It’s a three-cat day, thanks to several readers who proffered links. The first item involves a mysterious 16th-century (c. 1530) German book by Franz Helm, an artillery expert (see articles in the Guardian and TDS). The book contains drawings of cats and birds with rocket-like jetpacks strapped to their back. The unsettling thing is that they’re not for transportation, but are apparently weapons!
Researcher Mitch Fraas gives his interpretation:
According to Fraas’s translation, Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: “Create a small sack like a fire-arrow. If you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.”
In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse, then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire.
Somebody didn’t know how to draw cats. They were all around, for crying out loud!
Another poor moggie:
Apparently, though, this was an idea that was never implemented. It resembles the suggestion of U.S. Army experts during World War II, who had the idea of strapping incendiary devices to bats in Japan. Since bats roost in the eaves of highly flammable wooden Japanese homes, they could wreak havoc on a city.
Item 2: this nefarious corporate policy was called to my attention; here’s a screenshot:
I am, of course, protesting by refusing to ever Google anything again.
I suppose a “dog company” means that all the employees slavishly worship their bosses (and sniff their crotches).
Finally, EDP24 reports about a whole brood of polydactylous kittens rescued in Suffolk:
The five-month-old kittens, known as polydactyl or “mitten” cats, were discovered abandoned in a back garden before being taken to Felixstowe Blue Cross rehoming centre.
Andy Gillon, manager of the centre in Walton High Street, which takes in around 250 cats and kittens a year, said staff soon noticed that these particular felines had something extra special about them when they were brought in.
He said: “We might get the odd cat with an extra toe, but to get an entire litter of polydactyl cats is really unusual.
“Cats normally have 18 toes but all the kittens in this litter have extra digits – one even has 26 toes!”
Cats normally have five toes on their front feet and four on their rear. I’ve always wanted one with extra toes, because they’re funny-looking but don’t seem to be impeded in their walking or climbing. Wikipedia reports the variety of names given to them:
Nicknames for polydactyl cats include “conch cats“, “boxing cats“, “mitten cats“, “mitten-foot cats“, “snowshoe cats“, “thumb cats“, “six-fingered cats“, “Cardi-cats“, and “Hemingway cats“.
The “Hemingway cat” monicker comes from the fact that Ernest Hemingway had a passel of cats at his Key West home, many of them with extra toes. Their polydactylous descendants still roam the property.
I’ve also heard these mutants called “Super Scratchers.”
And it’s not that unusual to get an entire litter of extra-toed kittens if the litter size is small. Polydactyly in cats (as in most species) is inherited as a single dominant gene, which means if you get one copy of the gene, you have extra toes. (I presume that two copies produces a dead animal, but I haven’t been able to find for sure.)
That means that if one of the parents is polydactylous and the other isn’t, the chance of each of its kittens being polydactylous is ½, so the chance of all five kittens being polydactylous is ½ multiplied by itself 5 times, or 1/32 (0.03). So it will occasionally happen. In the unlikely event that both parents were polydactylous, the chances are higher.
Can you calculate what the chances would be for two such cats to produce a litter of five polydactylous cats among the surviving offspring? (Assume that having two copies of the gene kills you before birth.)
The record number of feline toes, verified by the Guinness Book of World Records, is 27 on a Canadian cat named “Tiger.” Here’s the one image I could find of him, a video:
Kitty Bloger has some nice picture of Super Scratchers, including the following. When I see the last one, I’m thinking about a macromutational leap whereby cats learn to use can openers. When that happens, they take over the world.
h/t: Dom, Diane G, Mark