By Starrla Cray
COKATO, MN All pets are special, but Jeanne Martin’s cat Paws is extra special.
Paws has 28 toes, tied with the feline who currently holds the Guinness World Record for “Cat with the Most Toes.” Martin describes each paw as looking “like a catcher’s mitt.”
“It’s almost like an opposable thumb,” she said.
Paws was rescued just over a year ago by Martin’s daughter’s partner, Walter Nachtigall, who has a cabin just north of Cokato. Nachtigall discovered the extra digits while giving the cat a belly rub one day.
“I had heard about Hemingway cats,” Nachtigall said. Nobel prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway was a fan of polydactyl cats, and his house (now a museum) is home to dozens of them.
Most cats have 18 toes five on each front paw and four on each hind paw. Polydactyl cats have more. Some just have extra on each front paw, while others (like Paws) have many toes on all four paws.
The polydactyl gene can be passed on to offspring. When Paws had kittens last year, two were normal and one had extra toes. (All three kittens have since been adopted out to good homes.)
Martin has not noticed any downside to the extra toes. In fact, it seems to be an advantage, as Paws can walk on the edge of a drawer or other narrow spots with ease.
“She seems to be pretty agile,” Martin said.
Paws is special in more ways than just her extra toes, though.
“She’s a pretty cat,” Martin commented. “She has big eyes, and we call her Cleopatra sometimes.”
Paws is also quite vocal, and will make a “hello” sound when she wants to get inside a room that has a shut door. Martin said Paws is probably imitating her, since she frequently greets the cat by saying, “Hello!”
Martin said she never sought out publicity for Paws, but Nachtigall happens to know people at WCCO-TV and sent them a photo. The crew ended up coming out and interviewing Martin and Paws at their home in Northfield, and the story aired Feb. 7. News traveled fast after that.
“I had a call from someone in England the next day,” Martin recalled. Since then, the story has been picked up by a few other websites and news outlets.
Although Paws doesn’t mind the spotlight, Martin said the story is just as much about rescue animals as it is about a Guinness World Record. Martin’s previous cat passed away a few months before Paws arrived, and Martin said she’s happy to have Paws in her life.
The first cat Nachtigall rescued in Cokato was Boo, who is now his pet. Having a cat has brought a change in perspective.
“I had never been a cat person,” Nachtigall said, explaining that he’d always preferred dogs. “The one lesson I’ve learned through all this is to be open to a bond with another creature. . . If I had stuck to my idea that I wasn’t a cat person, I would have missed out on a lot of love.”
And if you ask anyone who knows Paws, it seems that love comes in all shapes, sizes, and numbers of toes.