Ernest Hemingway and His Cats
By Jill Anne Sparapany
Personal Quote by Hemingway
A cat has absolute emotional honesty:
human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.
|Cat lounging on the Hemmingway Estate grounds|
While living on his island estate, a ship’s Captain gave Hemingway the gift of a white cat that had extra toes. Snowball, a six-toed cat, was the original polydactyl cat and had sired many offspring, all of which exhibited the polydactyl trait. Because the Key West estate is on an island, it is assumed that most of the cats on the island are related to the Hemingway Cats. There is a high rate of polydactyly on the isolated island to support this theory.
The Hemingway Cats population is controlled by a spay-neuter program to keep their numbers to around 60. All the cats receive scheduled routine vet care from a visiting veterinarian and flea control products. At one time, some of the cats were adopted out but this is no longer allowed due to the spay-neuter program which keeps the population under tight control.
|Polydactyl cats are also called mitten cats|
Early in the polydactyl breed development, most were Maine Coons. Up to 40% of Maine Coon cats had the polydactyl paws. Sailors considered having cats on board to be good luck and cats were used on ships to control the rodent population. Polydactyl traits are a common genetic mutation found in cats on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. and Canada and South West England and Wales. Most of these cats lived on the ships sailing between these locations. The polydactyl breed is a very mellow cat and the larger paws made them excellent hunters and mousers so they were well suited for travels on the ships. The extra toes also helped the cats maintain their balance on the ships during rough weather at sea. When the cats settled into the Northeast U.S., the big paws helped them survive in the winter snows, acting like snowshoes for easier travelling in deep snow.
The genetics of the polydactyl trait is not completely understood. Inheritance of a “dominant” gene means a kitten has one single copy of the polydactyl gene, either from the mother or father, and will have the extra toes. The inheritance is thought to be “incomplete” as clinical observation shows 50% of the cats show the extra toe trait. This explains why the all Hemingway Cats, which most likely have the polydactyl gene due to isolated inbreeding, only demonstrate a 50% expression of extra toes trait.
Many people feel the extra toes are an endearing characteristic in their pet cats. Their cat’s paws need to be monitored closely for potential problems related to the extra toes. The extra claws are usually situated between and beneath the normal toes. Because of this placement on the paws, these claws cannot be sharpened normally by the cat. This increases the chances of these claws growing into the paw pad and becoming infected. Occasionally, the claw can be growing outward so it tends to snag easier and is prone to infections. Therefore, it is critical the claws of polydactyl cats be trimmed on a regular basis.
Some use Soft Paws vinyl nail caps that fit over the clipped claws. If you use Soft Paws, you should order two different sizes to accommodate the claw diversity. Also note that your cat is polydactyl when you order the Soft Paws nail caps.
This list is for several days!
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