For a tiny feline, Polly has huge feet.
That's because the aptly named kitten is a polydactyl, with six toes on each paw.
"She is kind of exclusive," said Charles Da Silva, an employee at Polly's home, the MCC Furniture Thrift Store on Keewatin Street.
The kitten was a gift to the store two weeks ago to keep its other resident cat, Molly, company, said Da Silva, who is a full-time student at Steinbach Bible College during the week. They didn't know the cat had extraordinary paws at first, he said. "My boss noticed it."
Cats normally have 18 toes, five on their front paws and four on the back. Polydactyl cats have extra as a result of a genetic mutation in a dominant gene. It usually results in the formation of anywhere from four to seven toes on a cat’s paws. The front paws are most often affected. Polydactyly on all four paws — like Polly — is "extremely rare," online pet information sources such as Healthy Pets say.
The mutation makes a cat's feet look bigger and is harmless to the animal's health and wellness, they say. It can be a hazard for the brave soul who tries to clip all their nails — or someone who gets attached to them, like Da Silva.
"I don't like cats but I like her," the international student from Brazil said Saturday as Polly nuzzled his neck and clawed her way up onto his shoulder. "I'm all scratched up," he laughed. "She's a good climber." The playful pet likes being around people, he said as she batted at the tassels of a dangling scarf with her big feline mitts.
"Kids love her," said DaSilva.
Customers at the store Saturday afternoon oohed and aahed at the black ball of fluff that had perched on the back of a couch.
"She's pretty good with people."
Six-toed kitties such as Polly have been called "Hemingway cats," because writer Ernest Hemingway had a penchant for polydactyl cats. A ship’s captain is said to have given Hemingway his first six-toed cat, whom he named Snow White. There are reportedly still 40 to 50 polydactyl cats living at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla.
Although the superstitious may be leery of a black cat like Polly crossing their path, a polydactyl puss was considered good luck by sailors on the high seas in bygone days. Their extra toes provided superior balance and gave them an advantage in hunting mice. Their close connections with sailors may be one reason why polydactyl cats are found all over the world today.
The trait is seen most often in western England, Wales, the eastern U.S. and Canada.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.