Ask Cool Daddy at the Pet Store
Dear Cool Daddy: My daughter has this new painting hanging in her living room. I know it can’t be a chupacabra, but what the blazes is that creepy critter? …from Samuel in Sausalito…
Dear Samuel: It’s not my place to say, so forgive me, but you and your daughter really ought to talk more. In which case, she probably would have told you it’s by Leonardo da Vinci, titled Lady with an Ermine. Also known as a stoat…OK, it’s a highfalutin’ weasel…seen here in its winter white and summer dark garb. But I agree, weird-looking as he did it, in a roundy, twisty kind of way. Was very popular as fur trim…yup, the kind Santa wears…and as a heraldic device. And to dispel any vague ideas you might have had that the ermine is spotted, the black represents the tips of the tails, nez pah?
Dear Cool Daddy: There’s a new cat in our neighborhood…very sweet animal, but what’s with the oven-mitt paws? …from Jody in Virginia Beach
Dear Jody: It’s known by many regional names: Thumb Cat, Snowshoe Cat, Mitten-Foot, Boxing Cat, Cardi-Cat (from Cardiganshire in Wales.) Mostly today called…because it’s fun to say and makes you appear more scientifically adroit than the next fellow…a Polydactyl Cat, meaning many digits.
A normal cat will have 5 “fingers” on its fore-paws, 4 that it walks on (“digitigrade”) plus a “thumb” for grasping, and 4 on it’s hind feet. This mutation can add several more to each paw…Guinness lists the current record at 27…altho there are claimants out there supposedly with 28 or more…trouble is, at this point some of the phalanges are sort of “merged” and its hard to tell exactly how many to count. (That picture above far left is showing the “pads” on a cat’s front paw, of which it has 7…the triple in the middle counting as just one.)
In the US, such cats can be found in any breed, and anywhere, altho they are most prevalent on the East Coast, especially New England. About half of the 60 Ernest Hemingway cats are poly’s. They were brought over by the earliest settlers, and indeed to some folks such a cat was considered good luck on a ship. While technically a “defect,” its perfectly benign, and some think it adds to their agility, as if a cat needed that. Certainly good for walking in snow…ever seen a lynx or snow leopard foot?
escaped shameless leopard plugs believed spotted…
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