A Polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly* called polydactyly, a type of cat body type genetic mutation, that caused the cat to be born with more than the normal number of toes on one or more of its paws.  Cats with this inherited trait are most commonly found along the East Coast of the United States and in South West England.

*anomaly:

-a deviation from the common rule, type, arrangement, or form.
-an odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, quality, etc.
-an incongruity or inconsistency.

Nicknames:

Hemingway cats, Boxing cats, Mitten, Mitten foot, Thumb, Six-finger, Boston Thumb Cats, Cardi-cats, and Double-pawed.

Normal cats have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on each hind paw.

Polydactyl cats may have as many as seven digits on its front and/or hind paws.

Tiger, a Canadian polydactyl cat with 27 toes, was recognized by Guinness World Records as having the highest number of toes on a cat.

Unofficially, this title goes to Mooch, a 28-toed American polydactyl cat from the state of Maine. Mooch’s owners, Bob & Becky Duval, have submitted evidence to the Guinness Book of Records.

There are combinations of anywhere from four to seven toes per paw are common, and the number of toes on either the front or rear paws is typically the same. This trait is mostly found on the front paws only, it is rare for a cat to have polydactyl hind paws only, and all four paws is even less common.

The condition seems to be most commonly found in cats along the East Coast of the United States and in South West England. These cats have been extremely popular as ship’s cats. There is controversy over whether trait originated in New England or was brought there from England. Whatever the case may be, this trait spread widely as a result of cats carried on ships originating in Boston.   Sailors were long-known to especially value these cats for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents. Some sailors also considered them to be extremely good luck when at sea.

Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was one of the more famous lovers of polydactyl cats, after being first given a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain.

Upon Hemingway’s death in 1961, his House in Key West, Florida, became a museum and a home for his cats, and it currently houses approximately fifty descendants of his cats: approx. half of which are polydactyl. Because of his love for these cats, “Hemingway cat“, or simply “Hemingway“, is a slang term which has come to describe polydactyls.

Photo from Wikipedia

One of the polydactyl cats at the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. This particular cat has 7 (2 extra) toes on each paw.

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