We remain open to provide care for your pets. We are following the direction of government and regulatory authorities and have implemented hospital and visit protocols to keep both you and our team safe. For regular updates on our hours and visit protocols, please follow our social media platforms.

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Does your feline have extra toes? The history behind Polydactyl Cats

Most cats have 18 toes; five toes on each of their front feet, and four on the back.  My cat, Mandy Pawtinkin, is blessed with 22 toes.  She has a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (Greek for ‘many digits’).  It is a genetic mutation that causes cats to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws.

Having practiced as a veterinarian in Ontario for several years before returning to my native Nova Scotia, I was intrigued by what appeared to be many more polydactyl cats in our region.  Doing some research, I found out there is indeed a higher incidence of polydactyl cats in the Northeastern US, Halifax, and a pocket in England and Wales.  Being a Lunenburger, I was especially delighted to find that there is a maritime connection involving these fascinating cats.

It is believed that English Puritans might have taken polydactyl cats on their ships to Boston during the mid-1600s.  The offspring of these cats are believed to have then travelled on trading ships from Boston to Halifax, which could explain why these areas have higher than normal incidence of polydactyly.  Polydactyl cats were thought to be lucky by sailors.  They found their way onto boats, their extra toes giving them added balance on ships in stormy weather.  They were also thought to be better mousers.  It has been said that there are fewer polydactyl cats in Europe because many of these cats were considered witches’ familiars and hence destroyed.

Polydactyl cats are sometimes referred to as “mitten cats,” or “Hemmingway cats”.  The latter name refers to the author Ernest Hemingway, who was given his first polydactyl cat, Snowball, by a ship’s captain and drinking buddy.  Today, due to unrestrained breeding, nearly 50 of Snowball’s descendants still live at the Hemingway home in Key West, Florida.

Genetically, polydactylism is a simple autosomal (unrelated to gender) dominant trait.  Cats with extra toes have the dominant gene PD.  A cat needs only one copy of the gene from either parent to have the trait.  Therefore, if one parent has extra toes, 50% of the kittens will have it too.  Polydactylism doesn’t affect cats adversely.  It is simply an enchanting quirk.  The toenails associated with the extra toes tend to be normal nails, although the extra toe occasionally might be incompletely formed and the nail bed deformed, leading to claw problems like ingrown or overgrown nails.  Like all kitty toenails, the extra ones require regular trimming.

If you are wondering, the most toes ever found on a cat, reported in 1974, was 32 toes, eight on each paw.  The current record holder is Tiger, a 27-toed kitty from Alberta, Canada.

 

Written by: Dr. Croft 

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Does your feline have extra toes? The history behind Polydactyl Cats

Most cats have 18 toes; five toes on each of their front feet, and four on the back.  My cat, Mandy Pawtinkin, is blessed with 22 toes.  She has a congenital physical anomaly called polydactyly (Greek for ‘many digits’).  It is a genetic mutation that causes cats to be born with more than the usual number of toes on one or more of its paws.

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COVID-19: Additional measures we are taking

Dear Clients,

Due to the close contact that our work requires, we have taken additional measures to protect you and our team while providing care for your furry family members.

The following changes are effective as of Monday, March 23, 2020:

1. We are currently operating a "closed waiting room" policy to protect our clients and staff. When you arrive, please remain in your vehicle and use your cell phone to call us at 902.422.8595. We will take a history of your pet over the phone, and bring your pet into the clinic for an examination with the veterinarian. Once the examination is finished, we will call to discuss our recommended treatment plan over the phone and then return to your vehicle with your pet. Please ensure your pet has a properly fitted collar or is in a secure carrier. Please remove any additional clothing or blankets prior to our staff handling our patients to minimize risk to our team.

2. We are still OPEN but are now working in two shifts with reduced hours, reduced staff numbers and a need to close for extensive cleaning between shifts.
Monday to Friday: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 2:00 pm.

3. If you are ordering food or medications, please allow 2-4 business days as our suppliers are dealing with increased demand and are trying to fill orders as quickly as possible. We will advise you as soon as your order arrives. Please call us when you arrive to pick up your order, but do not enter the hospital. Our staff will bring your order to your car and take payment over the phone. You can also use our online store and have your food delivered directly to your home. To sign up for the online store, visit our website.

Following the recommendations of our government and medical experts, we are doing our best to practice social distancing within the constraints of our roles. As such, we have taken measures to avoid both contracting and facilitating the spread of this virus. You may see our team members wearing additional protective gear when interacting with our clients and patients.

Thank you for helping us be diligent for everyone's safety. As we have heard from all levels of government, the situation is fluid and any updates will be provided as changes occur.

- Your dedicated team at Halifax Veterinary Hospital