Have you ever seen a kitten or cat with more toes than you think it should have? If you have, you were probably looking at a Polydactyl cat! Polydactyl simply means that one has more digits than the normal number of five on each paw. Most Polydactyl’s have one or two extra toes. The extra toes can make it appear that the cat has a thumb or is wearing mittens. While not a trait of a particular breed, Polydactyl’s come in all types and colors, and is genetically inherited.
Polydactyl cats have many nicknames such as Mittens, Snowshoes, or Thumbs, but my favorite name—and what I personally call them—are Hemingway Cats, named for the famous author who made his home in Key West, Florida. Many years ago Ernest Hemingway was given his first Polydactyl cat by a ship’s captain (it is considered good luck to have a Polydactyl cat on-board a ship). He named the cat “Snowball.” From her descended the 60+ cats that now reside at the Hemingway museum in Key West. Over half of these cats have the extra toes and fondly carry the name Hemingway, in keeping with their benefactor’s tradition of naming his cats after famous people.
You may want to keep on your toes for that chance meeting with a little Polydactyl!
by Rachel Seagrave