Until Linus and Lucy came along, I had no idea that some cats are born with extra toes. It was such a surprise to see kittens with mittens! Linus (Lucy's late brother) was particularly blessed in the toe department. Not only did he have the extra thumb toes, but he had several extra dewclaws farther up his back paws...where there shouldn't be any toes or claws at all! He was an adorable oddball kitty. I've since learned that these cats are called "polydactyl" or "Hemingway" cats. They first appeared in the mid-1800s and because of their unusual appearance, were often associated with witches - and killed. I am glad that Linus and Lucy did not live in the 1800s!
As people became more accustomed to polydactyl cats, they were believed to be good luck, especially from the viewpoint of sailors. Because they were such good mousers, they were often transported on ships for overseas voyages. The ancestors of today's polydactyl cats in the United States arrived by boat from Europe.
Author Ernest Hemingway had an affinity for these cats, having received one as a gift from a ship's captain when he was living and writing in Key West, Florida. His cats bred and began to populate the small island with polydactyls, which is how these cats came to be known as Hemingway cats. The story of Snowball and her descendents (all 60 of them!) still living at the Hemingway Home and Museum is an interesting one and can be found here: http://www.hemingwayhome.com/HTML/our_cats.htm.
When you become used to living with polydactyl cats, so-called "normal" cats begin to look odd. "How do they walk around on those pointy little feet?" you find yourself wondering. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world record for the cat with the most toes goes to Jake, a Canadian cat with 28 toes. Wow Jake, that's a lot of toes!!