past. The hair has to be actually falling out at this immediate exact specific current point in time for the cat to be classified as “hair-loosing”.

European Terms
Flocked is a European type term that some Breeders use to designate the soft short coats of the Shami and Suede. Undressed refers to a cat that has lost a brush coat. Undressing refers to a cat that is “hair-loosing”. Naked means that the cat is bald or hairless. Hopefully these terms are just poor electronic translations from Russia to English and not an attempt to give the Peterbald a pornographic association thru inappropriate words and phrases.

Copyright & Credit:
Sherri Mossop at Possoms cattery:  Home of the: Donskoy, Peterbald & Savannah “Possoms Cattery & rescue”
Linda Usher at Cowboy Claws Cattery:

Photo copyright and courtesy:  Roeleen Bloemhof ,  Mistbesque Cattery

Eye Colours

| October 27, 2010
Some eye colours are linked to coat colour, for example colourpoint (Siamese pattern) cats have blue eyes. In most breeds, various eye colours were possible so breeders set chose the eye colour that harmonised with the coat colour and wrote that into the breed standard. While breeders might prefer certain pedigree black cats to have vivid orange eyes, in the general cat population black cats can also have green or yellow eyes.

Some eye colours are linked to coat colour, for example colourpoint (Siamese pattern) cats have blue eyes. In most breeds, various eye colours were possible so breeders set chose the eye colour that harmonised with the coat colour and wrote that into the breed standard.

Wild cats in temperate regions generally have hazel eyes, but domestic cats’ eye colours vary from blue, through green to yellow, orange and brown. Within each of those colours there is wide variation in hue and intensity. The colours are not discrete, but form a continuum, for example between blue and green there are “sea-green” and aqua while between green and yellow there are lemon and lime shades. The coloured part of the eye is called the iris, a word that means “rainbow”.

Some eye colours are linked to coat colour, for example colourpoint (Siamese pattern) cats have blue eyes. In most breeds, various eye colours were possible so breeders set chose the eye colour that harmonised with the coat colour and wrote that into the breed standard. While breeders might prefer certain pedigree black cats to have vivid orange eyes, in the general cat population black cats can also have green or yellow eyes.

In most breeds, various eye colours were possible so breeders set chose the eye colour that harmonised with the coat colour and wrote that into the breed standard

There are two major factors that influence feline eye colour: iris pigmentation and blue refraction.


There are two major factors that influence feline eye colour: iris pigmentation and blue refraction.

The iris has 2 layers containing pigment-producing cells (melanocytes). The outer layer is the stroma, consisiting of consists of loosely arranged cells. Underneath the stroma is the epithelium which contains tightly packed cells. Both the stroma and epithelium produce pigment, but in different amounts. The pigmentation of the iris is caused by melanin and the colour ranges from lemon yellow to hazel to deep orange or brown. In addition to this, the “transparent” structures of cats’ eyes absorb and refract light much like a sheet of glass. Viewed head on, glass appears colourless but viewed edge-on it is greenish or bluish. The size, spacing and density of the fibres in the stroma determines how it reflects and refracts the light, determining the shade of blue. Just like glass, the transparent structures in cats’ eyes are transparent blue, ranging from practically colourless to deeper blues and violet-hued blues. The combination of the blue refraction and iris pigment produces the overall eye colour. Looking into a cat’s eye is like looking through a blue-tinted window; the blue tint affects how we see the other pigments present in the iris.

The iris pigmentation and the transparent structure pigmentation are both controlled by multiple genes in different places on the chromosomes (polygenes). Littermates can inherit different mixes of these genes from the same parents and have different eye colours. Different mixes of polygenes causes the continuum of shades.

The type of colour and the intensity depends on the number of melanocytes in the eye and how active they are. If there are no melanocytes, the eye appears blue (or in rare cases, pink which is due to the colour of the blood vessels). A low number of melanocytes gives green. A high number of melanocytes gives orange. A second factor is how much pigment those melonocytes produce (activity). Those that produce less pigment give a lighter shade, while those that are more active and produce a lot of pigment give the deeper shades. There is no single inactive/active switch, so there are varying shades inbetween. Eyes with a low numbers of melanocytes (green) can range from pale green (less active melanocytes) to strong green (industrious melanocytes). Similarly, the yellows range from light amber to deep copper. The activity levels of melanocytes is genetically determined so it is possible to selectively breed for either deeper or paler eye colours. The way that light passes through the various blue-tinted structures gives us the final visible colour.

Kittens are born with blue eyes. The adult eye colour develops around 6-7 weeks old, but may not reach its adult hue until 3-4 months old. During a cats’ lifetime, illness and injury can cause variations in eye colour, but there is no truth in the old wives’ tale that feeding a cat on fish will cause its eyes to change colour! That tale is due to old wives weaning kittens (probably onto boiled fish in the days before commercial cat foods) around the time the eye colour naturally changed.

There is also some pigmentation on the inside of the eye and a highly reflective area behind the retina called the Tapetum Lucidum. This is an iridescent layer of tissue that reflects light back through the eye. and helps cats see in low light – it also causes eye shine in flash photos. Most blue-eyed white cats lack the Tapetum Lucidum; their eyes reflect a dull red colour (caused by the blood vessels) rather than an iridescent eye-shine.


Kittens are born with blue eyes and this is not a guide to their adult eye colour! In a few breeds, the blue colour is permanent, but in most it will be replaced by another colour starting around 6 weeks old. The blue colour depends on the intensity of blue refraction.

Blue eyes are a feature of colourpointed cats where the colour is linked to the temperature-dependent albinism that produces the colourpoint pattern. The blue colour varies in hue and intensity and breeders must selectively breed cats with the best eye colour to try to pass on that colour to the kittens.

Blue eyes also occur in white cats and are associated with the epistatic white (often called dominant white) gene which is quite different from albinism because it masks an underlying coat colour. The white spotting gene also affects eye pigment if there are white patches around the eyes. White cats can have one or both eyes blue. The non-blue eye will be whatever colour the breed standard requires for example in white Persians, the other eye is vivid orange. In the randombred odd-eye white cats, the non-white eye might be green or yellow or even a different shade of blue. For more on blue-eyed white cats White Cats, Eye Colours and Deafness.

The Ojos Azules is characterised by cornflower blue eyes, but the mutation is linked to lethal deformities if a kitten inherits 2 copies of the mutated gene. In this breed, the eye colour is independent of the coat colour. Other blue eye mutations that are independent of coat colour crop up from time to time. To date, most have been a pale blue rather than an intense blue and none of these other mutations have been deliberately bred.

A grey bicolour (tuxedo pattern) cat with intense sapphire blue eyes was found on a country road in Windellama, New South Wales, Australia by A M Schnieder. Since the Ojos Azules has not been imported into Australia, this represents a spontaneous mutation among the feral population. Whether it is the same as the American Ojos Azules mutation is not known.


Green ranges from a yellowish-green through gooseberry-green to deeper greens and blue-toned greens. Some of the older standards spoke of grass-green eyes, indicating the green be as rich as possible. Green tints and flecks also appear in some hazel brown eyes.

The Chinchilla Longhair (Chinchilla Persian) and its shorthaired equivalents are notable for their black-rimmed sea-green eyes. Aqua (blue-green) is found in the Tonkinese which is intermediate in type and colour/pattern between Siamese and Burmese cats. The Siamese has blue eyes while the Burmese has orange eyes.

Yellow varies from a pale lemon to more vivid hues. There is overlap between the yellows and browns (pale hazel or tan) and also between yellows and greens.

While the boundary between yellow and green may be fuzzy, there is no mistaking an orange-eyed cat. The colour is often described as coppery. Many of the breeds developed by early cat fanciers in the UK called for orange eyes as the pale greens and yellows were considered undistinguished, while bright orange complemented the coat colour.

Brown covers a wide range from hazel (the normal colour of temperate climate white cats) through to darker browns. Some browns appear tinted or flecked with green, orange or yellow.


In the cat fancy, odd-eyes means having one blue and one other-colour eye. Odd eyes are most common in epistatic white cats where one eye is blue and the other is orange, yellow, brown or green. Pedigree odd-eyed white cats have one blue and one orange/amber eye, but in randombreds the non-blue eye may be yellow, green or brown. Some white cats have two blue eyes, but one reflects green and the other reflects red in flash photography due to different eye structures. Bicolour cats with a high degree of white on the face may also have odd eyes.

Less commonly, other colour cats may have odd eyes for example a tortie with one yellow and one blue eye. This can be due to the eyes developing differently in the embryo. Perhaps the cat has a white spotting gene that hasn’t showed up on the fur, but has affected the eye. Below is another odd-eye tortie: a 10 year old tortie/tabby called Debby photographed by Marjan Boonen in The Netherlands. Since tortie cats’ patched colouration is due to mosaicism, it’s possible this has extended to the eyes resulting in two different colours

Occasionally the different colour eyes are due to an eye injury or illness that has damaged the iris or one eye. In this case the trait cannot be passed on.


Dichroic/dichromatic eyes have two colours in one iris. For example there may be a yellow ring around a green iris. This is considered a fault in show cats, but can be very attractive.

Less commonly, there may be a distinct differently coloured section (like a slice of a pie) in the iris, for example a brown area in a blue or green eye. This has been reported in some white cats. Instead of affecting the pigmentation of the whole iris, the white gene affects only part of the iris. One or both eyes can be affected; if both are affected there may be a mirror image effect. These are sometimes called “weird-eyed” cats because they are not odd-eyed in the normal sense.


Pink is not a normal eye colour in cats. It is found in pink-eyed albinos and is due to complete lack of pigment in the eye combined with very little blue refraction. True albinos entirely lack melanin and the iris is pale pinkish-white. Because of blue refraction, the eyes usually have a bluish hue, result in a blue-eyed albino. Very rarely the transparent structures are colourless and a pink-eyed albino results.

It was once believed impossible for a cat to have pink eyes due to the structure of the eye and true albinos had pale blue eyes, but there have now been several pink-eyed albinos reported in recent years. Albinism has been recorded in the Bengal breed and in its wild parent, the Asian Leopard Cat (shown here).

Pink-eyed dilution has been reported once in the cat (Todd NB. 1961. “A pink-eyed dilution in the cat” Journal of Heredity 52, pg 202). The type of dilution found in cats is blue dilution which turns black into grey. A second type of dilution seen in some mammals is “pink-eyed dilution” which gives a bluish-tan/fawn coat and also depigments the eye, giving a pink or ruby appearance. This has been reliably reported only once in cats when a pink-eyed female with a light tan coat was produced (none of her kittens survived so pink-eyed dilution in cats seems to have been lost).

Pale irises and underpigmented retinas also occur as part of Chediak-Higashi syndrome along with a pale coloured coat (seen in Blue Smoke Persians) .

Copyright & Credit:
Copyright 2009, Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy:

Kevin Lafferty – stock.xchng
Luckylynd  – stock.xchng

Mokra – stock.xchng
LesKZN – stock.xchng

Cristian Popescu – stock.xchng

Clix – stock.xchng
Nellf –

RubyT –


From A Humble Barn Cat To CFA’s Newest Championship Breed

| December 26, 2011
LaPerm Newest Championship Breed

They have not been shown in TICA as yet, but Ona earned three finals at her first CFA shows and is the #1 LP Kitten in CFA so far this year

Spring 1982: In the barn of a cherry orchard, in an isolated gorge along the Columbia River at the end of the Oregon Trail, a new breed was born. A common brown tabby barn cat named Speedy gave birth to a litter of 6 kittens. Linda Koehl, the orchard owner said the only female was the oddest kitten she had ever seen, a tabby marked, hairless baby with large, wide-spaced ears. Linda had doubts about this kitten’s survival.

The little one did survive and by the time the litter was up and about, learning to become barn cats, the odd looking female had started to grow a coat, a curly coat! Linda could not keep from picking the kitten up and petting her and aptly named her Curly.

Curly and her descendants bred freely for the next 10 years producing more and more curly-coated kittens, even to the chagrin of her neighbors, who presented Linda with a litter of curly coated Siamese and another neighbor with litter of curly Manx. Since no matter what type of cat was crossed with Linda’s curly cats produced more curly cats, it became obvious that this was a dominant mutation, unlike that one found in Cornish and Devon Rex. Another remarkable fact is that all of the curly coated barn cats were very similar in type.

The very first standard written for the LaPerm breed was based on these first cats and has changed very little in the past sixteen years.

Some people still have doubts if this is a different mutation from that found in the Selkirk Rex, who’s founding cat was found a few years later, in 1987, a few states away. Solveig Pflueger, head of Genetics at TICA states that the LaPerm gene is unique. It differs from the Devon & Cornish Rex in that it is dominant, and from the Selkirk Rex and the American Wirehair by being a complete dominant gene. Homozygous Selkirk Rexes look different from their heterozygous counterparts. It also differs from the American Wirehair in that has complete penetrance, i.e. 50% of kittens from a heterozygous LaPerm crossed with a domestic will be curly.

Unlike the Selkirk Rex, which used already established purebreds, Persian, British Shorthair, American Shorthair, and Exotic Shorthair and acquired championship status rather quickly; the LaPerm breeders have continued to stay with the roots of the breed and use only domestic cats of unknown origins.

The LaPerm in TICA

The LaPerm was first granted New Breed status by TICA in 1995, and with the support of several breeders attained championship in 2003.

In 1995 there was a total of 79 LH and 1 SH LaPerm registered. The 1996/1997 saw 21 LaPerm make it into the rings (19 LH, 2 SH). Of the catteries represented that first year as a New Breed only two have remained active to this day; one is the obvious, Kloshe, the breed founder Linda Koehl, the other RedDazzle, Doreen McCann.

*See registration stats below
*See show stats below

No breed is without growing pains and in May 2003, those breeders who had been showing cats in TICA found that because of an oversight of the Breed Committee, the very same cats shown to obtain championship could no longer be shown. The LaPerm was not designated to have a limited gene pool, so the LaPerms with their only allowed out-cross, the domestic cat of unknown origins, could no longer be shown. Those breeders who are still dedicated to keeping the establishment of the LaPerm based upon it roots are still working to rectify this oversight.

As of December 2007, there have only been approximately 500 LaPerm registered in CFA and TICA since both registries started tracking this breed, realizing that the same cats are registered in both registries, this is still a very limited gene pool. Using domestic cats of unknown origins allows us the widest gene pool available; these numbers are still too low to disallow the showing and breeding of LaPerms with domestics in their pedigrees.

*See registration stats below

LaPerm Title Holder

DGC Dennigan French Maid of Shoalwater *First champion
SGCA Jemcats Jest Dawg (A) *First Supreme Alter
Ch Dennigan’s BC Freckles of Sekani
QGC Kloshe BB Blkbaron of Shoalwater
Ch Elecats BC Iron Cloud
QGCA Reddazzle BC Sweet Tyler (A) * Youngest Champion
Ch Smeraldas BC Uneda
Ch Vankkadia BC Taos Maous
Ch Arohanui BC Marcus Mocha Dandi (LS) * First Shorthair Champion
Ch Arohanui BC Tamaya
Ch Kloshe BC Dancing Waters
Ch Arohanui BC Yankee Doodle
SGC Arohanui BC Tiponi *First Supreme whole Cat
Ch Arohanui BC Smoke on the Water
Ch RedDazzle BC Doubleshot Dorico

Once the LaPerm had its foot in the door with TICA in 2000 recognition Miscellaneous class was granted by CFA. Another split in the breeders arose, when CFA allowed AOV (any other variety) Ocicat for a two-year period, but this out-cross was suspended after this trial period.

LaPerms Around the World

In the mean time the LaPerm started to migrate to other counties, first to Germany, then Japan, followed by New Zealand, South Africa, The Netherlands, England, Russia, France, Sweden and Australia. Some of these people who imported LaPerms, knowing what the out-cross policy was in both TICA and CFA have gone off in a completely new tangent, allowing a variety of purebreds as allowed out-crosses, Somali, Abyssinian, Ocicat, Asian Shorthair, Tiffanie, European Burmese, Tonkinese, Oriental SH, Oriental LH (Angora), Siamese, Balinese, plus variants of these breeds. There are independent breeders, who have also used Maine Coons, Turkish Vans, Turkish Angora, Munchkins, Persians, Russian Blue, Javanese, Chinchilla, and Burmilla.

There have been new exports of American bred TICA registered LaPerms to Australia and the breeders there have joined TICA and are registering their LaPerms and promoting TICA down-under as well as the district cat registries.

TICA allows the registration of all non-allowed out-crosses and CFA offers Cats Ancestral Tracking Service (CATS) for those people in other countries who do not want to follow CFA breeding guidelines. The breeders who do not want to follow TICA and CFA guidelines should utilize these services, instead of asking CFA and TICA to allow other purebred out-crosses. Proposals have already been sent to both Boards asking for purebred out-crosses which have been turned down. A proposal was asked at this year CFA Board of Directors for the importation of LaPerms without a pedigree, simply a registration certificate stating the cat’s parents were registered as LaPerms in the country of birth. This was soundly defeated in an 18 to 1 vote.

In 2005 CFA moved the LaPerm to the Provisional Class. Breeders extended their efforts and LaPerms were shown in every region. Some breeders bringing as many as 6 cats to each show, paying for breed information booths out of their own funds. Their efforts finally paid off with championship status being granted on February 4, 2008!

In the summer of 2007 a group of LaPerm breeders and admirers from around the world pooled resources and formed the LaPerm Fanciers’ International The LFI’s club motto is “Putting the LaPerm First” and is dedicated to preserving the LaPerm breed as a natural American breed as Linda Koehl presented it from the very beginning. Keeping in step with the other American native breeds, the Maine Coon, the American Curl, American Bobtails, American Shorthair & Wirehairs.

Since this past summer we have rescued and placed 4 LaPerms from different states. We have sponsored TICA rings, purchased Breed Booths at TICA shows. We have shown 10 different cats in three different regions. The LFI is still accepting founding members until October 2009.

A Bit About LaPerms

The LaPerm is a delightful medium-sized cat without any extremes. Both coat lengths are allowed, but the longhairs should never have a heavy coat like a Persian or even a Ragdoll. The distinguishing mark from longhair to short is the length of the tail hair. Often the shorthairs will have “a parting of the waters”, where the coat will separate down the spine. Both coat type show feel light and airy, with a bit more texture in the shorthair.

Longhairs have been the most popular because the length shows the most curl. The very first two shorthair LaPerm championships were awarded only this show year, Arohanui BC Marcus Mocha Dandi, a solid chocolate male and Arohanui BC Smoke on the Water, as Seal Tortie Point female. The head is a modified wedge, slightly rounded, gentle contours. Whisker pads should appear full and rounded. The ears are placed to continue the modified wedge of the head; slightly flared and cupped; medium to large with curly furnishings and earmuffs. Lynx tipping is desired in longhairs. All genetically possible colors are acceptable; eye color is not dependent on coat color. There has been a blue eyed, red tabby and white LaPerm shown this year. Another the judges call, something for everyone, a seal silver torbie point and white. In LaPerms pattern and color is only given 2 points each in the standard.

Ever wonder why all LaPerms have the letters, BB, BC, BS in their names? This denote the coat they were born with; BB = Born Bald, BC = Born Curly, BS = Born Straight. Very few kittens are born bald nowadays, but some do go very bald before their full kitten coats come in. It actually takes about two years before a LaPerm is in full coat. Sparse coats in kittens and shorter coats in young adults should not be penalized. Some LaPerms will also go almost bald once a year and it is believed to be hormonal, as this seems to stop once they are altered. Males are appreciably larger than females.

The LaPerm is a clown in a curly coat. True to their barn cat roots, this is a thinking cat, a problem solver, in other words very clever and can be troublemakers. If a door is closed, they want it open, if a toy is just out of reach, they want to get to it. They are very clever at using the front paws to get what they want, be it a toy, food or attention, out comes the “magic” paw. They will follow you from room to room, ride on your shoulders, sit on top of you computer, play fetch, just to be close to you, but are not vocal or clingy.

Please contact a breeder close to you for more information.

*Some cats were shown more than once
Some cats earned more than one title, but only one is counted

Sources used:
TICA Unofficial show reports 1996-2007
TICA Official Standings 2003-2008
TICA Points Pending 2007/2008


Curly, the first LaPerm, is born on the farm of Linda Koehl, The Dalles , Oregon

Early 1990s

The LaPerm starts being shown.
The breed attracts breeders and judges alike


Recognition is granted by TICA in the New Breed class


Arrival of the first LaPerms in Germany


Arrival of the first LaPerm in Japan


The LPSA (LaPerm Society of America ) is formed


Recognition is granted by UFO ( United Feline Organization) in New Breed class


Arrival of the first LaPerms in New Zealand


Championship recognition granted by WACC in Germany . The first LaPerm champion is a male chocolate tabby: Ch Uluru BC Wiyaka


Arrival of the first LaPerm in South Africa


Recognition is granted by the New Zealand Cat Fancy (Longhair only)


Recognition is granted by the Southern Africa Cat Council


Recognition is granted by CFA (Cat Fanciers Association) in Miscellaneous class


The LPSA (LaPerm Society of America ) becomes affiliated to the CFA


Recognition is granted by ACFA in Miscellaneous class


Arrival of first LaPerm in The Netherlands


Recognition is granted by Catz Incorporated. ( New Zealand ) (Provisional status)


Championship status granted by Southern Africa Cat Council. Ch Le Beaux Chats Animaldocs Bree, a brown tabby is the first female champion LaPerm


The first LaPerm arrives in the UK


The first LaPerm Premier and the first LaPerm Grand go to Grand Premier Karnaki Giepie Goggabie in South Africa


Championship status in New Zealand (Catz Inc)


Arrival of the first LaPerm arrives in Russia


Championship status in TICA


Recognition is granted by WCF (The World Cat Federation)


The first TICA LaPerm Champion is Dennigan’s French Maid of Shoalwater


The first TICA Supreme Grand Champion Alter Jemcats Jest Dawg


Arrival of the first LaPerms arrive in France & Australia


Preliminary Recognition granted by the GCCF


Recognition is granted by CFA in Provisional Class


First TICA Shorthair Champion, Arohanui BC Marcus Mocha Dandi


LaPerm Fanciers International, “Putting the LaPerm First”, formed


Championship Status granted in CFA


The first whole TICA Supreme Grand Champion Arohanui BC Tiponi


Copyright & Credit:By  Jerrie Wolfe – Arohanui LaPerm Cattery |

Hairless Cats

| November 6, 2010
The origins of the major hairless breeds are well documented elsewhere so I have included a summary only. In some instances there appear to be several versions of events, dates of origin or disagreement over some issues. Where this is the case, I have included all relevant information without prejudice.

Although there are written accounts from the 1830′s of a Paraguayan “scant-haired cat”, the first properly recorded hairless “breed” was the now extinct Mexican Hairles.

The origins of the major hairless breeds are well documented elsewhere so I have included a summary only. In some instances there appear to be several versions of events, dates of origin or disagreement over some issues. Where this is the case, I have included all relevant information without prejudice. Other opinions are mine alone.


Hairlessness is a trait which has occurred in several places at different times. Hairless cats have been reported from Latin America in 1830. There are reports of this mutation occurring in France, Austria, the Czech Republic, England, Australia, Canada, USA, Mexico, Morocco, Russia and Hawaii. In addition, Devon Rexes are prone to baldness due to fragility of the hair and some LaPerm cats are born hairless.

Mexican, Canadian & American Hairless Breeds

Although there are written accounts from the 1830’s of a Paraguayan “scant-haired cat”, the first properly recorded hairless “breed” was the now extinct Mexican Hairless (also called the New Mexican Hairless). In 1902, a couple from New Mexico received two hairless cats from local Pueblo Indians. It was claimed that these were the last survivors of an ancient Aztec breed of cat. The Mexican Hairless cats were litter-mates and noted to be 25% smaller than local shorthair cats. They were normally whiskered and seasonally coated, growing a ridge of fur down the mid-back and tail during the colder seasons. The male, not yet sexually mature, was killed by dogs and the owners searched for a hairless mate for the female. In fact the loss was avoidable. The female could have been bred to similarly shaped domestic cats and the offspring back-crossed to their mother to re-establish the hairlessness trait. The female cat was sold as a pet and possibly exported to Britain or continental Europe in 1903 where she was exhibited, but apparently not bred. Even in 1902, enough was known about livestock breeding to have made this feasible. They resembled the modern Sphynx but were less extreme in face shape. There is the (remote) possibility that some later occurrences of random hairlessness trace back to this female since pet cats were not spayed in the early 1900s.

In “The Book of the Cat” (1903) Frances Simpson reproduced a letter written by E J Shinick to Mr H C Brooke regarding a pair of hairless cats which had come into Mr Shinick’s possession. Brooke commented “A most extraordinary variety, of which next to nothing appears to be known, is the hairless cat, and we cannot do better than quote in extenso the description given by the owner of what, if his surmise should unhappily prove to be correct, was the last pair of these peculiar animals, a portrait of which we give. We can only add, while deeply regretting that Mr Shinick did not mate his cats, the earnest hope that we may hear that he has discovered the existence of other specimens.”

“In answer would say my hairless cats are brother and sister. I got them from the Indians a few miles from this place. The old Jesuit Fathers tell me they are the last of the Aztec breed known only in New Mexico. I have found them the most intelligent and affectionate family pets I have ever met in the cat line; they are the quickest in action and smartest cats I have ever seen. They are fond of a warm bath, and love to sleep under the clothes at night with our little girl. They seem to understand nearly everything that is said to them; but I have never had time to train them. They are marked exactly alike – with mouse coloured backs; with neck, stomach and legs a delicate flesh tint. Their bodies are always warm and soft as a child’s. They love to be fondled and caressed, and are very playful; will run up and down your body and around your waist like a flash.

“Nellie” weighs about eight pounds, and “Dick” weighed ten pounds; but I am sorry to say we have lost “Dick”. We have never allowed them to go out of the house, as the dogs would be after them. They were very fond of our water spaniel, and would sleep with her. “Dick” was a sly rascal, and would steal out. One night last year he stole out, and the dogs finished him. His loss was very great, as I may never replace him. The Chicago Cat Club valued them at 1,000 dollars each. They were very anxious for me to come on with them for their cat shows, but I could not go. They were never on exhibition; as this is a small city, I feared they would be stolen. I have made every endeavour to get another mate for “Nellie”, but have not been successful. I never allowed them to mate, as they were brother and sister, and I thought it might alter “Nellie’s” beautiful form, which is round and handsome, with body rather long. In winter they have a light fur on back and ridge of tail, which falls off in warm weather. They stand the cold weather the same as other cats. They are not like the hairless dogs, whose hide is solid and tough; they are soft and delicate, with very loose skin.

“Nellie” has a very small head, large amber eyes, extra long moustache and eyebrows; her voice now is a good baritone, when young it sounded exactly like a child’s. They have great appetites, and are quite dainty eaters – fried chicken and good steak is their choice. Have never been sick an hour. The enclosed faded picture is the only one I have at present – it is very lifelike, as it shows the wrinkles in its fine, soft skin. “Dick” was a very powerful cat; could whip any dog alone; his courage, no doubt, was the cause of his death. He always was the boss over our dogs. I have priced “Nellie” at 300 dollars. She is too valuable for me to keep in a small town. Many wealthy ladies would value her at her weight in gold if they knew what a very rare pet she is. I think in your position she would be a very good investment to exhibit at cat shows and other select events, as she doubtless is the only hairless cat now known. I have written to Old Mexico and all over this country without finding another. I would like to have her in some large museum where she would interest and be appreciated by thousands of people.” E J Shinick, Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 3rd, 1902

According to Katharine L Simms in “They Walked Beside Me” (1954): “Only in Mexico is there a cat at all different from all other cats, and even he is the same in size and boen formation. But he is completely furless except for a ridge of hair down his spine. In that country also is the chino, or hairless dog, with blue-grey skin matching the Mexican cat. Maybe it is too hot in Mexico for fur or hair to be bearable, though our furry Indian and South African cats thrived in 100F in the shade.” At the time Simms wrote that comment, the Mexican Hairless was already long extinct.

Sadly, the Mexican Hairless was lost through lack of a breeding programme. There was reputedly a pair in Europe, but whether these were genuine Mexican Hairless or a new mutation was unproven. In 2006, it was claimed that new examples of the Mexican Hairless had been found. This remains to be confirmed. A true Mexican Hairless cat grows a ridge of fur along the spine in winter.

Hairless kittens (Bald Cats) appeared in in France (1932) but failed to thrive. In April 1935, the magazine “Vie A La Campagne” (Life in the Country) carried pictures from a 1932 cat show in Paris which had featured two hairless cats called “le chat nu” (the naked cat) shown as curiosities by Professor E Letard. The naked cats had been born to two different domestic females in the same household in 1930 though both died without reproducing in 1931. This suggests a degree of inbreeding allowing a recessive gene to be expressed. Some later reports refer to the French Sphynx being “resurrected” , but this would refer to the resurrection of hairless cats in general, not to a French strain. The French Sphynx (Le Chat Nu) never became an established breed in its own right.

Vie A La Campagne also reported the occurrence of a hairless kitten born to a shorthair female in Fêz, Morocco as well as occasional sightings of hairless cats in parts of Western Europe. The Journal of Heredity had two pictorial features of hairless cats. One (in 1930s?), nicknamed the “cat-dog”, was born to a housecat in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was apparently born with open eyes, no whiskers and a precocious ability to crawl (characteristics said to occur in modern Sphynx cats). In 1938, veterinary professor E Letard reported two hairless kittens born to two Siamese cats in Paris, France but this may have been a re-reporting of the 1930s cats. The other Journal of Heredity report was of three hairless kittens born to a Siamese in Paris in 1950. The other six kittens in the litter were normally-furred. The hairless Siamese kittens were examined over several months by Professor Letard and reported to have whiskers and varying degrees of hairlessness; also the amount and type of hair changed during their first six months. When they were interbred, three more hairless kittens were produced, but there are no records of further breedings using these hairless cats so the mutation was lost.

The letter From Henry Sternberceh of Wilmington, N. C. to The Journal of Heredity in 1936 titled ‘A “Cat-Dog” From North Carolina Hairless Gene or “Maternal Impression”?’

Hairless Cat Or Cat-Dog: Three views of an abnormal kitten which appeared in a litter of four, only one of which was normal,—two of the others being short tailed. The genetic nature of this variation is unknown, but it has a striking resemblance to some of the genetic hairless forms in rabbits and mice.

Around the middle of August, 1936, a curious litter of kittens was born to a perfectly ordinary appearing pet cat, belonging to Mrs. Annie Mae Gannon, of Wilmington, N. C. Of the entire litter, only one of the kittens is perfectly normal in appearance – the other three being freaks. One of the cats has no tail at all; another has only a stub of a tail. But the extraordinary member of this feline family is the fourth—well, we can hardly call it a cat – so for want of a better name, we’ll call it a “Nonesuch.”

It is said that before the kittens were born, the mother cat was often engaged in fights by a mixed-breed dog in the neighbourhood, and on several occasions was badly frightened by the dog. This is about the only plausible explanation as to why the “nonesuch” is so unusual in appearance. In fact, this little animal – now about two months old – is about the queerest looking creature one could hope to set eyes upon. Its face is that of a black, white, and yellow spotted dog. Its ears are quite long and sharp pointed. It has the short whiskers of a puppy. The hind legs are amusingly bowed. It has a stub tail. What makes the nonesuch even more unusual appearing is the short smooth dog hair all over its cat-like body.

From the very moment of its birth, which was about twelve hours after the rest of the litter, the nonesuch was surprisingly independent in its actions. It was born with its eyes open, and was able to crawl a little – two characteristics quite unknown to new-born kittens. The nonesuch acts both like a cat and a dog. While it makes a noise like a cat, it sniffs its food like a dog. Nothing delights the nonesuch more than gnawing a bone in a very dog-like manner. When resting, little nonesuch places its paws straight out in front just as a dog would do. The little creature doesn’t relish playing with the rest of its family, being entirely contented in stretching out and watching the others frolic about.

The Editor replied:

Geneticists would be more inclined to ascribe the appearance of the unusual animal described above to the action of a recessive mutation than to the ancient doctrine of maternal impressions. If the curious kitten does represent a mutation, it is one of no little genetic interest, as offering a further parallel between mutations in the cat and the rabbit. (See Keeler and Cobb, Journal of heredity 24 :181-184. May 1933). To judge from Mr. Sternberger’s pictures and the description, “Nonesuch” must rather closely resemble the Rex rabbit. It was hoped that it might be possible to obtain “None-such” and test the matter genetically. Unfortunately his owner is reported to feel that this unusual creature should be so valuable for museum or sideshow purposes as rather to put it out of range of genetic experimentation. In a later letter from Mr. Sternberger we learn that all the other members of the litter have died, so that there seems little hope of being able to do more than record the occurrence of this odd form.

In 1938, Professor Etienne Letard (Professor at the National Veterinary School of Alfort (Seine) France) replied in the Journal of Heredity in a letter titled ‘Hairless Siamese Cats’

Hairless Siamese Kittens And Their Parents: Two views of hairless Siamese kittens twelve hours old, and their parents. All of them are hairless though one has a thin coat of short hairs. Note the fur distinctly visible on one of the kittens. This is especially thick on the ears and in the axes of the limbs. It disappears in a few days, being followed a short time later by another transitory coat.

The two accounts of “Nonesuch”, the alleged cat-dog hybrid in the Journal (March and September, 1937), have greatly interested the writer because he has had an opportunity to study a startingly similar variation in Siamese cats. The accompanying photographs show the appearance of the hairless cats, whose resemblance to “Nonesuch” is obvious. The origin and description of this hairless strain follows. A pair of Siamese cats, perfect in type with normal hair and coloring, produced from time to time one or two hairless kittens in a litter consisting otherwise of normal kittens. From these periodically appearing hairless individuals we have been able to create a strain of hairless cats, which we believe to be entirely pure.

“Carrier” And Naked Siamese Cats: On the left is a normally haired Siamese cat, which mated to a normal-haired male produced hairless offspring. She thus carries the recessive hairless gene. At right a mature hairless Siamese cat, the type of this recessive mutation. Note that the vibrissae (“whiskers”) are normal. The whiskers of some hairless mammals are also affected.

If one mates one of the two individuals who have produced this mutation, with other normal Siamese cats, a hairless kitten has never been produced. Only the mating of the two individuals in question produces the mutation. The crossing of a hairless animal with other normal individuals has never produced a hairless cat. We have mated two hairless cats, brother and sister; three hairless kittens were the result. With the exception of unforeseen circumstances which would have to be studied, the “hairless” can therefore be considered a type governed by the Mendelian law with hairlessness recessive to normal coat. Thus we find ourselves in possession of a strain, apparently already stable, which might be the origin of a distinct race, resuscitating the ancient race of so-called Mexican hairless cats, which is believed to be extinct.

It is imperative to mention that, though certain specimens are completely hairless, others have a slight down on their bodies. This down is subject to periodical changes, apparently closely connected with seasonal variations in temperature. Strange as k may seem, the young ones which grow into hairless cats are not so at birth, but have a growth of hair, less dense, however, than normal. A transitory pelage in young hairless rats has also been reported [Wilder, W., Et Al. A Hairless Mutation in the Rat. Journal of Heredity 23 :481- 484. 1932] The fact that the typical pattern of the Siamese cat is controlled in its development by temperature [1. Iljin, N. A. and V. N. Temperature Effects on the Color of the Siamese Cat Journal of Heredity 21 :309-318. 1930] may have a significance in this connection. This growth is most marked on the ventral surface and in the axils of the limbs. Between the tenth and fourteenth day after birth this juvenile hair has disappeared, and the “hairless skin” has become reality. The skin remains bald for several days and this is followed by another growth of hair. When the kitten has reached the age anywhere from eight to ten weeks it is covered with an abundant growth of hair which gradually disappears, until at the age of six months the final stage of adult nakedness has been reached; either the skin is completely hairless, or covered with a slight down, subject to seasonal changes.

The fact that this mutation was observed in animals which have always lived in Paris, proves again that it is not always in special environments that one has to search for visible variations, and emphasizes again the random nature of spontaneous changes in inherited characters which appear to be one of the basic mechanisms of organic evolution.

In his book “Just Cats” (1957), French cat-fancier Fernand Mery wrote “It is true that completely naked cats also exist: cats without fur, among which we have succeeded in determining a strange mutation linked to a recessive gene. Did the race of hairless cats actually exist in Mexico? Did it originate from the short-haired cats of Paraguay? This is not beyond the realms of possibility, as these hairless cats are not initially bare; they do not come into the world so, as Andre Sécat has pointed out. Initially they have a covering of down, which falls out after the first week. Afterwards there is another growth of down, which lasts for two months: time for the kittens to be weaned and sufficiently developed to survive. In its turn, this thin coat falls out during the next few weeks. When the cats have attained the age of six months, they are then, but then only, hairless cats, perfectly smooth-skinned. Are they beautiful? That is a different matter. But should you be tempted to possess one, it would be useless to look for it on the market. There are no hairless cats professionally bred. They are simply a curiosity of creation.”

It was reported (in 1966, probably referring to the 1950s kittens) that Professor Étienne Letard of L’Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort in France had “resurrected” the breed of bald cats and it was noted that there were a few examples in Europe and America. The cats were reported as not born completely bald. The kittens had very light hairs which have scarcely thickened by the growth of a slight down during the first two months. After the kittens are weaned, this down falls away to leave them completely smooth. At the time, they are described as sensitive to cold, unaesthetic and not much admired by cat lovers and having only a technical interest. The report noted that the mutation had been fixed, but the breeding of bald cats was a flirtation for the specialist and did not have a great future.

The modern Sphynx (Canadian Hairless) may be advertised as the hairless cat from the scrolls of antiquity, but it derives from Canadian cats of either the 1960s or 1970s. It has variously been known as the Moon Cat, Moonstone Cat or Canadian Hairless and may be spelled either Sphynx or Sphinx, though the former spelling is more common. The history of the Canadian Sphynx is not continuous as the original bloodline has been lost, but the breeding program was restored when more hairless kittens surfaced later. The later cats were probably related to the earlier discovery, but there is no traceability.

The Sphynx’s recessive gene mutation appeared more than once in Toronto, Canada but the cats were most likely related. Hairless kittens were discovered in Toronto in 1963 and it was established that the trait was due to a recessive gene. They were bred, but the breeding experiment was discontinued in the late 1970s. Though a number of breeders were working with these cats, the breed was not eligible for registration and many small breeding programs were started up, only to vanish without trace a few years later. Inexperienced breeders produced unhealthy or poorly fertile cats, signs of inbreeding. In 1973, the Journal of Heredity ran a report on these hairless cats. In 1978, the last breeding pair of cats from that breeding program went to Holland. The cats were brother and sister and though the female produced a litter of kittens, she rejected them. They did not manage to produce any further kittens which suggests poor fertility/infertility due to severe inbreeding. What was needed, were further female Sphynxes to widen the gene pool.

Coincidentally, also in 1978 (some reports erroneously state 1973, probably based on the report in the Journal of Heredity relating to the earlier hairless cats), a litter with hairless kittens was discovered among street cats in Toronto. The mother giving birth to two further hairless female kittens in separate litters in 1980. Since the gene for hairlessness is recessive, both the mother and the two sires must have carried the gene. It is likely that the parents of those kittens were unrecorded progeny from the earlier, failed, breeding program. The two 1980s females were sent to the Netherlands to the same person who held the last of the 1970s strain. He attempted to breed the two strains together. The male refused to accept either of the two new females and was neutered. It was discovered that one of the females was pregnant by that sire, but she lost the litter and with it the genes of the last authenticated Canadian Hairless of the earlier strain. The Sphynx breed was therefore developed using Devon Rex. Devon Rex sometimes occur with sparse fur and in 2010 DNA analysis found that Devon Rex and Sphynx are alleles of the same gene. Rather than being totally hairless, the modern Sphynx derived from Canadian cats and other genetically compatible spontaneously occurring hairless cats has a light peach-fuzz on the skin and sometimes fur on the tail-tip. Unlike the Mexican Hairless, it does not grow a ridge of fur during the colder seasons.

A further Canadian Sphynx appeared during the early years of the breed; this being a hairless male farm cat found in Western Canada. Though acquired by a Sphynx owner in Washington state, he does not appear to have contributed to the modern Sphynx line. Possibly he was genetically incompatible or otherwise unsuitable.

In 1970, two nude cats (later named Starkers and Baldy) were cared for at the Blue Cross Animal Hospital in London’s Victoria district. The pair appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper apparently in spite of its “no nudes” policy! In 1975 and 1976, Jezabelle, a tabby shorthair farm cat owned by Minnesota couple, Milt & Ethelyn Pearson, had given birth to two hairless female kittens – Epidermis (1975) and Dermis (1976). These were later used to expand the Sphynx gene pool. The Pearsons’ farm cats bred freely and there were hairless kittens born in several litters, suggesting a mutation several generations earlier followed by a degree of inbreeding. A hairless male barn cat occurred in North Carolina, but there are no recorded offspring from this cat.

In 1984, the Journal of Heredity reported hairlessness in 10 Birman kittens born in England between 1978-1982. The hairless Birman kittens had short or absent whiskers and greasy skin. None survived beyond ten weeks of age, dying from various disease processes (possibly a metabolic or immune system disorder). This type of hairlessness was already associated with a lethal gene following a study in 1981. The hairless kittens were observed by a breeder in 1977 in Redcar, Cleveland, UK in litters of pedigree Birmans with no previous history of hairlessness in the pedigrees. The stud was somewhat inbred, but this was not unusual for the breed. The female was mated to 2 different, but related males. The first stud fathered 7 normal and 1 hairless kitten. The second stud fathered 7 normal and 2 hairless kittens. A normal-furred female from the first pairing was mated to the second male and produced 3 normal and 3 hairless kittens. The 17 normal and 6 hairless kittens was consistent with a recessive mutation. When mated to an unrelated Siamese male, the original female Birman produced normal kittens. The condition was lethal with death usually occurring before 2 weeks of age. Affected kittens never grow more than a fine coating of down. Based on the longest surviving cat (a male, died aged 3 months), the skin is soft at birth but steadily becomes thickened and wrinkled. The few whiskers present are short, thin and crinkled. In the kittens that died before 2 weeks, there was also a brownish secretion accumulating around the nostrils and eyes, and under the chin (believed to be a secondary bacterial infection). A male Redcar hairless that survived to 3 months had defective, easily split claws. It died suddenly of no obvious cause, but had suffered persistent diarrhoea since weaning. This male had been completely hairless from birth apart from a few short, bent whiskers.

In 1986 (unconfirmed date) a hairless cat turned up at a New York, USA animal show. The owner claimed to know of a hundred more in various locations around the world. In 1986 a hairless female was discovered in a colony of freely breeding domestic shorthairs in Bloomfield, New Jersey, but the owner apparently would not allow this cat or its normal haired offspring (which would carry the gene for hairlessness) to be used in the Sphynx breeding program. In 1993, a mother cat with three normal-coated kittens and one hairless kitten was rescued in Westchester County, New York. The kitten, known as Gracie, proved to have a different mutation. She produced normal coated offspring when mated with a Sphynx. In 1995 a hairless male kitten was born to two long-haired parents in Tennessee and was incorporated into the Sphynx genepool.

Hairlessness has, allegedly, also occurred at some point (no date was given) in Persian cats, a breed known for its long fur. In Persians, hairlessness was considered shameful; the existence of hairless kittens was therefore a closely guarded secret among those working with the affecting breeding line so that carriers could be eliminated from the Persian breed. Mutating genes have no respect for which breed they turn up in!

In 2004, the Cheops was apparently derived from Canadian lines of the American Cornish Rex. It has a very fine coat, approximately 1/8″ long over the head, neck, back and sides and a slightly longer coat on the chest and hips, however this residual coat lacks the waviness of the Cornish Rex. The tail may have a tuft at the tip.

The Elf breed was initiated in 2006 with the first full hairless, curl-eared Elf being born in 2008. It combines the Sphynx hairlessness with the American Curl’s ear conformation. Permissible out-crosses include non-pedigree domestic shorthairs. They have a sturdy, athletic build, are sociable, intelligent, inquisitive and people centred. Half-Elf cats e.g. furred Elf variants result from outcrosses to diversify the gene pool.

The Dwelf also combines curl ears with hairlessness, but adds Munchkin and Highlander (a bobtailed, curl-eared polydactyl breed) to the mix. These combine hairlessness, curled ears and short legs. Non-standard (long legged) Dwelfs may resemble the Elf breed.

Throughout the world there are still reports of hairless kittens appearing in litters of feral cats and house cats. Hairless cats found in domestic cat litters may still be used in the Sphynx breeding programme to strengthen and expand the gene pool. Some of them are producing extremely hairless offspring, suggesting that several genes may be involved, not just a single simple mutation. Others, like the much more recent Peterbald (discussed later), prove incompatible with the Canadian Sphynx because they have a different mutation. In the USA, hairless cats have been found in North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Arkansas and Indiana. In Canada they have turned up in Toronto and in Western Canada (no precise location given). They have also occurred around the world although to date only the Canadian, Russian and Hawaiian mutations have given rise to distinct breeds.

Russian Hairless Cats

Hairless cats were reported in England in 1981 and 1984, but for many years, the Canadian-bred Sphynx was unopposed as the sole hairless cat breed. This changed with the appearance of the Don Sphynx (Don Hairless, Russian Hairless, Don Bald Cat, Donskoy/Donsky) in 1987. Donskoy Sphynx originated in the small town of Rostov-on-Don in Russia. The foundation female of the Donskoy Sphynx and the related Peterbald was a blue tortoiseshell cat named Varya, who was rescued by Elena Kovalyova. At the time it was thought that hairless Varya had lost her fur through illness, but in pite of anti-fungal treatment the fur did not grow and Varya proved to be in good health. Around 1989, Varya was bred to a neighbouring tomcat and produced several hairless kittens. One of those kittens, a black female called Chita, went to Irina Nemykina’s “Myth” cattery. Nemykina’s records showed that the mutation was dominant. The hairless cats in the Myth aattery were bred to European Shorthairs and Domestic Shorthairs and these became the foundation cats of the Donskoy Sphynx breed.

Matings of the Donskoy cats with Oriental/Siamese in St.Petersburg and Moscow in 1993 created an oriental type of hairless cat known as the Peterbald. Though unpopular in Moscow, they were popular with St.Petersburg breeders. The first Peterbalds were born in January of 1994 from a mating between an Oriental tortoiseshell female called Radma von Jagerhof with a brown mackerel tabby Donskoy Sphynx male called Afinogen Myth. Afinogen Myth had a light bone structure and a wedge-shaped head, making him a good choice for breeding with Oriental cats. He was also mated with Russian Blues, producing Donskoy Sphynx. Some of the more elegant kittens from the Afinogen Myth x Russian Blue matings were incorporated into the Peterbald breeding programme and became foundation cats.

The Russian standard for the Donskoy Sphynx requires solid, medium size cats with a short, wedge shaped head, large ears, noticeable eyeballs and a flat forehead with numerous vertical wrinkles spreading in horizontal lines above the eyes. The whiskers range from thick and curly to snapped or absent. The toes are unusually long in appearance. The last 3 centimetres of the tail tip may be covered with soft, dense, close lying, slightly curly coat. The skin is describes as elastic and wrinkled on the head, neck, under the legs and in the groin. Young cats (under 2 years old) may have short fur on the muzzle, cheeks and at the base of the ears and in the winter, the whole body may be covered with a fine coat. Donskoy Sphynx kittens may be born with wavy rex coats and a bald spot on the head, but the required distinctive sign of a newborn Donskoy are curly whiskers.

The heterozygous offspring of matings between the Donskoy Sphynx and a furred outcross can be variable in appearance: some heterozygous offspring have a residual curly coat at birth and this varied from short velvet to unusually fine normal length hair. Generally there is a bald spot on the crown of the head. As the heterozygous kittens mature, the hair follicles died except for those at the points. These furred kittens shed their coats between 2 months and 2 years of age. Other heterozygous kittens have thick curly (rex) hair and remain coated throughout their life; these variants are known as “brush”. The mutation also affected the conformation and most “brush” variants lack breed’s characteristic short wedge face. In the second generation (i.e. shed x shed or shed x brush) a third type appeared: completely hairless at birth, wrinkle-skinned and often without whiskers. The hairless and velvet Donskoy Sphynx tend to grow more slowly than their furred siblings.

The Donskoy Sphynx is now being seriously bred in the USA and its breeder suggested using it to found an experimental Hemingway Sphynx which would be a variety of hairless cat with extra toes. This is now calledthe Dossow Cat.

In 2005, the Ukrainian Levkoy Cat, a fold-eared naked cat, was created using the Don Sphinx and Scottish Fold. The Ukrainian Levkoy is less extreme in body and face type than the Don Sphinx (the face is wider and ronder) and the ears do not fold tightly to the skull as in the Scottish Fold, but stand out from the head and fold closer to the tips. It also occurs in velour and pric-eared forms.

The Peterbald (St Petersburg Hairless) is another Sphynx-like Russian breed derived from the same female, but with an oriental-type body. It originated as cross between Don Sphynx and Oriental-type household pets in St Petersburg. Some matings of Don Sphynx to Oriental/Siamese occurred in St.Petersburg and in Moscow in 1993. The first true Peterbalds were born in January 1994 using a tortie oriental female and tabby Don Sphynx with some Oriental traits. The Don Sphynx was also bred with Russian Blues to produce more Don Sphynx, but some of these offspring were used in the Peterbald breeding program. Like the Don Sphynx, the Peterbald is now also bred in the USA. If a Peterbald (or Don Sphynx) is crossed with a Sphynx, normal-coated kittens result because the hairlessness is caused by different genes.

Recent Mutations and Developments

Hairless cats still pop up out of nowhere due to mutation or hidden recessives inherited gnerations back. Many are treated as oddities and are neutered because the trait is seen as detrimental. Elsewhere, the new occurrences may either be used to expand the gene pool of an existing hairless breed (if found to be genetically compatible) or used to create a whole new breed (if genetically different). In 2002, the Hawaiian Hairless (or Kohana Kat) was reported. These cats were claimed to be the only completely hairless cats, since they lacked hair follicles and had a skin texture like rubber. The Hawaiian Hairless originated from a feral litter in Hawaii, and were allegedly due to a gene which masked out the dominant gene for full-coatedness. Unlike the other hairless breeds where the mutation affects the function of the hair follicles, this muttion allegedly caused the absence of hair follicles. There were other, unconfirmed, reports that it was the result of mating a Donskoy Sphynx to a Canadian Sphynx and the interaction of the 2 different genes. In 2010 it was confirmed by DNA analysis that the Kohana Kat had the same hairlessness mutation as the Sphynx, with other effects being due to other genes in the mix, and it was not a new mutation. By this time the Kohana Kat had all but died out due to reproductive problems and other health issues that may have been due to inbreeding.

In 2003, a magazine featured an almost hairless cat. Described as the result of inbreeding, it was bald apart from long whiskery guard hairs all over the body. It resembled the mythical “longhair sphynx” and was described by one correspondent as strange and rather ugly, but in a way that puts it back at lovely! A brother and sister born to a domestic shorthair have also turned up with a very similar mutation, but were homed from a cat shelter as pets and will presumably be neutered. There is a mutation known as “sparse fur” which eliminates all but the guard hairs, which tend to be short. The classical “sparse fur” mutation described in veterinary literature is associated short guard hairs, skin problems and unsightly brown exudate, but is by no means the only the only “sparse fur” mutation in existence.

The male, “Pyewacket” is owned by Tricia Janes and became famous in the LiveJournal community after she posted his photos. Pyewacket and his sister were born to a grey and white domestic shorthair of unknown ancestry. Both kittens were completely hairless when born, but later grew the sparse coats shown in the photos. Of the two, Pyewacket’s coat is the sparsest and facially and in conformation the two cats differ. The majority of his hair is on his spine and tail and resembles a “balding mohawk (mohican)” haircut. He has hardly any fur on his head and very, very little on his legs. He has little hair on his face and none on his belly, ears or chest. When adopted, his age was estimated at 12 weeks, but a veterinarian revised that estimate to 4 – 5 months, but undersized compared to a regular cat of that age. He apparently likes to sleep under the bedcovers. Tricia describes him as resembling the original Mexican Hairless (which was 25% smaller than regular shorthairs and also had a sparse coat during the winter), rather than the sparse hair mutation.

This is a hairless stray/feral domestic cat photographed in south-eastern Yemen where it was loitering on a building site and apparently chewing cable (a condition known as pica that is more common in Siamese/Burmese cats). It has a peach-fuzz of fur, with more fur on the extremities, suggesting a hairless mutation. The little colour visible (on the tail and near one ear) indicate it is ginger-and-white. The battle-scarred ears indicate a cat that has been in frequent fights; the puffiness of the face indicates a serious infection or tumours and the lack of fur/pale colour generally puts the cat at risk of skin cancer. The shortened tail could be a natural and relatively common bobtail mutation or the result of an injury. The puffiness around the eyes indicate further problems and the skin appears thickened which may be due to chronic mange or infection. All in all, the cat is in a sorry state.

Once the gene for hairlessness has appeared, it is possible to introduce it into other breeding programs. Whether this is desirable is a matter of debate. For example, the Hemingway Sphynx is a polydactyl hairless cat suggested in 2001 by a Don Sphynx breeder (it was previously nicknamed the Polyfynx). Around the same time, another breeder was using Canadian Sphynx and breeding them to Munchkins and domestics to produce the Minskin. The Minskin is neither a short-legged Sphynx nor a hairless Munchkin, but has its own unique look and is described as “fur-pointed”. The Minskin is neither a short-legged Sphynx nor a hairless Munchkin, but has its own unique look. For more information on the Minskin see Short-Legged Cats.

A Sphynxkin was also reported as an intended fully hairless Munchkin/Sphynx crossbreed, but never materialised. The Mynx was reported to be a Manx/Sphynx crossbreed and was strongly discouraged because of side-effects of the Manx gene. The “breeder” was apparently attempting to obtain foundation cats, but there has been no further news of this “breed” so presumably it was not developed further. Another hybrid of Sphynx and Munchkin has produced the Bambino (Italian for “baby” and alludes to their mischievous personalities) with a wedge-shaped head, wide set eyes, short, squarish muzzle and lynx-tipped ears set well onto the top of the head rather than flared outwards. It is a muscular, medium-boned cat. The coat varies from hairless to peach-fuzz and all colours and patterns are allowed. Bambino Long-Legs variants occur.

The Mythical Hairless Breeds

Finally two “breeds” which have caused a stir of quite the wrong kind are the Egyptian Hairless Cat and the Chinese Hairless Cat Neither breed actually exists although numerous people have either tried to obtain one or claim to “know somebody who has one”.

The root of the mythical Chinese Hairless cat might be Monsieur Patrick Challan, a French antique breeder who apparently attempted to revive hairless cats as a breed (undated report). He speculated that his cats were Sphynx cats, which lived in China in ancient times and which were descended from a liaison between a cat and a “beautiful midget hairless dog”. He stated, by way of support to these claims, that his five nude cats (chats nus) were never afraid of dogs and approached them in a friendly, playful manner. Monsieur Challan’s research apparently found that bald cats had appeared in the writings of a few English authors and that they had been sighted in Canada just after that country was conquered by the British. This historical link, never mind the hysterical dog-cat claim, resulted in Monsieur Challan being offered up to $50,000 for his nude cats. These offers were rejected by Challan who wanted to breed the cats himself. He may not have resurrected the hairless cat breed, but he seems to have created a mythical Chinese Hairless Cat myth. I can find no mention of a Patrick Challan in Sphynx literature, although a Patrique Challain of Paris bought 5 Sphynx kittens from a Dutch breeder in 1983.

The “Egyptian Hairless Cat” was invented around 2001 by the TV show “Friends” and mistakenly reported as fact on some veterinary websites and on usenet. The show depicted it as hypoallergenic. Hairless cats are not hypoallergenic since the allergen is in the saliva and dander, not the fur itself. It was irresponsible of the show to mislead viewers into believing the hypoallergenic myth as well as creating a belief in a non-existent cat “breed”. Although the name “Sphynx” might suggest an Egyptian origin, there are currently no hairless varieities originating from Egypt.

There is also no such breed as the “Chinese Hairless Cat”. It appears to be no more than a garbled version of the Egyptian Hairless which has possibly been confused with the Chinese Crested (or Hairless) Dog (which does exist) or the legacy of Patrick Challan. Having said this, no doubt someone somewhere will spot a marketing opportunity and create breeds by these names!

The “Longhair Sphynx” rumoured to be the powder-puff version of this breed is actually a cat fancy April Fool’s joke from a mailing list. It was intended to poke fun at breed classification by registries. Hairlessness is a recessive gene and always breeds true. There is no Longhair Sphynx or Powder Puff Sphynx. The joke used the Powder Puff Chinese Hairless Dog as its model. Several years after the April Fool’s joke, a longhaired mutant Sphynx did appear! It is a neutered domestic pet and is pictured here (above left). It had long, fine fur on the chest and sides and short fur on the legs, but was bald elsewhere. In February 2009, a similar cat was reported in Exeter New Hampshire, USA. Known as Ugly Bat Boy (above right), he was part of a litter of four kittens, 2 normal plus Ugly Bat Boy and a similar-looking female sibling that died at a few weeks old. Bat Boy caught they eye of vet Stephen Bassett (who had treated Bat Boy’s sister) and now lives at the vet clinic. Some rumours claimed him to be a Sphynx/Maine Coon mix. According to Carla Reiss, who provided the photos, the vet who owns Ugly Bat Boy believes the mutation was a result of a local random mating. Uggs had a sister who only lived three weeks, but the vet has spayed/neutered one or two others. It is likely that inbreeding is causing a mutant gene to show up.


Potentially, any of the hairless breeds could be crossed with any other breed of cat to produce hairless cats with bobtails, no tails, extra toes, different ear shapes, different body conformations (e.g. the stocky conformation of the Persian) and other combinations of physical traits. Whether these are desirable is another matter entirely and many experimental cross-breedings are not pursued as breeds. In 2006, TICA’s Genetics Committee proposed to clamp down on the trend of mix-and-match breeding.


  • 1902: Mexican Hairless. Not developed.
  • 1938: French Sphynx. Not developed.
  • 1950: Paris (Siamese) Not developed.
  • 1963: Toronto. Died out 1978.
  • 1970: Victoria Bald Cats. Neutered.
  • 1975/6: Minnesota (added to Sphynx breed)
  • 1978: Toronto – Sphynx
  • 1978-1982: Redcar Hairless (Birmans) (all died)
  • 1981 & 1984: England. Not developed.
  • 1987: Russian Hairless/Don Sphynx/Donskoy
  • 1986?: New York. Not developed.
  • 1986: New Jersey. Not developed.
  • 1990s: Petersburg Hairless
  • 1993: New York (novel mutation)
  • 1995: Tennessee (added to Sphynx breed)
  • 2000s: Minskin. Munchkin x Sphynx
  • 2000s: Bambino. Munchkin x Sphynx
  • 2002: Hemingway Sphynx. Polydactyl Sphynx
  • 2002: Hawaiian Hairless/Kohana. Lacks follicles; breeds poorly
  • 2003: “Powderpuff” form of Sphynx (USA)
  • 2004, Cheops. Almost hairless American Cornish Rex
  • 2005: Ukrainian Levkoy Cat. Donskoy x Scottish Fold
  • 2006?: “Pyewacket” (USA)
  • 2006: Elf. Sphynx x American Curl
  • 2006: Mexican Hairless. Possible rediscovery
  • 2008: Dwelf: Elf x Munchkin x polydactyl x bobtail
  • 2009: Yemen (stray/feral)
  • 2009: “Bat Boy” – Powderpuff form of Sphynx (USA)


Hendy-Ibbs PM: Hairless cats in Great Britain.J Hered 75:506-507, 1984.66.
Robinson R: A Third Hypotrichosis in the Domestic Cat. Genetica 55: 39-40 (1981)

Copyright & Credit:
Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy:
Sarah Hartwell
Woozles –

How to Choose a Breed of Cat

| December 26, 2011
How to Choose a Breed of Cat

If you choose a kitten, purebreds will be a more predictable choice since you'll know precisely how they'll look as adults. There are also popular breeds like Siamese, Maine Coon, and Persian that are chosen for their distinct look. There is more, however, to choosing the right cat for your household than meets the eye.

Domestic cats are low-maintenance pets that have specific benefits over dogs. They don’t require much exercise, they don’t need obedience training, and they have a convenient litter box to go to the bathroom. In fact, it is often said that dogs have masters while cats have servants. Nevertheless, the breed of cat you choose will depend on a few factors that require a closer look.

If you choose a kitten, purebreds will be a more predictable choice since you’ll know precisely how they’ll look as adults. There are also popular breeds like Siamese, Maine Coon, and Persian that are chosen for their distinct look. There is more, however, to choosing the right cat for your household than meets the eye.

One should consider a cat’s personality, for one thing. An Abyssinian is a much friendlier cat with strangers than a Siamese or a Bombay, for instance. An American Shorthair or a Ragdoll would be other good choices for houses with children. If there are other animals in the house, this may impact your decision as well, but most dog breeds can get along with cats, with patience.

Grooming is another issue. Long-haired cats like the Birman, Persian, and Angora breeds require frequent brushing to keep their fur in good shape, and may require baths and conditioner to eliminate tangled, matted fur.

Cats, like dogs and humans, have specific health issues that require either vaccinations or frequent monitoring to diminish their impact on your pet. Fleas and worms are parasitic pests that can cause a host of health issues, including anemia.

Some breeds, like Persians, have specific respiratory problems or eye diseases that require immediate attention. Regular vaccinations and checkups with a vet will protect against the most common viruses like Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

Some people are extremely sensitive or allergic to certain cat breeds, while others may cause no reaction at all. Scientifically, there are no known hypoallergenic cat breeds, though some claim that Siberians are. All cats have dander, and this is the element responsible for most allergies, not cat hair.

Cat breeds also differ by how active they are. Bengals, Burmese, Abyssinians, and Balinese are all examples of very lively breeds that need space to run and play, while the Bombay, Ragdoll, Russian Blue, and Havana Brown are known for being quiet and very docile.

Whatever breed you choose, it helps to have these specific requirements in mind, and to research the characteristics of different types of cats before making a final decision. This is the best way to choose a pet that fits your personality and thrives in your home environment.

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Article Source:
How to Choose a Breed of Cat courtesy of Cat Articles

Photo copyright and courtesy: Alistair Morton – stock.xchng

Polydactyl Cats – Part 1

| November 6, 2010
Polydactyly (six or seven toes) varies from the classic "mitten cat" through to cats which simply have more toes than normal, but no "thumb".Robert O'Rourke's "Paulie" (Paulie-dactyl!) also has extra palm pads on the back feet.

Polydactyly (six or seven toes) varies from the classic "mitten cat" through to cats which simply have more toes than normal, but no "thumb".Robert O'Rourke's "Paulie" (Paulie-dactyl!) also has extra palm pads on the back feet.

In the New Scientist of 12 May, 2001, it was asserted by Chris Hayes that “five is the magic number” of digits. This was based on the assumption that the genetic mutation that produces the extra toes is also responsible for deformities and that possession of more than five digits is a “counter-survival trait”. His assertion was based on observation of mice with deformities caused by genetic mutations. However, what is true for mice is not necessarily true for other animals and there are many healthy cats with six or more digits. Fossil evidence shows that early amphibians also had 7 or 8 toes.


Polydactyly, or extra digits, is a common trait among cats, particularly it seems, among Celtic cats and cats on part of America’s Eastern coast and South West Britain. This distribution may well be linked. Except for Twisty Cats, polydactyly is not a product of bad breeding. It is simply a naturally occurring genetic variation and, as noted later on, polydactyly is found in fossil reptiles – meaning that five digits might be the abnormal form! Only one form of polydactyly is known to be harmful.

In a 1967 issue of Britain’s “The Cat” magazine, Mary Collier of Axminster, Devon wrote Can any readers of THE CAT give me any information about 6-toed cats, sometimes called ‘Boxers’ or ‘Boxing Cats’? I have recently acquired a very fine kitten of this type […] What I particularly want to know is their district or origin, or country if outside the British Isles and the date they may first have been recognised.” In February 1978, the Daily Mirror carried a series of letters on polydactyl cats. Jennifer Wellstead, of Penzance, Cornwall, had asked if any other readers had cats with 6 toes on each paw. A “Mrs I” of Kettering, Northants, replied that 6-toed cats were favoured as witches’ familiars of witches. Mrs Farley, of Havant, Hampshire, said she had 6 cats, 3 of whom had 6 toes and 2 had 4 toes on each foot in place of the ‘normal’ 5. She added that a recent litter had produced one kitten with 7 toes, 4 with 6 toes and 2 with the normal number of toes.

Polydactyly (six or seven toes) varies from the classic “mitten cat” through to cats which simply have more toes than normal, but no “thumb”. A correspondent to the New Scientist noted that the innermost extra toes on the front paws are often opposable and some cats use them with quite startling proficiency to manipulate small objects with almost human dexterity. Some owners of polydactyl cats joke that their cats are more intelligent because of this and represent the next stage in feline evolution – the ability to open cartons and cans unaided.

Between one and three extra toes on the front feet

Between one and three extra toes on the front feet

Between one and three extra toes on the front feet

Between one and three extra toes on the front feet

Between one and three extra toes on the front feet

Between one and three extra toes on the front feet

Polydactyl cats are known by various names – “mitten cats”, “thumb cats”, “six-finger cats” and “Hemingway cats”. The latter is because of writer Ernest Hemingway who made his home on the small island of Key West, Florida. He shared the island with nearly 50 cats, including a 6-toed polydactyl given to him by a ship captain; the cats bred and the polydactyl trait became common, hence polydactyls are often known as “Hemingway Cats”. Hemingway’s colony of cats was free-breeding with the local cat population and the ratio of polydactyl cats to normal-toes cats was about 50/50. Another story suggests that the cat given to Hemingway was a female double-pawed cat and that the polydactyl cats on the island came from 19th Century ships’ cats. The high rate of polydactyl cats in Boston, USA has also led to the nickname “Boston Thumb Cats”. The nickname “double-pawed” cats is a misnomer since there is a specific double paw condition.

Polydactyly itself is also known as hyperdactyly or supernumary digits and occurs in many animals (including humans) as a spontaneous mutation or hereditary trait. The mode of inheritance – dominant or recessive – varies between species. Instances and illustrations of human polydactyly (for comparison purposes) are given at the end of

this article.


Some American cat lovers, cat publications and breeders (notably early advertising literature about PixieBobs) have claimed that polydactyly is unique to America. In early PixieBob promotional literature “Bigfoot is in the Building!” Brenda Weatherby and Carol Ann Brewer wrote that polydactyly first appeared in Boston in the early 17th century and that polydactyl cats are only found in North America. In actuality, polydactyl cats may have arrived in Boston from England. Polydactyly is emphatically not unique to North America. Any suggestions that polydactyl cats are not found outside of America are factually incorrect and perhaps an American conceit. The trait is found in Britain, some parts of mainland Europe and in Asia. Polydactyly is common enough in some areas of Britain for it to be almost unremarkable and I see several polydactyls per year at the Chelmsford Cats Protection rescue shelter as well as having owned a polydactyl. I found a superb bobtailed polydactyl cat in rural Malaysia (close to Kuantan) where “six-finger cats” are considered lucky. Being an unneutered tomcat, the trait would be perpetuated.

Two polydactyl kitten from Lake Chini near Kuantan, Malaysia; the father was a bobtailed polydactyl had produced a dynasty of multi-toed kittens on local female cats.

Two polydactyl kitten from Lake Chini near Kuantan, Malaysia; the father was a bobtailed polydactyl had produced a dynasty of multi-toed kittens on local female cats.

An article from Cornell University, Cat Watch (1998), cited studies into polydactyl cats from the 1940´s through to the 1970´s. The study indicated that the trait may have occurred in cats taken to Boston by English Puritans during the 1600s and speculated that the mutation developed in cats already in the Boston area rather than in cats in

England. The progeny of these cats may have travelled on trading ships from Boston to Yarmouth, Massachusetts and Halifax, Nova Scotia, two areas which also have a high incidence of polydactyly. Charles Darwin wrote of polydactyl cats in his book “Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication”. He wrote: “I have heard of several families of six-toed cats, in one of which the peculiarity had been transmitted for at least three generations.”

Polydactyl cats are said to be virtually non-existent in Europe, because “unusual looking cats” were destroyed due to witchcraft superstitions, practically eliminating the trait (Kelly, Larson,1993). I do not know whether Britain was included in the generic term “Europe” or whether it meant mainland (continental) Europe only. In Norway, polydactyl cats are known as “ship’s cats” as the extra toes supposedly gave them better balance on ships in stormy weather; they are not uncommon and polydactyl kittens are sought after pets. Polydactyl random-bred cats have been reported in Sweden though other European cat lovers (locations not reported) had apparently never seen a polydactyl. They are common enough in Britain to be considered unremarkable.

Polydactyl cats were considered “lucky” by sailors. Sailors also believed polydactyl cats to be superior mousers and ratters. Employed as ships’ ratters and lucky mascots, they would have reached America with early British settlers hence their greater frequency in Eastern states. A disproportionately high number of “lucky” polydactyl cats, c

ompared to normal-toed cats, would have found their way there. This would lead to a greater proportion of polydactyls than usual for a random-breeding cat population. Back in Britain, with its large cat population of which the polydactyl formed only a small part, the trait remained less common (though there have been localised pockets of higher than average incidence). There is a higher incidence of polydactyly in South-West England, possibly associated with ports from which ships set sail for the New World.

Bjørn B Svingen, owner of a polydactyl cat, provided the following information on polydactyl cats in Norway and their associaiton with ships: “I have heard people say that these genes came to Norway long ago. The story was that the genes were inherited from Spanish or Portuguese ship cats with this “‘disorder’. These cats were supposedly common on ships trading on the Norwegian coastline. They have again become popular, at least in our area, and are plentiful in Trøndelag in mid Norway.” As a result, they are also known there as “Skipskatt” (ship-cat).

In a survey and detailed account of cats he found in Singapore in 1959, Searle had not noted any polydactyls. The only polydactyls I noted in the Malaysia/Singapore region were the Lake Chini cats.


The gene(s) for polydactyly specifically affects the tissue formed at the very end of the limb (apical cap) of a developing embryo. This is the area where the toes will form. If the apical cap is larger than normal, extra toes will develop from it. It is worth noting that physical damage to the apical cap might also trigger the development of extra toes. Branching of the apical cap will lead to complete double paws or, if it branches early enough, to doubled limbs.

The first, and possibly only, major study into classical polydactyly (thumb cats) was conducted in 1947. For his study “Heredity of polydactly in the cat” (Journal of

Heredity 38, 107, 1947) Danforth studied two female polydactyl cats that he housed at his laboratory, The cats came from locations 85 km from each other in California, but the possibility of them being related could not be ruled out. He mated these females with different males and recorded the dates of mating and the physical traits of the kittens. He collated additional information from friends with polydactyl cats.

He noted that the effects of polydactyly could always be seen on the front paws and sometimes also on the hind paws. On the front paws, the first digit was at least enlarged in one front paw and might be doubled or tripled. If the hind paws were also affected, there was at least a rudimentary dew-claw and sometimes additional claws. Where there was a doubled first digit, it was sometimes incompletely formed with the additional digit between the first digit and the other claws. The position of the first digit was also changed a little from normal to resemble a thumb. The four images show different footprints: a normal-footed front paw and 3 expressions of polydactyly:

Danforth mated all possible combinations of his cats: Poly x Poly, Poly x Non-Poly, Non-Poly x Non-Poly. This confirmed that polydactyly was a dominant gene, because in every mating where at least one parent was polydactyly there were polydactyl offspring. In matings between two normal-footed cats there were never any polydactyl offspring. In 3 matings, all offspring were polydactyl and therefore one or both parents were probably homozygous for polydactyly:

The four images show different footprints: a normal-footed front paw and 3 expressions of polydactyly

The four images show different footprints: a normal-footed front paw and 3 expressions of polydactyly

In guinea pigs, one form of polydactyly is lethal when homozygous. Danforth’s studies indicated that this was not the case in cats. In a mating Pp x Pp (heterozygous parents) on average 25 % of the young will be homozygous for polydactyly, 50 % heterozygous for polydactyly and 25 % normal-footed. If the gene was lethal, the 25% of homozygous offspring would die before birth and the litters therefore would be smaller than expected. Danforth found the average litters to be almost the same size (4.12 with offspring homozygous for polydactyly compared to 4.35 for litters where no offspring could be homozygous). This also affected the ratio of polydactyl and normal-footed offspring in a litter. If the gene was lethal when homozygous, there would be (on average) 2 poly kittens for every normal-footed kitten. Danforth’s cats produced a ratio of 77 poly kittens to 22 normal-footed kittens.

Danforth's studies

From these studies, Danforth concluded that polydactyly was a variable expressed dominant gene with no reason to suspect it was lethal when homozygous: “these data lend no support to the assumption that polydactyly in the cat is lethal when homozygous” nor was it associated with the cat’s gender “The trait is not related to sex, and no evidence is found that its gene is lethal” He did not find evidence of split foot or radial hypoplasia in his studies though his second study into feline polydactyly (“Morphology of the Feet in Polydactyl Cats”, 1947) found that cats with 6 metatarsals (toes) tended to have fusion at the ulna which caused varying degrees of rotation of the joint of the radius.

Danforth's studies

In 1955, Albert C Jude, author of “Cat Genetics” (a book that had as much about mice and rabbits than cats!) documented two forms of polydactyly. He wrote that polydactylism (extra digits), and oligodactylism (reduction of toe number) were sometimes reported by the fancy, but were the exception (not selected for) rather than the rule within cat breeding. This meant little data was available on feline polydactyly to permit proper scientific study. He noted that polydactyly involving only the preaxial side of the limb had been documented in cats by Danforth in 1947 and was dominant over the normal form. Most cases of polydactylism in cats observed by Jude had affected the front feet only.

Jude also described another form of polydactyly, the type we now call “mitten cats” but which he called “posterior reduplication”, in his 1955 book: Another interesting deformity – only very occasionally seen in cats, but more frequently seen in some other animals – is known as “posterior reduplication.” The condition was found in a stock of mice by Danforth in 1923, and a description was published by him in 1930. This deformity is mentioned here mainly to show how information of a helpful nature can be given by fanciers. In this instance it came from Mrs. A. Winsor of Hull, a well-known English Abyssinian breeder. Before the war, says Mrs. Winsor, “I had two little black she-cats. One came into season, and a strange gray tom came to investigate. His feet were really amazing. His front legs were very thick and stout, big feet, with normal number of toes. On the inner side of each foot was another smaller foot. A sort of stalk grew from the ankle, as if the ankle bone had been split, and this ended in a complete foot which rested on the ground alongside the normal foot, and turned slightly inward, When sitting he had to advance one leg, as he could not possibly put all his four feet side by side, and when walking he sort of lifted one foot over the other. He mated my queen who was calling at the time and there were two black kittens whom we put to sleep, and two gray-striped, both females. One had just thumbs; the other had seven toes – four ordinary, and three extra where the thumb would be. There was no stalk, but these three toes had a separate pad; they were about the same length as the others, and her feet spread out like paws. She also had a sort of “thumb” half-way up each hind foot, with a claw on the end. The other gray-striped female – the one that had just thumbs – we kept for eight years and then she died. I managed to get a granddaughter who is now seven years old. She has had countless kittens, and about half of every lifter have the ‘Family Feet.’”

It is interesting that Jude differentiated between the 2 types of polydactyly in 1955; differentiating between the two forms has recently become a concern for cat breeders due to the occurrence of Twisty Cats.

According to the late Roy Robinson in his book “Genetics for Cat Breeders”, polydactyly has been officially (scientifically) recorded as early as 1868, though it had been observed earlier and seen frequently since. The distinguishing feature is the presence of extra toes, most noticeably on the front feet. Robinson explains that there is considerable variation in the number of extra toes and in how well-formed they are. The trait ranges from an enlargement of the inside digit into a “thumb” to the formation of three apparently well formed extra toes (i.e. 7 toes on the affected foot). A cat may even have different numbers of toes on each of its front feet.

The hind feet are rarely affected and are only ever affected if the front feet are also affected. I have received a report of a Maine Coon with hind foot polydactyly and apparently normal fore paws; it seems likely that it was genetically polydactyl for all four paws, but that the extra toes had not been visibly expressed in the fore paws for some reason. I also received the following report about a random-bred hind-foot polydactyl with normal front paws.

Karen Kohl's orange tabby kitten (Rufus, pictured) has no thumbs on his front paws and apparently normal front dew claws  but has 6 toes on each of his hind paws.

Karen Kohl's orange tabby kitten (Rufus, pictured) has no thumbs on his front paws and apparently normal front dew claws (described as a short splinter of a nail on the inside of his left front paw), but has 6 toes on each of his hind paws.

Karen Kohl’s orange tabby kitten (Rufus, pictured) has no thumbs on his front paws and apparently normal front dew claws (described as a short splinter of a nail on the inside of his left front paw), but has 6 toes on each of his hind paws. The inside toes of each hind paw are thumb-like and have both a toe pad and an extra palm pad. One of them is retractile like his other toes and one isn’t. Rufus was born in Boston in June, 2003. He and two normal-toed brothers were rescued feral kittens and probably inbred. Rufus was the only healthy one of the three. They were taken to a local cat shelter which had seen one or two cats with more toes on the back paws than on the front so Rufus isn’t the only one and this form of polydactyly me be present in the local feral population. One explanation is that the polydactyly of the front paw has been suppressed by other genes. An alternative is that Rufus and other cats in that area have a mutation which affects only the hind paws – a form of polydactyly previously only seen leopards. Boston has a high incidence of polydactyly; either due to mutations occurring there or due to “lucky” polydactylous ships’ cats being taken there with early settlers.

The normal cat’s front paw has 4 toes and one dewclaw (rudimentary toe or thumb which does not touch the ground) while the back paw has 4 toes. A polydactyl will usually have one or two extra toes on each foot. Most polydactyl cats have a form of pre-axial (i.e. situated in front of the axis of a limb) polydactyly with the extra toes appearing on the thumb side of the foot. The gene for Polydactyly can give rise to either extra toes or extra dewclaws. Each extra toe has its own terminal pad (fingertip) and normally an additional palmar pad and additional plantar pad. When extra toes occur on the hind paws, these are not generally dewclaw. Some owners report their cats have five toes on the hind paws, however by definition a dewclaw does not touch the ground. Possession of a hind dewclaw or extra digit is considered a throwback in cats, but is relatively common in dogs (a photo is shown below for comparison).

Single or double dewclaws occur on the back feet of some dogs (double dewclaw shown here). By definition, dewclaws do not touch the ground.

Single or double dewclaws occur on the back feet of some dogs (double dewclaw shown here). By definition, dewclaws do not touch the ground.

The back paws are only affected if the front paws are also affected. Unlike the front paws, there are not usually distinct "thumbs".

The back paws are only affected if the front paws are also affected. Unlike the front paws, there are not usually distinct "thumbs".

Zelda Anabelle (see note below).

Zelda Anabelle (see note below).

In August 2002, Dominic emailed about the appearance of “thumbs” on the back feet of a polydactyl cat. Both of his polydactyl kittens appeared to have rear thumbs with claws (which were not fully retractile, probably due to the kittens’ young age). The photo above is one of Zelda Annabelle’s hind feet. On closer examination, the extra hind toe is not really a thumb. To be a thumb it needs to have not only a terminal pad (the “fingertip”) but also a palm pad (like the palm of a person’s hand or the ball of a person’s thumb). A feline “thumb” sticks out at a different angle to the other toes, like the thumb of a mitten. It can be wiggled independently of the rest of the foot. Zelda Annabelle’s additional hind toes are typical of polydactyl back feet – they do not have the palm-pads and they follow the curve of the foot. Because the hind paws are constructed differently to the fore paws, there are rarely true “thumbs” on the back feet (only one or two reported cases of opposable hind thumbs, but no photographic evidence).

In reviewing the various reports of polydactyly, Robinson noted that many indicate a dominant gene, but that not all cases need be due to the same mutant gene. It is possible for the exact same gene to have arisen by mutation in different localities at different times which could account for the similar heredity. Some gene loci (areas of chromosome) are more prone to mutation than are others. However, Robinson cautioned his reader that other cases of polydactyly might prove to be inherited differently.

During the 1990s, other researchers reported forms of polydactyly which they believed to be recessive. One researcher into feline curiosities suggested two different dominant forms and one recessive form all of which had subtly different effects on the structure of the paw. This was based on the sudden appearance of polydactyl cats in a population of normal-toed cats. This could only have occurred through a gene mutation or through recessive genes. Apparently the evidence among a number of random-breeding cats suggested a recessive gene for polydactyly.

Dan Williams contacted me in July 2006 about a localised population of cats with about 5-10% polydactyls in Syracuse, Central New York. The “7-toed cats” that are consistent in conformation: 4 regular toes, with an extra toe just outside the innermost digit, but the foot sits flat, including the innermost digit. The 7th toe comes from counting the vestigal toe (dew claw) on the outside, up from the actual paw. There is a digit-less claw between the opposable “thumb” and the wrist. The paw-pads resemble a human hand-print with no separate pad for the dew-claw toe. An analogy is a human with a tiny duplicate unjointed thumb (with nail) growing from the first joint of the normal thumb and which moves with the thumb. Dan thought the gene might be recessive as it only appeared in 5-10% of these random-breeding cats. He also thought it was a mainly male trait. If verified, this would be different from Danforth’s classical polydactyly which is a non-sex-linked dominant trait.

Since polydactyly is seen more commonly in cats compared to other mammalian species, what is it about the cat genome (or kitten developmental processes) that makes polydactyly this common? It could simply be the location of certain gene(s) on the chromosome(s). Because of the way chromosomes are duplicated and shared out in cell division when eggs and sperm are made, some areas of chromosomes are more prone to mutation than others. These are known as mutational hot-spots. During cell division, chromosomes duplicate and the chromosome pairs are physically joined together; these are pulled apart and during separation genes can cross over from one copy to the other. Genes adjacent to the join might be affected by the separation process, resulting in small changes. This hot-spot effect could account for the spontaneous appearance of unrelated polydactyl cats in widely separated areas.

Some polydactyls (mitten cats) have double or triple dewclaws because the genes seem to give the instruction “add another digit to what is already present” rather than saying “produce 5 toes instead of 4” or “produce 6 toes instead of 4”. Back in the 1960s, a cat lover in an English village reported a high incidence of polydactyl cats, mostly fathered by a local tomcat. Each generation of cats had more toes than the mother – as if the genes simply said “add another toe”. Presumably there was either a limit to how many toes could be added or the tomcat left the area as the phenomenon was not reported again.

There is a similar report from the USA. Each successive generation of a colony of barn cats had more toes than the previous one. Eventually this led to crippling. The colony was severely inbred with each generation being fathered by the same polydactyl tomcat. When he disappeared, a non-polydactyl cat took his place and no further crippled kittens occurred. I also received a first hand account of crippling in later generations of polydactyl barn cats (relating to the writer’s grandmother’s farm). This may be the same case. Although the latter report of inbred polydactyl farm cats claimed up to 12 toes per paw, this extreme number is unlikely; 8 or 9 is generally the upper limit. The gene is variable in expression so in these colonies, paws range from mitten-paws (with a “thumb”) through to double paws.

So far, veterinary literature has not confirmed the “add another toe” gene. Even in the homozygous state (which would occur in inbred colonies), the most common form of polydactyly does not appear to be detrimental to health. However, there is another gene, which resembles polydactyly, which causes severe crippling. Radial hypoplasia (RH) is discussed later in this article.

Polydactyly is probably an incomplete dominant. With a normal dominant trait, a cat either has the trait or doesn’t have it. With an incomplete dominant there are different “levels” of the trait depending on whether the cat is homozygous or heterozygous for the trait. A homozygous cat shows the trait more fully than a heterozygous cat. This may have been the explanation for the apparent “add another toe” form of the gene in the English village cats. Observation suggests that the incomplete dominant is expressed only 40%-50% of the time when inherited – this concurs nicely with the 50/50 split of polydactyl/non-polydactyl in Hemingway’s colony.

The suggested recessive form may also be due to incomplete dominance. The apparently “normal footed” cats would have been polydactyls with barely discernible extra toes, but whose offspring had more prominent extra toes – giving the appearance of either spontaneous mutation or recessive genes.

Because several different genotypes (genetic make-up) produced a similar or identical phenotype (physical appearance) it could be difficult to identify which cat carried which mutation. As it turns out, there are several forms of polydactyly due to several genes which produce a similar-looking trait and in the 2000s, the need to identify and isolate the various forms became crucial due to fears of a link with radial hypoplasia (Twisty Cat mutation). There was evidence for a second dominant form of polydactyly which resulted in a different form and structure to the familiar “mitten cat” form and which affects not only the paw, but the whole leg.

The form of polydactyly most commonly seen in cats is a simple autosomal (i.e. not linked to gender) dominant trait which does not affect the cat adversely and is not associated with other abnormalities. Despite suggestions of “natural snowshoes” there is no real evidence that polydactyly has any significant natural selective advantage or disadvantage. If it was disadvantageous, polydactyl cats would quickly have died out. It is simply an endearing anomaly.

It has been said that if the parent has extra toes, the kittens inherit extra toes in the same configuration as the polydactyl parent. So, if the parent has double dewclaws, the kittens have double dew claws and if the parent has an extra toe, so will the kittens. This may not be 100% true because there are undoubtedly numerous gene mutations causing polydactyly. This may be true in polydactyl breeding programs where cats are carefully matched, but in the random-breeding population, the incomplete dominance of polydactyly means the configuration is variable – and it also depends on what genes the kitten inherits from the other parent!

It is reported that in Maine Coons (where there is work to restore the polydactyl form of the breed), non-polydactyl kittens born to a polydactyl parent appear to have heavier boning in the legs and chest than kittens born to two non-polydactyl parents. In random-breeding cats, polydactyls often appear robust, but this may be due to the overall impression caused by big feet.

Copyright & Credit:
Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy: Sarah Hartwell

Polydactyl Cats – Part 2

| November 6, 2010

Polydactyly (six or seven toes) varies from the classic "mitten cat" through to cats which simply have more toes than normal, but no "thumb".Robert O'Rourke's "Paulie" (Paulie-dactyl!) also has extra palm pads on the back feet.

Polydactyly (six or seven toes) varies from the classic "mitten cat" through to cats which simply have more toes than normal, but no "thumb".Robert O'Rourke's "Paulie" (Paulie-dactyl!) also has extra palm pads on the back feet.


Most expressions of polydactyly are not a handicap to the cat (such as the polydactyl kitten pictured here). The exception is the gene which causes a whole spectrum of effects ranging from extra toes through to radial hypolasia/radial agenesis (the “thalidomide” or “twisty” mutation). This is the gene which causes a condition known as triphalangeal pollex-radial hypoplasia. In mice, there are several gene mutations known to cause this form of polydactylism; unlike conventional “thumb cat” polydactyly, the mutations seem to cause more general disruption of limb formation in an embryo.

Most expressions of polydactyly are not a handicap to the cat

Most expressions of polydactyly are not a handicap to the cat (such as the polydactyl kitten pictured here). The exception is the gene which causes a whole spectrum of effects ranging from extra toes through to radial hypolasia/radial hemimelia/radial agenesis (the "thalidomide" or "twisty" mutation).

This is the “second dominant form of polydactyly” mentioned earlier. With this trait the pollex (thumb) has an extra joint, making it look more like a human finger than the usual rudimentary feline dewclaw. This triphalangeal (three-boned) thumb may be duplicated and sometimes the next digit is also duplicated. A cat with triphalangeal pollices (three-boned thumbs) may produce kittens with hypoplasia (underdevelopment) or aplasia (absence) of the radius, one of the two bones that make up the forearm. Hypoplasia, according to the Cornell Book of Cats, 1997, is “underdevelopment of a given tissue.” So in cats with radial hypoplasia (RH) the radius in the front leg will be underdeveloped or missing.

Because the usual form of polydactyly is so variable in expression, X-rays are needed in order to distinguish between the harmless usual form of polydactyly and the form associated with RH. Some polydactyl cats without dewclaws have 5 or 6 toes all the same length (called “patty” feet). This trait is the one most often associated with RH. However, not all cats with additional same-length toes have the gene for RH. In cats without dew claws or visible thumbs, an X-ray is required to determine whether the radius is deformed in any way – if it is, the cat carries the gene for RH. The gene for RH is variable in expression (possible due to incomplete dominance/heterozygous vs homozygous state), ranging from extra toes to crippling leg deformities, hence the need to determine which non-mitten polydactyls carry the gene for RH and which carry the more usual form of polydactyly.

In a physical examination, the best way to tell the difference is to check for dewclaws. Polydactyl cats without dewclaws are disqualified from shows but may safely produce normal-footed show-quality offspring which can be used in breeding. The cats should be bred with non-polydactyl cats to keep the trait heterozygous as it appears to be the homozygous cats which are affected by RH. A number of genes in cats are less harmful in the heterozygous form, but are either crippling or lethal in the homozygous form e.g. the Manx mutation, the Scottish Fold mutation.


The following photos show Aurora, a hind-paws-only polydactyl Maine Coon kitten bred from non-polydactyl bloodlines by Paul and Natasja in The Netherlands. There are no poly cats within the first six generations and parents, grandparents, about 30 relatives and also related lines are non-polydactyl. Aurora’s 3 brothers have no signs of anything similar.

Aurora, a hind-paws-only polydactyl Maine Coon kitten bred from non-polydactyl bloodlines by Paul and Natasja in The Netherlands

Aurora, a hind-paws-only polydactyl Maine Coon kitten bred from non-polydactyl bloodlines by Paul and Natasja in The Netherlands

Aurora has true dewclaws on both her paws. They form a normal thumb and are complete: footbed, nail and muscles. Usually extra toes only occur on the back feet if the front feet are also polydactyl. Aurora does not have polydactyl front paws. Also unusually, the extra toes on the back paws are true dew claws, placed higher up than ordinary toes. According to Paul “We only discovered it last Friday, when Natasja thought her headache was playing tricks with her. She checked four times if the tail was still at the back, and it still was.”

A similar case has apparently occurred in a Norwegian Forest Cat but there is no further information. Another has turned up in a Manx out of British bloodlines and has not been inherited by any of his offspring (ruling out a dominant gene). Current thoughts are that it is a random mutation, the result of polygenes meeting up or a non-genetic developmental trait. A recessive gene would have shown up in other cats. Aurora will later be test-mated to see if the trait is hereditary.

Stacey Bliss also has a hind paw polydactyl which had an extra toe on the right hind paw and lacked front dew claws. She had previously produced mitten cats, including Stacey’s silver tabby cat Mia, and recently gave birth to a male orange kitten with no front dew-claws, but with extra toes on the hind paws. The kitten’s front feet were at first at an odd angle, being bent down more like a human’s wrist, but as he began to crawl and eventually walk, his feet flattened out. Stacey believes it may have been due to some lack of bones in the feet, but sadly the kitten vanished at the age of 10 weeks before this could be investigated. Mitten-pawed Mia is due to have a planned litter in Spring 2005, after which she will be spayed, and it will be interesting to see what form of polydactyly she passes on.

Aurora has true dewclaws on both her paws. They form a normal thumb and are complete: footbed, nail and muscles.

Aurora has true dewclaws on both her paws. They form a normal thumb and are complete: footbed, nail and muscles.


In general, polydactyly causes no ill-effects in cats. It is certainly not a handicap and is an anomaly (deviation from the norm) rather than a deformity. Although some owners like to have the extra toe removed for cosmetic or safety reasons, cats rarely catch the extra toe(s) on furnishings. In rare cases, nail growth can be affected, but only if the extra toe is incompletely formed and the nail bed is deformed. This can lead to a number of claw problems such as ingrowing claws, overgrown claws or “superclaw syndrome”.

Sometimes a claw develops between the thumb and the rest of the paw as Brian Tinker describes regarding his grey cat “Buddy”. Buddy’s back paws have 5 toes each, 4 normal ones and 1 dew claw. His front paws have between 5 and 7 toes each. The left front paw has 4 normal toes and an opposable thumb that remains underneath the paw and cannot lay in line with the rest of the toes. Between the opposable thumb and the regular toes (i.e. in the angle or crevice) was an additional claw. This was not associated with a toe and simply stuck out from the skin, unfortunately tearing the surrounding skin. Above the thumb is a vestigial toe that is only discernible through handling. On the right front paw, a similar vestigial toe has a segment of extra, jointed bone that can be felt and seen, but has no muscles or tendons controlling it (it can be freely wiggled up and down by the owner). On the right front paw, the thumb lies in line with the rest of the toes, but can also wrap downwards as an opposable digit. One of the claws on the right thumb became deformed and curled around on itself. The claw had died and snapped off easily. The nail-bed has since been removed.

Overgrown claws are not restricted to polydactyl cats, but are more common in polydactyls because the extra toe is often shorter than the regular toes or it points in a slightly different directions. This means that the cat is unable to strop the extra claws on a scratching post. Unless clipped regularly, the claw can become overgrown and embed themselves in the paw pad.

Ingrowing claws grow twisted or crooked instead of growing straight with a smooth downward curve. Ingrown claws can grow into the paw pad and need either more frequent clipping or surgical removal. In the UK, such problem claws are the only time when declawing (of the affected toes only) is permitted. Ingrowing dewclaws can also occur in non-polydactyl cats where the claw grows into side of the foot.

If the claw is set in such a way that it snags on furnishings etc, it can tear and infection can set in. Nail-bed infections or nail bed damage can lead to abnormal claw growth e.g. thickening or twisting. Where the toes are cramped together, the skin between them should be checked for infection as it provides a handy undisturbed crevice for bacteria. In general, the cat’s own cleaning routine should prevent this, but if the toes cannot be spread then its tongue cannot easily clean between them.

If two extra toes are fused together, the nail bed will also be fused. The claw that grows from this dual nail bed can also be fused, leading to something known colloquially as “superclaw syndrome”. The fused claw or “superclaw” is thicker than a regular claw and may twist abnormally. A non-twisting superclaw is not normally painful for the cat, but because the claw is thicker and stronger than usual, it can gouge wood – and flesh – more deeply than a regular claw. If the superclaw grows twisted, there is a danger that it will become ingrown.

Where the extra toe causes repeated problems, it can be removed in a straightforward operation, but this is rarely necessary.


Historically, the polydactyl made up 40% of the original unregistered Maine Coon population. There are claims that the extra toes acted as snowshoes, helping these rugged cats negotiate snowy New England winters. Local folk tales claimed that these cats were fierce hunters who used their oversized paws to catch live fish, even taking fresh fish home to feed their owners! However, breed standards made no allowance for polydactyl Maine Coons and stipulated a normal foot configuration. Because polydactyly in the Maine Coon is due to the autosomal dominant gene, the trait could easily be eliminated by breeding only from non-polydactyl Maine Coons. The trait was deliberately bred out of Maine Coons and only recently have there been attempts to reinstate it.

Selection against polydactyly means the trait seems to have become associated with the term “harmful deformity” in many minds and there have even been postings on Usenet stating, quite erroneously, that “polydactyl cats almost always have some other sort of abnormality”. Many cat registries happily recognise breeds defined by mutations which can have lethal or crippling effects such as spina bifida in the Manx, but refuse to permit polydactyl cats as either breeds or breed variants. Some cat enthusiasts feel that registries are right in refusing to accept polydactyl cats, fearing that breeders would try to produce cats with excessive and disabling numbers of toes on each paw. Since polydactyly doesn’t work in this way and the number of toes appears to be limited, those fears are largely unfounded. In addition, breed standards could be written to define the maximum number of toes in polydactyl breeds to discourage such attempts.

Polydactyly is one of the traits of the PixieBob breed. Early write-ups on this breed suggested that only normal-footed PixieBobs would be accepted for shows. What one registry would not accept, another embraced and as well as the American Polydactyl, PixieBob and Polydactyl Maine Coons there are other polydactyl breeds being developed including the suggestion of a Hemingway Sphynx (a hairless polydactyl cat) and of developing polydactyl Munchkins a (short-legged polydactyl). The Mojave Spotted (formerly Hemingway Spotted) is being developed from Bengal x Polydactyl crosses. Several breeders in Illinois are working with a curl-eared polydactyl cat called Tulips. Tulips were originally developed in the 1990s by crossing American Curls with polydactyls, creating a harlequin patterned semi-longhaired breed. The markings, which can be any colour, are restricted to the head, down the spine, shoulders, hips and tail.

Mojave Spotted  Developed from Bengal x Polydactyl crosses.

Mojave Spotted (formerly Hemingway Spotted): Developed from Bengal x Polydactyl crosses.

In New Zealand, a polydactyl breed called the Clippercat is under development. These are descended from domestic cats that are themselves descended from polydactyls that reached the country on the Clipper Ships between 1850 and 1900.

In Britain, polydactyly is still considered a serious breed fault or defect. According to one breeder, polydactyls can be shown but cannot receive certificates or a first prize in the GCCF. Other sources state that the GCCF absolutely prohibits the showing of polydactyl pedigree cats and that they would be turned away during vetting in (with exceptions for those shown as household pets). A complete bar on the showing of polydactyl cats would be especially unfortunate for owners who wish to show polydactyl household pets and in some registries (FIFe), the prejudice is so great that polydactyl cats were banned from Cat Association shows. They feel that encouraging such abnormalities encourages inbreeding. The blunt statement is that polydactyly is a fault and cats with such defects are not allowed to be shown. This is a totally inconsistent approach since taillessness is also a fault, yet the Manx breed is perpetuated and shown. There are far fewer detrimental side-effects associated with polydactyly than there are with the Manx. The usual argument in these cases is that the Manx is a historical breed even though the polydactyly trait is equally historical. Not to mention that such bodies recognise ultra-typed or extreme Persians whose faces are so compressed that their tear ducts are distorted and their breathing may be compromised. It has to be noted that cat fancies are consistently inconsistent in their approach in such matters!

The GCCF is an extremely restrictive and conservative cat fancy. Its “Standard list of withholding faults – all breeds” (dated 13/10/95) states that certificates and first prizes be withheld for a number of defects considered undesirable in breeding stock and detrimental to individual cats. This includes “Abnormal number of toes – anything other than four toes on each foot and one dew-claw on each foreleg.” This applies only to pedigree breeds; non-pedigrees do not have standards of points. This withholding is usually academic, because cats with “defects” (according the GCCF definition of defect) should not pass the vetting-in stage. The “Rules, section 5, veterinary surgeons” (effective 1 June 1997) has Rule 10 which bars “Exhibits which have been declawed should be rejected (see Section 4 Rule 14) together with polydactyls and cats with folded ears, curly tails or any other abnormality. With the exception of declawing, this does not apply to unregistered non-pedigree exhibits.” In spite of its stance on abnormalities, the GCCF’s double standards means it has not prevented the increasingly abnormal ultra-typing of Persians or Siamese. Even though non-pedigrees are not covered by the GCCF ban on showing polydactyls, it is possible that some judges mark down a polydactyl in the non-pedigree classes because of ingrained views that it is a defect.

The British prejudice against polydactyly may have to change following the importation of PixieBobs into Britain in 2004. In The Netherlands and Belgium, there is a move to restore the polydactyl lines of Maine Coon and the attitudes of the European registries, particularly FIFe, may also have to change. However, in Germany, the prejudice has legal backing as it is forbidden to breed cats (and dogs) that have genetic defects. “Defects” encompasses the harmless anomalies as well as the more harmful mutations. It remains to be seen how the British cat fancies cope with Polydactyl Maine Coons and Pixie-Bobs.

In Germany, the Federal Government erroneously decided polydactyly was a semi-lethal (deferred-lethal) defect and have banned the deliberate breeding of polydactyl cats under their Animal Protection Law. They based the decision on a paper by S & H Willer (“Gene Sites and Alleles of Domestic Cat with Pathological Effects or Side Effects”) which stated, erroneously, that polydactyly is and “autosomal dominant semi-lethal error with modificator effect.” V Schmidt und M. CH Horzinek refer to S & H Willer’s mistake that polydactyly is semi-lethal in the German book “Krankheiten der Katze” (Diseases of the cat).

Having persuaded the American cat fancy that polydactyly was not a deformity, the trait was soon back in the feline geneticists’ spotlight due to its unfortunate association with the Twisty Cat. Twisty Cats have a crippling deformity of the forelegs. They arose spontaneously when a horse-breeder began to breed Poly-Bobs, a type of cat sometimes confused with the PixieBob. Some Poly-Bob litters contained kittens with flipper-like forelegs. The mutation is occasionally found at random in the cat population, but was occurring with greater frequency in Poly-Bob litters. This was the second form of polydactyly and its effects ranged from the Poly-Bob’s simple extra toes through to the Twisty Cat’s vestigial or missing long bones of the leg.

Some breeders and cat lovers have become concerned that the Twisty trait was the hidden downside of polydactyly and that “all polydactyly was bad” despite the fact that perfectly healthy extra-toed cats have been around for hundreds of years. Most forms of polydactyly are no more than a harmless and attractive quirk. In polydactyl cats, it has become important to work out which ones have which gene, so that breeders working with polydactyls do not inadvertantly breed crippled kittens.

In 2006, TICA proposed to clamp down on certain breeding trends, including the creation of new polydactyl breeds created through crossing to other breeds. Their Genetics Committee report stated: “The Committee proposes that TICA does not accept any proposed breeds for Registration Only status that do not exhibit novel mutations. The current mutations would be reserved for currently recognized breeds exclusively. This would end the seemingly endless applications for “munchkinized” new breeds, and then deter the inevitable introduction of “rexed”, “Bob-tailed” and Poly-ed” everything else.”


Polydactyly is not limited to domestic cats. It is also found in big cats, though this is less widely reported for the obvious reason that we do not (normally) share our homes with big cats!

In 1925, The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society published a photograph of a polydactyl leopard. It had an extra claw-bearing toe on each hind paw. Several years earlier it had published a letter regarding a leopard shot by S Eardley-Wilmot – this creature had an extra claw-bearing toe on each hind paw. In 1946, the same journal published a letter from another big game hunter who had also shot a leopard with extra toes (again fully functional with claws) on the hind feet.

Probably the most interest fact is that the leopards had the extra toes on the hind feet and not the front feet whereas in domestic cats, the hind feet are only affected if the forepaws are affected. This means that a different gene was responsible for hind-foot polydactyly in leopards … and what can occur in a big cat might possible one day appear in domestic cats.

There are unverified reports of polydactyl tigers in China. The tale of a race of unusually large tigers with “thumbs” would appear to be exaggeration, but it is conceivably based on polydactyl individuals. None have been captured or photographed.


* A dominant gene is one which shows up when only one copy of that gene is inherited- one for the mother OR one from the father.
* A recessive gene is one which only shows up if the cat inherits two copies of that gene – one from the mother AND one from the father.
* Heterozygous means that the two genes in a pair are different, the cat will not breed true for that trait as some of the offspring inherit the hidden recessive gene.
* Homozygous means that the two genes in a pair are identical and the cat will breed true for that trait.
* Autosomal means the gene is carried on an ordinary paired chromosome, not on the sex-linked X or Y chromosomes.
* Atavism (and atavistic) means the reappearance of an ancestral characteristic after several generations of absence; caused by chance mutation or by recombination of genes.
* Digit means finger or toe.
* A dewclaw is a vestigial (rudimentary) toe or claw which does not touch the ground, it sometimes resembles a thumb (pollex) which is smaller than the other toes.
* The phalanges are the bones inside the fingers and toes.
* Pre-axial means situated in front of the axis of a limb
* The radius is the long bone of the lower forelimb; in humans it is the forearm (elbow to wrist).
* The pollex (plural: pollices) is the thumb.
* The plantar pad is the heel pad of the paw.
* The palmar pad is the palm-pad of the paw.
* The apical cap is the tip of the limb-bud in a developing embryo.

Copyright & Credit:
Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy: Sarah Hartwell

Polydactylism (Extra Toes)

| June 1, 2012

Historically, the original unregistered Maine Coon cats had a high incidence of polydactylism – around 40%! It has been written that the extra toes evolved as a “snowshoe foot” to help Maine Coons walk in the snow, and local folk tales claimed that these cats used their big mitts to catch live fish right out of the streams, taking them home to feed their owners

As a veterinarian who specializes in cats, I frequently come across cats and kittens in need of a good home. Fortunately, my hospital is located in a fairly residential part of Manhattan, and our clients, friends, and neighbors have adopted over 100 of our kitties in the past three years. For years, I resisted (with difficulty) taking one home myself, for fear of upsetting Crispy, my high-maintenance diva cat. Recently, though, I succumbed to the charms of “Mittens”, a 14 week-old calico. What mesmerized me about Mittens wasn’t simply her cute face, her winning personality, and her adorable meow. I confess, I was bowled over by her freaky feet!

Mittens, you see, is a polydactyl cat. Polydactyly (from the Greek: poly = many, daktulos = fingers) is a common trait among cats. It is a naturally occurring genetic variation that occurs in many animals as well as in humans. Although the trait had been observed earlier, the first official scientific recording of polydactyly was in 1868.

The lore behind polydactyl cats is intriguing. It is believed that English Puritans may have taken polydactyl cats on their ships to Boston during the mid-1600s, although it is also possible that the mutation developed in cats already residing in the Boston area. The offspring of these cats are believed to have then traveled on trading ships from Boston to Yarmouth, Massachusetts and Halifax, Nova Scotia, which might explain why these areas have a higher than normal incidence of polydactyly. In Norway, polydactyl cats are known as “ship’s cats” because the extra toes supposedly give them better balance on ships in stormy weather. In fact, polydactyl cats were considered to be lucky by sailors. Sailors also considered them to be much better mousers. Their presence on ships as mousers and lucky mascots suggests that they would have indeed reached America with early British settlers, explaining the increased incidence in the northeastern United States. It has been said that there are less polydactyl cats in Europe because many of these cats were destroyed due to witchcraft superstitions.

Polydactyl cats are occasionally referred to as “mitten cats” (explaining my cat’s corny name), “thumb cats”, and “Hemingway cats”, the latter name referring to the writer Ernest Hemingway, who made his home on the small island of Key West, Florida. Hemingway shared the island with almost 50 cats, including a six-toed polydactyl named Snowball (or possibly Princess) given to him by a ship captain and drinking buddy named Stanley Dexter. For the next 100 years, unrestrained breeding between this cat’s descendents and the local cats (alas, they weren’t as keen on spaying and neutering as we are today) led to a high percentage (almost 50%!) of polydactyls in the local population. Hemingway isn’t the only famous person who’s linked to polydactyl cats. President Theodore Roosevelt had a polydactyl cat named Slippers who was one of the first feline residents of the White House.

Historically, the original unregistered Maine Coon cats had a high incidence of polydactylism – around 40%! It has been written that the extra toes evolved as a “snowshoe foot” to help Maine Coons walk in the snow, and local folk tales claimed that these cats used their big mitts to catch live fish right out of the streams, taking them home to feed their owners! These stories are charming, however, there is no evidence that polydactylism confers any natural selective advantage to affected cats. Breed standards required a normal foot configuration, and did not allow polydactyly in Maine Coons, and so the trait was deliberately bred out of this breed. In the Netherlands and Belgium, there is currently a move to restore the polydactyl form of the breed.
Although polydactylism is alluring, breeding cats deliberately for polydactylism is controversial. Some cat enthusiasts fear that unscrupulous breeders would try to produce cats with excessive and disabling numbers of toes on each paw. Fortunately, polydactyl genetics doesn’t work this way; you can only fit so many toes on a cat’s foot. Even so, a good compromise would be to write breed standards to define the maximum number of toes allowed, to discourage such attempts.

Normally, a cat has 18 digits. The front paw has five toes – four toes and one dewclaw (the small toe on the medial side of the foot that doesn’t touch the ground). Most polydactyl cats have one or two extra toes on each foot, with the extra toes appearing on the thumb side of the foot. The normal rear paw has four toes.

The gene for polydactylism can give rise to either extra toes or extra dewclaws. Each toe has its own “terminal pad” (the fingertip pad) and often an extension of the palmar pad (the larger pad on the front foot) or plantar pad (the larger pad on the rear foot). It is possible for cats to even have different numbers of toes on each of its front feet! Most cases of polydactylism affect the front feet only. The hind feet are less often affected. When they are, it is usually in addition to having polydactyl front feet. It is quite rare to find a cat with polydactyl rear paws and normal front paws. When polydactylism does occur on the hind paws, it tends to cause extra toes rather than a dewclaw. My mutant Mittens, however, has a dewclaw on each of her rear feet.

There is a lot of variation regarding the number of extra toes and how well-formed they are. The most common form of polydactylism results in cats with well-formed extra toes. Others have an enlargement of the inside digit to a degree that it looks like a “thumb”. This is conventional “thumb cat” polydactyly. And then there’s my freaky little Mittens, who has the other form (some would say the “bad” form) of polydactyly. While most expressions of polydactylism are harmless, there is a gene which can cause a wide range of defects ranging from extra toes (no big deal) to missing or abnormal bones (a potentially disabling deformity). Examples of this would be the “twisty” mutation, a genetic defect that causes hypoplasia (underdevelopment) or agenesis (absence) or the radius, a major bone of the forearm. One striking result of this gene is the “triphalangeal pollex” – a thumb with an extra joint (a “three-boned” thumb), making it look more like an extra finger than the usual little dewclaw. Cats with these three-boned thumbs, like my Mittens, carry the gene that could put their offspring at risk of producing kittens with underdevelopment or absence of forearm deformities. Of course, we don’t need to worry about Mittens. I spayed her myself at 6 months of age. Oh, to complicate matters further, Mittens has a tiny little toe between her normal index finger and her three-boned thumb.

Genetically, polydactylism is a simple autosomal (not related to gender) dominant trait. Cats with extra toes have the dominant gene, Pd. A cat needs only one copy of this gene from either parent to have the trait. If one parent has it, 40 – 50% of the kittens will have it too. Although it has been said that if the parent has extra toes, the kittens inherit extra toes in the same configuration the extra-toed parent, this isn’t 100% true, because polydactylism genes show “incomplete dominance”. In other words, the genes inherited from the normal parent do figure into things, and the configuration of the kittens’ toes can vary. Because many polydactyl cats carry the gene for normal toes, the trait is never “fixed”. In other words, even breeding two polydactyls doesn’t guarantee all the kittens will be polydactyl. Inbreeding would increase the percentage of polydactyl offspring, but there will always be a few normal-toed kittens in the litter, because of that recessive gene.

Polydactylism doesn’t affect cats adversely. It offers them no advantages, nor does it yield any disadvantages. (If it did, polydactyl cats would have likely died out fairly quickly.) It is simply an enchanting quirk. It is an anomaly – a deviation from the norm – rather than a deformity. While people often worry about cats catching the extra toes on furnishings, this is rarely a problem. The toenails associated with the extra toes tend to be normal nails, although occasionally, the extra toe is incompletely formed, and the nail bed is deformed, leading to claw problems like ingrown or overgrown claws. Like all kitty toenails, the extra ones require regular trimming.

In case you were wondering, the most toes ever found on a cat is 32 – eight on each paw – was reported in October 1974. The current verified record holder is “Tiger”, a 27-toed cat residing in Alberta, Canada. Tiger has seven toes on each front foot, seven on her left hind foot, but only six on her right hind. Mittens, with 22 toes, has a long way to go.

Copyright & Credit:
Article Source:
Dr. Arnold Plotnick is a board-certified veterinary internist and feline specialist. He is the owner of Manhattan Cat Specialists, , a full-service veterinary facility located in New York City. Dr. Plotnick is the medical editor of Catnip magazine and is a medical advice columnist on CatChannel. He authors his own blog “Cat Man Do”

Photo copyright and courtesy: Nickolas Titkov

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