Six Toes

Six Toes
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What IS a six toed kitty?

Someone recently asked the question "What causes a cat to have six toes?  What is a Hemingway cat like Six Toes and how is he different?"

I'll explain.  Six Toes and cats like him are genetically challenged due to an inherited genetic trait that gives them six (or more) toes.  The condition is called Polydactylism.  Cats with this condition exceed the normal toe count of five toes on the front paws and four toes in back.  In the case of Six Toes, he has six toes on his front paws and five on his back paws.  Polydactyl cats can also have as many as seven toes on their paws, depending on the genetic mutation.  It seems to occur most often in cats living in the east coast of the United States and southern England, although the reason for that is unclear.  The polydactyl cats became more commonly referred to as "Hemingway cats" because famous author Ernest Hemingway collected polydactyl cats and kept them as pets in his home in Key West, Florida. 

Polydactyl cats have great difficulty as kittens learning to walk and groom themselves as they tend to be clumsy with their big feet.  It took Six Toes a while to learn to walk and groom himself without constantly hitting himself in the head. 

Because of the abnormality, some Hemingway cats have other genetic deficits as Six Toes has.  My Six Toes has in addition to his polydactylism deformed eyelid margins (half of his eyelashes didn't form) and a heart that does not function correctly.  His brother, Buddha, is NOT a polydactyl cat, but has other genetic malformations of the skull and feet which have been difficult for him to master. 

Despite their differences and challenges, Hemingway cats are still lovable companions and great cats to snuggle with.  And some folks say they'll bring you luck.  I don't know.  I just know I love my Six Toes!