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Monday, March 18, 2019

Cat Toes and Falling Cats

     A polydactyl cat has a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as hyperdactyly), which causes the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws. But, we’re not taking about them. 
     Counting cat toes seem simple until you actually do it because are you counting all toes or just functional toes?  You could count a fifth little toe on your cat's front paws, but usually not on the back ones. 
     Although a cat has four toes on each back foot and five on each front foot, one of the five front toes isn’t used, so they have four functional toes on the front and back. 
     The functional toes have claws that retract when they're not in use, helping them to stay sharp and unbroken for when they're needed. That fifth toe on the front feet is a dew claw. 
     Dew claws are on the inside of the foot, a little bit above the others and they don't touch the ground and normally are not retractable. Dew claws often get snagged on things and usually needs clipping more often than her other claws to prevent it from growing in a circle and back into her toe. 
     Cats have more pads than toes. On the front feet there are seven pads, one for each toe, a big pad in the middle, and a tiny one a bit higher up. These sensitive pads help cats sneak around silently plus they also help announce where they have been. When a cat scratches on a tree (or your furniture) the pads release a scent that tells other cats somebody else has been there. 
     Made famous by Ernest Hemingway, polydactyl cats have extra toes on their front paws. Usually, it's just one extra toe per paw, but occasionally there might br two or three extras. If the toe count goes past five, it’s a genetic mutation that is often found in some cat lines.
     Usually the extra toe is a functional toe, but it's common for them to have nails that grow at odd angles and that require frequent trimmings. The current official world record holder has 27 toes.
     All cats have claws and all except the cheetah can retract them at will. Along with the giraffe and the camel, cats step with both left legs, then both right legs when they walk or run. Cats don’t have sweat glands on their bodies so sweat through their paws, but they rely more on the evaporation of saliva off their fur to maintain normal body temperature. 
     While we are on the subject of cats, I've included a video explaining why cats land on their feet.  We once had a cat jump out a second floor window onto concrete and land unhurt. One cat that fell32 stories onto concrete suffered only a chipped tooth and a collapsed lung and was released after 48 hours.  
     It's quite possible for a cat to survive at a terminal velocity of 60 miles per hour, as demonstrated by a study done on 132 cats falling an average of 5.5 stories, published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 90 percent survived, albeit many required medical attention.
     Theoretically if you throw a cat off a 13th floor it wouldn't matter how much higher you go because the cat will hit the ground with the same velocity and force as it did on the 13th floor. If scientists are correct, a cat could survive a fall of the Empire State Building. Where are they Mythbusters when you need them?

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