Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are de...
Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of that original cat, named Snow White. Key West is a small island and it is possible that many of the cats on the island are related. The polydactyl cats are not a particular breed. The trait can appear in any breed, Calicos, Tabbies, Tortoise Shell. White, Black, etc. They vary in shapes, sizes, colors and personalities.
A polydactyl cat is a cat with a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (or polydactylism, also known as hyperdactyly), that causes the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws. Cats with this genetically inherited trait are most commonly found along the East Coast of North America (in the United States and Canada) and in South West England and Wales.
The condition seems to be most commonly found in cats along the East Coast of North America (in the United States and Canada) and in South West England, Wales and Kingston-upon-Hull.
Polydactyl cats have been extremely popular as ship's cats. Although there is some controversy over whether the most common variant of the trait originated as a mutation in New England or was brought there from Britain. There seems to be agreement that it spread widely as a result of cats carried on ships originating in Boston, Massachusetts, and the prevalence of polydactyly among the cat population of various ports correlates with the dates when they first established trade with Boston.
Nicknames for polydactyl cats include "conch cats", "boxing cats", "mitten cats", "mitten-foot cats", "snowshoe cats", "thumb cats", "six-fingered cats", "Cardi-cats", and "Hemingway cats". Two specific breeds recognized by some but not all cat fancier clubs are the American Polydactyl and Maine Coon Polydactyl, and named regional populations include the Boston thumb cat, Cardi-cat, Ithacat, and Vermont snowshoe cat.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to approximately 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats. Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes. About half of the cats at the museum have the physical polydactyl trait but they all carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA, which means that the ones that have 4 and 5 toes can still mother or father of six-toed kittens. Most cats have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes on their back feet as well. Sometimes, it looks as if they are wearing mittens because they appear to have a thumb on their paw.
Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people so the caretakers of The Ernest Hemingway Home follow that same tradition today. Cats are capable of learning and responding to their names, particularly if they have an affectionate relationship with the person who calls them.
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