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If I'd only realized!

March 23rd, 2005, 09:58 PM
A few years ago I had 2 polydactyl cats. I didn't realize they were quite as special as they were! I would have taken documentary like photos if I knew! Anyway.. they had not just an extra toe or two... they had extra paws on each foot!! complete with palm pad and retractable claws! Each of these little extra paws had 3 toes on it... these were present on both front and hind feet.
They were abandoned, feral kittens when I found them and brought them home.
I have no means to 'prove' these cats were like this, other then eye witnesses who can attest to the fact. After reading the thread on declawing and seeing others post about polydactyls with an extra toe, it made me think alittle more about those cats... I really wish I had some pics of those feet!
They also were extremely smart cats, and behaved much like puppies. They came when called, they responded when spoke to, were serious affection seekers and real cuddle bugs :D I miss them.

Cactus Flower
March 23rd, 2005, 10:06 PM
Wow that's amazing- would have liked to have seen them, too!

Where did they go?

March 23rd, 2005, 11:24 PM
I too had four little polys - I have written the Rescue story somewhere (on another Rescue site. Here is part of that narrative:

have a few kitten rescue stories but my month or so as a meowmy to four recently born polydactyl kittens is probably the one I recall the most.

I live in New Brunswick, Canada and at the time this occurred, there was no such entity as a shelter - even one of the "bad guys". So when I happened upon four little kittens and a severely injured mom in a rural area near my grandmother's home, I was incredulous that these little ones were alive and then I had to figure out what to do.

It was also way before the age of the internet and I was not yet out of high school!!

Undaunted or perhaps in the folly of youth, I brought the babies home. My grandfather came with me to help carry the mom so we could somehow get her to the vet. We were unsure what happened to her but she may have been hit by a car. The nearest vet was an hour away but my grandfather, who is now deceased, was a wonderfully kind man and he drove the mom cat to the vet.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and I had to figure out how to help the babies, all of whom were mewing constantly and very scared!

I called the local pharmacy - another 15 minute drive - but when I asked for eye droppers, they sent a guy from my grade eleven class with them who worked there delivering prescriptions to the home. We knew nothing about how to go about this. Not one of the babies' eyes were open and they were mere days old!!

My grandmother grew up on a farm and so had much experience with feral and barn cats. Indeed, she often fed cats in the vicinity and there was a regular feral colony near her home. This mom kitty, though - a lovely calico with predominant orange colouring - was not one she recognized.

We heated up some evaporated milk, hot water and some sugar. No one (the vet or the pharmacy) could give us any advice so this was all we could do. Fortunately, gram has midwived many a barn cat and so knew the kits would have to be "burped" and eased along to eliminate.

I set myself up in my bedroom (It never occurred to me to consider illness or disease!) and the kittens all laid on a quilt on my bed. Gram helped me and taking turns, we alternately fed, burped and cuddled and kept warm the four kittens.

I also had to keep out my nosy poodle Ryan, who was used to sleeping with me. (He had to make do with my gram that night!)

My grandmother made sure she informed me of the responsibility I was taking on and that not all feral kits lived without their mother.

My grandfather returned with bad news. Mommacat did not make it, sigh!!

Each kitten was polydactyl and utterly beautiful. We fed the kittens with the eye droppers and kept up the process. This went on for three more days and by then, I was able to enlist the help of my friends (it was summer time so there was no school and I was able to take time off from my job as a museum tour guide.)

One of the kittens was calico like mom and had seven digits. The boy of the litter - and the most dominant - (typical male, lol) - was a smoky gray and had six toes. The other two were partly white with some orange, grey and black.

This was the first time I had ever seen polydactyl cats and I researched it in a book about cats I had. (My family has enjoyed a long love affair with cats and my first cat, a former barn cat, was named Puff (as in Dick and Jane, not so imaginative I know!) and moved in with us when I was a tiny tot. She had lived to be a feisty 15 and I think I was still mourning her loss when I found these little ones). Puff had also told the neighbourhood black lab where to go when he came sniffing around. The poor lab, though bigger than Puff, ended up with a scratch on his nose and Puff looked down at him from her perch on a tree, quite satisfied with herself. Eventually, they learned to share the area though and Black Jack, as he was fondly known, became a friend of my Ryan!

Anyway, I have digressed from my original story.

My grandmother recommended a box with an old quilt so they would have their own space and so I put that on my bed. (I know, not the best idea on my part but I was new to the feline nursing biz).

After about 12 hours with eye droppers, I had the notion to use the baby bottles that come with dolls and there were a few around. We were unsure how safe they were though so once again, my sainted grandpa was sent "into town" to buy more supplies.

I had absolutely NO idea what I was getting into. I did not sleep very often and when I did, I had four kittens and assorted stuffed toys curled up around me. Now that I read other stories, I am somewhat surprised that our concoction of warmed evaporated milk and water. I also kept a box near the bed so they could eliminate the stuff from their tiny bodies.

The kittens mewed a lot and often though gradually, they would sleep a bit. Alas, it was a bit like having quadruplet children. When one mewed, s/he woke up all the others.

Initially, the kittens would suckle my fingers. They liked to sleep near my heart - as if to hear it beating.

Amazingly, they all opened their eyes around the eighth or ninth day (I cannot really recall - it seemed to take forever though, <g>). They wobbled on my bed and in their box. They preferred my bed however, something that was my fault.

I kept the bed clothes that were used to for them and when it was time for them to move to a bigger box of their own, I placed that inside and they were OK with that. They still got much petting and snuggling however.

Weaning them was another trauma. Not one of them was eager to give up their ritual of being fed. Smokey, the male, looked up me as if I was nuts the first time I set him before a tiny saucer of their concoction. But gradually, he and the rest of the gang got the idea.

Alas, as they became more sure-pawed, they wanted to roam and so we had to confine them to my room. They explored EVERYTHING and by the fifth week, were even trying to climb off the bed!

By the time September and school loomed, I realized we would have to find good homes for the babies. We decided to keep one and then two since my dad opined that two kits need to keep each other company. I worried they'd be lonely for their sibs!

I decided to interview each and every prospective person who responded to our ad. We insisted that each kitty would be neutered and that the wannabe human cat person had to agree to that. I dutifully typed agreements with my IBM Selectric. (This was a LONG time ago, lol)

Finally, the day came when we had to say goodbye to Marmalade and Betsy - the two who would be adopted. Marmalade went to a family we knew, a friend of mine who adored cats and who I met as a child when her dad would drive her around to see kitties. She still has cats! Betsey was adopted by a teacher friend of my mom's. She lived alone and had taken a shine to the kitty when she came to visit.

Smokey and Nellie (named for Canadian suffragist Nellie McClung) stayed with me and my grandparents. I went off to university of course but I would come home to visit my brood and they settled in nicely with my cat loving grandparents. When I obtained my first apartment, they moved with me. Smokey lived to be 17 and I had to put him on a diet more than once. (He loved cheese way too much). Nellie, in spite of her namesake, was more timid and very healthy, lived to be 18!

They were all lively, affectionate and very sociable cats and I still miss them!!

March 24th, 2005, 06:05 AM
Wow that's amazing- would have liked to have seen them, too!

Where did they go?

Because I was living in the Northwest Territories at the time (many years ago now) When we moved I found them suitable homes. I have not kept in touch with the people (many move around alot from that area) I am not sure where they are now. But, they would be 10 years old now.

March 24th, 2005, 06:34 AM
We had a kitten born with an extra paw on one foot but he didn't make it :sad: I guess there was more wrong with him than that. Off the topic, but once we had a calf born with two heads. Of course he didn't make it either but nobody ever thought to take pictures.

March 24th, 2005, 10:29 AM
I ahve never thought of the extra toe as a defect. I suppose it was a mutation of some kind at some point. Polys can have some problems with the extra claw but usually they do just fine. They are also known as Hemingway or "mitten" cats.

The former is because of Hemingway who lived on Key West, Florida. He shared the island with nearly 50 cats, including a 6-toed polydactyl given to him by a ship captain; the cats bred and the polydactyl trait became common, hence polydactyls are often known as "Hemingway Cats". Hemingway's colony of cats was free-breeding with the local cat population and the ratio of polydactyl cats to normal-toes cats was about 50/50. Another story suggests that the cat given to Hemingway was a female double-pawed cat and that the polydactyl cats on the island came from 19th Century ships' cats. The high rate of polydactyl cats in Boston, USA has also led to the nickname "Boston Thumb Cats".

An article in Cat Watch writes: "The study indicated that the trait may have occurred in cats taken to Boston by English Puritans during the 1600s and speculated that the mutation developed in cats already in the Boston area rather than in cats in England. The progeny of these cats may have travelled on trading ships from Boston to Yarmouth, Massachusetts and Halifax, Nova Scotia, two areas which also have a high incidence of polydactyly. Charles Darwin wrote of polydactyl cats in his book "Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication". He wrote: "I have heard of several families of six-toed cats, in one of which the peculiarity had been transmitted for at least three generations.""

An article in The New Scientist noted that "the innermost extra toes on the front paws are often opposable and some cats use them with quite startling proficiency to manipulate small objects with almost human dexterity. Some owners of polydactyl cats joke that their cats are more intelligent because of this and represent the next stage in feline evolution - the ability to open cartons and cans unaided."