WHAT IS POLYDACTYLY?
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.
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.
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.
For more information go to this web site: POLYDACTYL CATS