Sunday, March 1, 2009
Here's a picture of a shelter cat, Hemingway, from the very photogenic Caturday blog, with the caption, Hemingway (because of the toes, of course.)
My first thought: did Hemingway have more than the usual number, perhaps compensating for a rumored war injury? I knew he loved cats, and I imagined the writer amassing a cat army especially selected for their large paws, the better to knock down his critics. Or maybe the well-endowed cats celebrated his love of boxing. Or maybe Hemingway wore wide-open sandals to accommodate his own multiplicity of digits, and he liked the idea of cats created in his own bewhiskered image.
I googled and learned that Hemingway had the usual number of toes, but his cats didn't. A ship's captain gave a cat with poly dactyl gifts to the writer. And since Hemingway lived on a temperate island that encouraged roaming, some inbreeding followed. Cats with paws like boxing gloves became abundant. Today the Hemingway House and Museum has sixty or so cats in residence, and perhaps half of them are poly dactyl, believed to be descendants of the original Hemingway cat.
I think. This is a lot of research for a Sunday morning.