Polydactyl cats are as common as mud in this area and in fact are common all along the east coast.
Polydactyl simply means many-toed. If you happen to be in Key West, Florida they are known as Hemingway cats. They were popular with him and he collected them. My wife also favours them and over the time of our marriage, we have always had polydactyl cats.
My wife seems to think they are more intelligent than normal cats and she may be right. She says that as a little girl she called them baseball cats because with their extra toes on their front feet their paws look like a catcher’s mitt.
Polydactyl cats are not for everyone because they have extra toes they also have deformed claws that if not clipped on a regular basis will grow around into their paws. You need to get good at clipping these or you have the deformed claws remove at the vets or take them to a vet on a regular basis for a clip.
My wife, fortunately has become quite good at clipping them. I hold them, she clips them.
There has been a lot of nonsense about these cats over the years. I remember back when the Sydney Tar Ponds were in the news, some women announced that there were dozens of polydactyl cats in Sydney that were deformed by the tar pond.
Now polydactyl cats may be common as dirt on the east coast, but they are rare in the rest of Canada. I am now going to tell you why that is the case.
In the days of wooden ships and iron men mice and rats were common aboard ship and cats were carried to help with the problem. They had to be tom cats of course since sailors, being a superstitious bunch, thought having any kind of a female aboard was bad luck.
They also went out of their way to find a polydactyl cat since they were believed to bring good luck. These ships plied their trade all up and down the east coast and when the sailors went ashore looking for female company, so did Mr. Tom. I am sure by now you get the picture. Polydactyl cats may be common on the west coast as well, but I don't know that for a fact.
Walter Jones is a freelance writer living in Amherst. His column appears weekly in the Amherst News.