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.
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.