Meow many? Trio of kittens born with a total of twelve extra toes

·2-min read

A stray cat has given birth to three kittens with 12 extra toes in what has been described as a “very distinctive litter”.

Martha was a year old when she was spotted on the grounds of retirement complex Victory Court in Bridgemary. She was fed by residents while attempts were made to locate her owner.

When no-one came forward, she was taken to Cats Protection in Gosport where she gave birth to four kittens.

Now just over three weeks old, three of the four tiny cats are polydactyl, meaning “many fingered”.

Cats typically have 18 digits, including their dew claws, but the four kittens and their mother, Martha, have 102 digits between them rather than the standard 90.


Kate Stapleford, Gosport Cats Protection branch co-ordinator, said: “Kittens are always a delight, but to have three polydactyl kittens is extremely unusual. I’ve been fortunate in fostering several single cats over the years who have been polydactyl but I’ve certainly not cared for three polydactyl kittens at once before.”

Black-and-white Ernest has five toes on each paw including elongated dew claw ‘thumbs’.

His brother Hemingway who is tabby-and-white with a pink nose has six toes on each paw while their tabby-and-white black-nosed sister, Havana, has five toes on each back paw and six toes on each front paw

The kittens were named in honour of Ernest Hemingway, who is said to have been given a six-toed cat named Snow White by a sailor who docked in Key West.

Over 60 polydactyl cats, many of which may descend from Snow White, live at a house and museum on the Florida island which was once the writer’s home.


The charity is encouraging pet owners to neuter their cats, as kittens can become pregnant from four months old.

Ms Stapleford added: “Although the kittens are gorgeous and are taking advantage of their extra digits by learning to walk and climb over each other as soon as they can, Martha was a young mum, and pregnancy, especially in stray cats, can have many risks.”

Martha and her kittens will be ready to go to new homes once the kittens are at least nine weeks old.

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