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Hemingway, Polydactyl, or just the Six-Toed Cat?

Six-Toed Cat

Six-Toed Cat

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to over thirty polydactyl cats.  Often called Hemingways, but what you and I would call a six-toed cat.  Most cats have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes on their back feet as well.

Polydactyly, or extra digits, is a common trait among cats, particularly it seems, among Celtic cats, cats on parts of the U.S.’s Eastern coast, as well as in South West Britain.  Despite some claims to the contrary, polydactly is not a product of bad breeding.  It is simply a naturally occurring genetic variation, it is even found in fossil reptiles, which means that a regular five-toed cat might be the abnormal form! 

Six-Toed Cat

Six-Toed Cat

 The form of polydactyly most commonly seen in cats is a dominant trait which does not affect the cat adversely and is not associated with other abnormalities.  Despite suggestions of “natural snowshoes” there is no real evidence that polydactyly has any significant natural selective advantage or disadvantage.  If it was disadvantageous, polydactyl cats would quickly have died out. It is simply an endearing anomaly…

If you have one of these cats, I would love to hear about them, please post a comment and share your story.  If you also know of any that need adoption, please pass that along as well.

Cat Water Fountain

Cat Water Fountain

At the Hemingway House, the cats are very well taken care of, just as they were when old Papa Hemingway ruled the joint.  Nestled into the backyard is the most famous cat drinking fountain in the world; Papa had it specially built for his pets.

The top of the fountain is an old Spanish olive jar that was brought from Cuba. The overflow from this jar spills into a urinal, that serves as a drinking spot for the Hemingway 6-toed cats. The story goes that the urinal came from Sloppy Joe’s Key West bar. Hemingway told him, “I might as well put one of these in my backyard since so much of my money has gone down it already.”  

Don’t tell anyone, but I know what he meant…
Cat Water Fountain

Zoobooks Magazine


  1. Pauline wrote:

    You aren’t really, are you? I would hate to be a cat looking for a drink after that, 5 toed or 6 toed!

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  2. gsmith wrote:

    Just a carefully staged shot…

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  3. Joe32 wrote:

    When I was a kid, a neighbor had a whole bunch of six-toed cats. They were all over the place and all the kids in town loved playing with them. Something just made them cuter than your average kitten.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  4. tiffany wrote:

    Such cute kitties, I saw them when I was in Key West as well. There was one big old orange one upstairs that was kinda mean. He tried to bite me!

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  5. sally wrote:

    I have always been fascinated with the six-toed cats. I have always wondered why nature makes them?

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
  6. Kittyluver wrote:

    I love to see the six-toed cat. Actually this might be due to congenital anomaly.

    Kittyluvers last blog post..Get To Know About Kitten Illnesses

    Friday, July 25, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink
  7. gsmith wrote:

    Thanks for stopping by KittyLuver. If you ever are in Key West, stop by and see the kitties at the Hemingway House, you will not be disappointed!

    Friday, July 25, 2008 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  8. Judy wrote:

    I have a six toed cat – I found it in my gargage one day – it is very young and I would love to find it a good home.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  9. gsmith wrote:

    Where do you live? I am sure you could find it a good home. Thanks for stopping by!

    Monday, August 18, 2008 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  10. Randy Sharpe wrote:

    I would love to find one of these 6 toe cats!

    Friday, September 26, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  11. Terry wrote:

    I have a polydactl male cat which we adopted some time ago.
    When we had a vet check him the vet discovered that whoever had him before us did not cut the claw on the 6th toe!! ouch!! it had curled around and dug into the flesh and it was minor surgery and antibiotics to correct the situation.Dont know how long this was present?
    Now his dad(ME) checks him every 2-3 weeks and keeps that 6th claw cut nice and short.No more pain for MAX (Maxmillion)
    Please check your cats claws today!!


    Monday, February 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  12. jean wrote:

    I have been feeding a six-toed black and white cat for almost two years. I don’t know the sex as it had been neutered/spayed before it showed up at my house. It has also been declawed so no problems with extra claw. It is a really sweet cat and stays close to the house but never wants to come in. I don’t claim it as I don’t think y9u can own a cat, they are too independent.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  13. Abriana wrote:

    I have a six toed cat, she needs a home. Her name is Kitty, she had 4 six toed kittens and 1 seven toed black kitten. great cat.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  14. Crystal wrote:

    Are you still looking for homes for the cat and kittens?

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  15. Susan wrote:

    Hello..I just wanted to let you know,,I have 2 female 6 toed cats that I rescued..They had babies and they ended up having some with 6 toes and some with 7 toes on each paw..Also the cats that I rescued are not related and are from two different areas from where I live..These cats love my dogs and many times act like them, lol..They are great hunters too…We live in the country,,so I have no problem with mice or moles entering my home..They’re also very bright..I was told that their ancestors came from an area near Scotland on the old ships and when they docked here in Nova Scotia..Some of them jumped off the ships and that is how they spread out in Nova Scotia..

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  16. gsmith wrote:

    Great info Susan, thanks for sharing. Sounds like you need a EmeryCat with all of those toes!

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  17. Lisa wrote:

    we just got a 2 month old kitten, he has 6 toes on each front foot and 5 on his back, his front paws look very large because of it(mittens)

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  18. cindy wrote:

    I own a female cat with thumbs and extra toes in the back named spooky she is all black, came to my house very wild and starving with a baby at her side. I tamed her and found a home for the kitten. I allowed her to have 2 litters of kittens out of both litters of 3 2 had extra toes, one had 7 on the front and 5 on the back. I was able to place all in good homes. I kept bear all black with all the extra toes everyone loved him, I lost him 2 years ago but I still have spooky and she is the best cat I have ever owned. I read somewhere if a black cat with extra toes comes to you it would bring you good fortune..I am still doing well and so is she.

    Friday, April 6, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  19. VERA MALLARD wrote:


    Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

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