Why do so many cats have white paws? © Getty Images
© Getty Images

Why do so many cats have white paws?

Published: 30th July, 2022 at 11:00
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This distinctive feature can be seen on moggies everywhere.

The white socks of domestic cats have their origins deep in the past. During the process of domestication, which began around 10,000 years ago, the tamest moggies were bred together to produce calmer, friendlier animals, but there was an unanticipated consequence in the form of white flashes and paws.


These features are caused by a developmental quirk, which occurs whilst the embryonic kitten slumbers in its mother’s womb, and which stymies the ability of would-be pigment cells to mature properly. People liked these unusual markings, so they bred the animals together, and over time, white socks and splodges became more common.

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Asked by: Peter Robinson


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Helen Pilcher
Helen PilcherScience writer, presenter and performer.

Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer, with a PhD in cell biology.


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