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!
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.
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.”