Like a handful of other animals – including birds, dogs and dinosaurs – cats actually walk on their toes. This is the primary reason declawing, which includes amputation of their toes up to the first knuckle, is so cruel.
Generally, cats’ front paws have five toes and seven pads while their back paws have four toes and five pads. Occasionally, however, you’ll encounter “polydactyl” cats who have additional toes on all four paws. “Poly” is a Greek word meaning “many” or “more than one” and ”dactyl” means “finger”. The extra toes are due to a mutant gene passed down from a parent cat. Most polydactyl cats have only one or two extra toes, but occasionally they can have as many as 3 or 4. The current official world record holder has 27 toes, but another cat in Maine, US, has submitted proof of 28 toes total.
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 like we do. Instead, ‘though they do sweat through their paws, they rely more on the evaporation of saliva off their fur to maintain normal body temperature. Cat’s paws also contain scent glands, and the scent, mixed with the sweat from their paws, is used to mark their territory while they’re engaged in walking, kneading and scratching behaviors.
And speaking of scratching, in addition to marking their territory, cats use scratching posts and other surfaces to hook their claws in deep to allow them to engage in a full body stretch. This benefits them physically and mentally and is another reason not to declaw.
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