Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tom is my kinda fella. What a guy! I have long harbored a passion for six-toed (polydactyl?) cats. A commercial card, the copyright information at the bottom reads, No. 5. Copyright 1908, by E. G. Harris, Denver, Colorado. E.G. Harris seems to have had a line of animal novelty cards, but I can’t find much information about them as a company. The back of the card reads, in a child’s handwriting, Dear Cousin Elsie, how are you. we are all well. why don’t you write. answer this card soon. from your loving cousin, Ollie Nitsch. It is addressed to Miss Elsie Pugler, Ellis Kansas. It is dated November 21, 5 PM. You can’t read the 1908, but Ollie dated it as well. Isn’t it interesting that people rarely seem to comment on the photo on the card they send?
Tom clearly spent his sixteen years living hard, and either lost those ears fighting, or was perhaps also a short-ear to begin with. Those six-toed feet look like little boxing gloves on him. Hemingway was famously said to be partial to extra-toed cats, having been given one by a ship’s captain. Evidently polydactyls were prized for ship’s cats and considered good luck to have on board. One imagines that those extra toes might have made for superior mousing ability. When I was a kid I was told all the six-toed cats came from Boston and were descended from a single cat who arrived on board a ship.
One of my very best cat friends was a multi-toed cat – I believe she had seven, not six on each foot, but one was sort of small and hard to see. She had large thumbs and her front toes seemed oddly jointed and made her look like she was standing on tip toes. She was a calico and her name was Winkie. Winks, named by my brother who was very small at the time, was a wickedly smart cat and somehow those giant paws with thumbs made her appear like she was evolving into a new kind of superhuman cat. She had silky soft hair and was endlessly happy to be held and petted. Winkie discovered a stair she could sit on which would allow her to look out a door window and to the driveway when waiting for me to come home from a date; I would be greeted with a meow. She was a chatty cat. There are many stories about Winkie (she taught herself to use the toilet for one), but for now I will mention that she actually replaced an earlier multi-toed kitten who only lived a few days. My father had been filming a story with Roger Caras (famous reporter of all things animal) and brought the little guy home. Sadly he died in his sleep a few days later. When a friend of my mother’s heard that the kitten had died suddenly she sent us Winkie, fresh off a farm in South Jersey.
I have not had a cat with extra toes since Winkie, but remain convinced they are indeed special and I feel an extra sort of kinship with any and all I meet which is why I snatched up this card immediately.