April 30, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday: Polydactyl Cats


Most cats have 4 toes on their back feet and 5 toes on their front feet, giving them a total of 18 toes. Polydactyl (pronounced pol-ee-dak-til) cats on the other hand can have up to 7 toes per paw.

Dexter Hemingway the Twenty-Two Toed Tabby

Dexter Hemingway: The Twenty-Two Toed Tabby

Dexter Hemingway: The Twenty-Two Toed Tabby
If the work polydactyl is Greek to you, that’s because it is. The Greek origin of poly means “many” and daktylos means “digits or toes.” There was once a polydactyl cat named Jake who held the record for having the most toes with 28. There are polydactyl cats in Europe, Asia and the United States. They first arrived in the Boston area during the 17th Century. There are concentrations of polydactyl cats in Boston, Yarmouth, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. At the other ends of the ancient shipping line between the Old and the New World is Southwest England, and so it is not surprising to find a concentration of cats here. The Cardigan area was an especially busy port, and the polydactyl cats in the area are fittingly called cardi-cats.

The extra toes are caused by a genetic mutation, which appears in other mammals as well, but seems to be most common in cats. It seems any cat breed can be polydactyl, but it seems this trait is most common in Maine Coons - as much as 40% of the breed used to be polydactyl before the breeding standards were set so that polydactyl Maine Coons were basically bred out. Local legends tell of these polydactyl Maine Coons catching fish straight from the water with their huge paws, and even carrying fish back to their people. If one parent carries the gene, half of the kittens born are polydactyl – they may have extra toes or extra dewclaws. Normally it is more common for a cat to have those extra toes on its front paws, but a cat can have them on both front and back paws. It is rare to have extra toes on the hind paws only but when it happens they are usually toes and not extra dewclaws. When the toe has both a terminal pad and paw pad (like the fingertip and the ball of thumb of humans) it is referred to as a thumb cat.

Their owners think they are intelligent, and that they have a more laid-back personality than many other cats. Because of this they are also patient with children. One of the most famous polydactyl cats was Theodore Roosevelt’s cat Slippers. Slippers thought he owned the White house and acted accordingly, appearing in both meetings and press conferences.

Ernest Hemingway was the most well-known lover of polydactyl cats. He loved them so much that it caused his own polydactyl cats to be named the Hemingway Cats. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to approximately 40-50 polydactyl cats. Around half of the polydactyl cats at the Hemingway home have extra toes but all the cats at the home carry the gene in their DNA, this means the cats that only have 18 toes can still mother a cat with 20+ toes. The very first polydactyl cat Hemingway loved was given to him by a ship’s captain. The cat was named snowball, which actually has decedents living on the museum grounds today. Polydactyl cats are not a breed. The trait can appear in any breed be it Calicos, Tabbies, or any other breed in any shape, size, or color.

If you have children, have fallen in love with this breed after reading my post, and you would like to explore the world of the polydactyl cat a little more than I would suggest buying the children’s book “Dexter Hemingway: The Twenty-Two Toed Tabby”.
Dexter Hemingway: The Twenty-Two Toed Tabby
It is written from the perspective of Dexter, who is a real life polydactyl cat. The book takes you on an adventure from the day Dexter was rescued until he was brought home to live with his new family. It is a really sweet story that will leave you wanting more, which is great because I heard a second book is in the works. If you are interested in buying “Dexter Hemingway: The Twenty-Two Toed Tabby” you can do so on Amazon from this link:

Dexter Hemingway: The Twenty-Two Toed Tabby

Or you can buy your copy directly from the author at a discounted price and Dexter Hemingway as well as the writer will sign a copy for you. You can reach the author at cj3648@aol.com.


Work Cited:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polydactyl_cats

http://www.hemingwayhome.com/cats/

http://www.cat-breeds-info.com/polydactyl-cats.html#axzz30OQQ3OyV







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