We’ll admit it…Beekman 1802 Farm can be an eccentric little place.
In fact, some people have called us a freak show. We take that as a compliment.
Because we are full of strange and wondrous creatures (present company included.) But perhaps our greatest oddity is one of our barn cats…Jolene.
Jolene was a kitten when she was dropped off at Beekman 1802 Farm after being found by a friend of Farmer John’s under a car in the school parking lot. Most times, these feral or abandoned drop off cats are just passing through. They rarely even let us close enough to pet them. (If we can catch them, we’ll spay them.)
Generally Bubby, the Chief Mouser, determines whether they can stay based on some criteria known only to him. For Downton Abby fans, he’s like the Carson of the barn.
For whatever reason, Jolene passed Bubby’s muster and got her Beekman Green Card.
Recently we posted this picture of Jolene online and some of you noticed something about her…
Yes, our Jolene is a polydactyl cat. A VERY polydactyl cat, in fact.
Polydactyl cats are specific genetic mutation that results in extra “toes.” A “normal” cat (ugh, we hate the word “normal”) has 5 toes on each front paw and four on each back paw.
Jolene has seven toes on each front paw, six on one rear paw, and five on the other. That totals 25. Approximately. But it’s kinda hard to count. Some of her toes have claws, and some slight appendages that don’t look like toes also have claws. Plus not every toe has a pad. Nor does every pad have a toe.
Put it this way: Jolene’s got a lot of strange things going on below the knee, and as you’ll see in the following photos, she doesn’t much care for you poking around and staring at her, thankyouverymouse.
Here’s Jolene’s rear left foot with six toes. Please take note of her face in the upper right corner and how much she’s enjoying us showing this to you.
Here’s a shot of her other rear foot:
Back claws, upside-up:
Now that we have you enraptured in cuteness…a little history about Polydactyl cats:
Throughout history, these extra-digital cats were prized by ship’s captains and crews. It was believed that their extra toes made them better mousers, both by having more claws to catch with, and by providing better “sea legs.” Perhaps because these cats kept the ships food stores free of vermin, they were also thought to bring overall good luck to a voyage. Furthermore, some sailors believed ship cats could control the weather with their tails.
This is Pooli, who served aboard the USS Fremont during the Second World War. She earned three service ribbons and four battle stars for her service in the Marianas, the Palau group, the Philippines and Iwo Jima. We salute you, Pooli:
Many folks become aware of the existence of polydactyl cats after visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West Florida. Hemmingway was given a gift of a polydactyl cat named Snowball by a sea captain. Many of the forty-plus cats that roam the rooms and grounds today are polydactyl descendents of Snowball, and all are protected in perpetuity by Hemingway’s will. This is why many folks call all polydactyl cats “Hemingway Cats.”
But back to Jolene. Who is not a Hemingway Cat. She’s more likely an “Ithaca Cat,” or “Ithacat.” This name refers to a population of polydactyl cats that can be traced to Ithaca, NY, about 100 miles (as the cat walks) from Sharon Springs. Little is known about this population. Most polydactyl cat populations in the U.S. are found in port cities (for reasons cited earlier.) But as far as we know, the origins of the Ithacat are a mystery.
Here are Jolene’s front paws. Aren’t you glad you’re not a mouse?
Jolene let us get this picture of the underside of one front paw:
After hearing the sounds beginning to emanate from Jolene at this point, neither John nor we felt comfortable pushing for a reveal shot of the the second front paw. She was making that guttural growl that sounds like a chainsaw in the distance. Coming closer and closer.
Here’s the best shot we could get of the other front paw:
Here’s Jolene after we let her go:
That squint means we are fairly certain that those were all of the photos of Jolene’s feet that you will ever see in her lifetime.
Jolene also has a side gig as PolkaSpot’s sidekick in the Diva’s new comic book: PolkaSpot: My Life in Pictures. Available here.