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Why do cats have only four toes on their back paws? Does anyone have an idea? It was really a surprise for me to know about that and now I can hardly find a reason why it's so.
Approved answer (verified by Ruslana)
The question is not why they have only 4 toes on their hind feet, but why they have 5 on their front feet. 4 toes is extremely common in the animal kingdom. 5 toes is a phenomenon seen mostly in primates and humans. The extra toe helps walk erect, mainly improving balance. Having 5 toes on the front is much more uncommon. The reason is the extra digit vastly improves their climbing abilities, which is common to all members of the cat family, except for the cheetah. (Some cats such as lions generally choose not to climb, but are more than capable).
As to why members of the cat family don't just have five toes on all 4 feet, i'm not so sure. Since so many animals have 4 toes, it must provide some sort of advantage, perhaps with speed.
Probably one of mysteries of the mother nature?
I think they don't need the fifth toe on the back paw. Like in humans, the fifth toe helps catch prey and climb. A cat rarely catches anything with back paws, don't they? This is what I think at least.
My cat was attacked by a shaefer size dog and he fought back furiously. Apart the shock surprisingly only some nails of the hind paws are broken or missing. At first I thought the fifth toe, which is usually higher, had been teared off in the fight. But as there seemed to be no wound I started wondering it there is the fifth toe...? What if during the evolution the cats with 5 hind toes were not successful, because in fight the toes might tear off and get inflamed.
I came across this post when I was looking for cats with 5 toes on the rear feet. My cat has a 5th toe on each of his back feet that look like dew claws, but are very tiny and do not have joints. I don't think they are usable in any situation. But they have nails. I know a lot of cats have extra toes but I found this to be strange being that it isn't a toe that serves a purpose.
I just read on the cat fancy web site that a Korat has 5 up and 4 back ... and are not show quality if they dont have the 5 front toes. My cat is like the Korat .... coloring, markings, ear shapes, every thing like one. She has the silver tipped hair. I just need to count her toes. But for your question some times it is a breed thing, or maybe a mix of that breed with another cat.