Caturday felid: Annie—a sequence

Reader Mal documents the filial bond between a mother and her kittens (it’s all in the genes, you know, as is the polydactyly):

I recently visited friends who live on the edge of Dartmoor in south-west England and who have converted the attic of their cottage into a bedroom and bathroom. They have several cats but this is about Annie (who was named for Anne Boleyn because of her extra ‘finger’ on each front paw). Annie has recently given birth to a new brood and decided on the comfort and cleanliness of the attic bedroom to give birth. However, the bedroom door is closed most of the time and leaving it open would have invited incursion by the other cats. Luckily Annie had already solved the access problem before she gave birth (perhaps she was closed in at some time and wanted out). Anyway, the pictures here show her entering the roof space. She gets on the roof from the back where there is a wall that helps her a little. I think her first exit must have been pretty scary. To get out she has to jump almost vertically upwards about three feet from the rim of the bath through a small gap and onto the level of the window.

The kittens also have the extra digit and we’re wondering if they’re going to try and follow their mother out soon!


Note: Polydactyly in cats (extra digits beyond the normal eighteeen) is a genetically-based condition produce by the presence of a single dominant autosomal allele.  I believe the allele is lethal when present in two copies, which means that Annie carried one copy of the “polydactyl” gene and one copy of the “normal” gene.  This means that each of her kittens had only half a chance of getting extra toes.  There appear to be four kittens in the picture, so the chance that all of them would have extra toes would be (½)4, or 1/16.  According to Wikipedia—the entry on cat polydactyly is informative and has cute pictures—the record number of toes on a cat is held by one “Tiger”, with 27 (that’s 9 extra!).  However, a 28-toed cat, “Mooch,” has been submitted to the Guinness book of World Records.


  1. daveau
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Anne Boleyn was polydactyl? Adorable little kittehs!

    Damn! I’ve got to get used to this iPad thing belonging to the spousal unit. It keeps auto spell correcting and capitalizing… (family thing in MN)

  2. starskeptic
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    …well, according to sources used in the Wikipedia article – Anne Boleyn wasn’t poly-dactyl…

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted June 11, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      Yes, although there seems to be some discussion about the issue of Boleyn’s polydactyly (which is by the way due to a single dominant allele), the consensus appears that she did not have extra digits.

      • BilBy
        Posted June 11, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        Not being popular (when Henry married her he had a symbol made combing their initials – HA – and she was faced with people shouting ha! derisively at her) the accusation of having an extra digit may have been to help label her as ‘the Bullen Witch’

        • starskeptic
          Posted June 11, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          …seems to me, in most societies – women don’t need the benefit of extra digits to get labelled as witches…

  3. Dominic
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    A catrobat!

  4. Marta
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Is a gene for an extra digit a mistake (as it would seem, as having two copies of it is fatal) or is it an advantage to the animal to have extra digits? Or neither, as in the random/junk/disconnected purpose sense?

  5. Notagod
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Toe truck needed?

    According to the manufacturer(what?) those are likely the run flats. If they are, just keep it blow 20 mouse tails per second and have them replaced next time you bray at ceiling cat. Don’t be using the christian brays It never responds.

  6. Posted June 11, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    If there are three kittens, shouldn’t it be .5^3?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted June 11, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I counted three, but there are actually four there, as Mal informs me. I’ve fixed the count.

  7. Marshall
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    slightly off topic, but only slightly:

  8. raven
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    My oldest cat likes to climb a ladder onto the roof and wander around. Then she climbs down the ladder.

    The ladder is just a standard aluminum ladder with narrow rungs.

    She also likes to climb up into an old apple tree and sleep on a branch about 8 feet off the ground.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Such a storybook cottage! Smart Annie; hope there will be homes available for all the catlets…

  10. Posted June 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I like the “don’t frack with the mother cat” in the second photo.

  11. Posted June 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    the chance that all of them would have extra toes would be (½)4, or 1/16

    …assuming that the father was not also polydactyl; and that none of the kittens are monozygotic twins.

  12. Posted February 4, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Cats sure are resourceful!

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