Polydactyl Kitties

[Polydactyl Cats]

Written by Ioana Busuioc, June 2019

All photos generously provided by Debby Harold

Cats typically have 18 toes, 5 on each front paw, and four on each rear paw. Polydactyl cats, however, have extra toes typically on their front paws. Interestingly enough, a polydactyl cat may have extra toes on their front paws, but not on their rear paws, however, if they have them on their rear paws, they always have them on their front paws.

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Historically, they were popular with the shipping trade in the northeastern part of the United States, as well as in Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia; the majority of polydactyl cats are still found there. They were considered good luck, especially to sailors, and it was believed that their extra toes gave them better balance on ships.

Their name originated from the Greek words poly (many), and daktulos (fingers), however, they have numerous other names, such as “mitten cats”, “thumb cats”, and “Hemingway cats”. There is no particular breed for poly cats, however, Maine Coons are found to have a 40% chance of being born polydactyl. Tales tell of the breed had evolved the extra toes as a way to walk easier in the snow, or to use their larger paws to catch fish right out of the streams!

Clasp, AARCS alumni and multiple-beaned sweetheart

Clasp, AARCS alumni and multiple-beaned sweetheart

Ernest Hemingway had a fondness for the cats, and he shared his Key West island in Florida with almost 50 cats. One of these kitties was a six-toed polydactyl cat named Snow White, who was given to him by a ship’s captain; some of the cats living on the museum grounds of the Hemingway Home and Museum are descendants of Snow White, and while all 40-50 cats living on the grounds carry the polydactyl gene, not all of them have the physical polydactyl trait.  Interestingly enough, Hemingway had named all of his cats after famous people, a tradition still followed by the Hemingway Home and Museum. Another famous cat lover, President Theodore Roosevelt, had a polydactyl cat named Slippers, who ended up being one of the first feline residents of the White House.

Polydactylism in cats is neither advantageous nor is it disadvantageous (so no, your extra-beaned kitty won’t be able to open doors and pick items up!), however, sometimes some extra toes’ nail beds can be deformed, which can lead to claw problems. The extra claw between the ‘thumb’ and the foot and grow around and “become embedded in the foot or pad, causing pain and infection” - it’s best to consult with a vet for proper instructions and care.

Look at those mitts! Buckles certainly has a pawful!

Look at those mitts! Buckles certainly has a pawful!

The most toes ever found on a cat to date was 32, 8 on each paw, almost 50 years ago! One of the last verified record holders is an Albertan kitty named Tiger, with 27 toes in total!  Currently, a Canadian ginger tabby named Jake and an American cat named Paws both have 28 toes, thus holding the verified record for most toes!

All in all, polydactyl cats are just like any other cats, but they have more beans to love you with! It is a genetic mutation or anomaly, not a defect, and just like all animals, extra digits or not, they are deserving of a loving home!

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Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

 

Kitten Season

[Kitten Season]

Written by Sydney Walker, SAIT Journalism Student

All photos courtesy of some of the amazing cat foster moms at AARCS.

As the days get warmer, and spring becomes reality, kitten season is already in full swing. With litters upon litters of new kittens being born, calls regarding newborn kittens that appear to be abandoned are becoming more frequent. And although the introduction of new life into the world is beautiful and wondrous, it leads to the increase of abandoned, homeless, and neglected animals within our province.

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What’s better than one sleeping kitten? Two!

What should you do if you encounter a mom and her babies in loud or dangerous environments:
  • Call your local animal welfare agency to assist
  • Minimize moving the mom or the kittens
  • Do not move the kittens if the mom is not present – mother cats commonly leave their kittens unattended for extended periods of time to look for food or hide in fear if disturbed.

It’s important to be aware that it is difficult to determine whether or not their mom is to return without hours of distant and quiet observation of the area where the kittens are located.

If you find a potentially orphaned litter of kittens:
  • It is best to leave them where they are and call a local animal welfare agency, or animal services (list of Calgary-based organizations below)

  • If the kittens are in imminent danger due to an environmental danger, or a predator, make precise notes of the location and take them to a local veterinary clinic. Your notes and contact information are used by animal rescuers to search for a mother cat within the area the kittens were found.

Foster kitten Cricket looking mighty cute!

Foster kitten Cricket looking mighty cute!

The kittens’ greatest chance of survival is with their mother. Young kittens are very fragile, and even when being bottle-fed by experienced foster parents, their chance of survival is still not as high as it would be with their mother present.

When kittens are removed, the mother will go into heat again almost immediately, and thus the cycle of kittens will continue.

If the entire family can be rescued, the chances of survival are much greater. Ultimately if more people become more educated on what to do in these circumstances, together we can help stop the cycle of homeless kittens. One person can make a difference, no matter how small! It can feel daunting to see or read about homeless cats, but ultimately even if one is saved, to that one cat, their entire life changes, and that’s always worth the effort.

Calgary Resources:

Calgary Humane Society

Southern Alberta Veterinary Emergency (SAVE)

Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS)

VCA Canada Calgary Animal Referral & Emergency Centre

McKnight 24 Hour Veterinary Hospital

Fish Creek 24 Hour Pet Hospital

Calgary Animal Services / 311

If outside of the Calgary area, you can call your local animal services, emergency veterinary hospitals and/or humane society.
Foster Tekashi, just look at those baby blues!

Foster Tekashi, just look at those baby blues!

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Kitten cuddle puddles!

Kitten cuddle puddles!

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

Finding a new home can be difficult. It doesn't have to be.

[Facilitating Safe & Successful Dog-to-Dog Intros]

Written by Ioana Busuioc, March 2019

As of January this year, we’ve had the wonderful Sammy join the AARCS team as a Behaviour Coordinator. She has already demonstrated an amazing attitude and willingness to offer her knowledge, insight, and support for all things dog related, from fostering, to ownership, to care, and beyond! She has her own blog, from which she has graciously agreed to let me use posts and photos. This will be the first post from her own blog, which can be found at Bear and Foster Friends. Enjoy!

Will sweet Hannah win you over?! AARCS ID# A40716766

Will sweet Hannah win you over?! AARCS ID# A40716766

Written by Sammy Musgrave

Congratulations on making the best decision ever to adopt a dog into your family! How are you feeling? Over the moon happy? Nervous? Overwhelmed? A little bit of all of the above? Let me help you dispel some of those worries with a concrete Fido-Proof plan so we can focus on all the good feels that come with bringing home your new-to-the-family sweet and furry companion.

Gather Supplies and Prepare your Home

Before you bring home Fido home for the first time, make sure you’ve already done your supply run for a leash, collar, harness, food, etc. Once you have the basics, here are some less obvious preparations that I recommend in order to make your life that much easier in the long run:

  • If you will be using a crate, make sure it’s already set up before you bring your new dog home. Witnessing the set-up could make Fido even more hesitant to trust the dog-eating contraption that you are asking him to get into.

  • Designate and prepare a dog-proof space. I can’t stress how important this step is! I bring 10-15 new foster dogs into my home per year, and this was a rule I had to learn the hard way… (a few times). Save yourself from the potential destruction, accidents, and stress that can result from not having a dog-proof space. In many homes, this looks like a gated off area in the kitchen, mudroom, or other non-carpeted space, using baby-gates, x-pens, crates, turned over coffee tables, and creatively placed chairs. This area should include Fido’s water and food dishes, a dog bed, a crate (if you’ve decided to use one), and a few chew toys (bully sticks, frozen stuffed kongs, etc).

Vida plotting her escape from her dog-proof space.

Vida plotting her escape from her dog-proof space.

  • If you have children, now is a good time to teach them how to interact with their new furry friend. It’s also crucial that they not approach your new family member while he is eating or sleeping during the first few weeks.

  • If you have other pets in the home, be prepared to separate them for the first three days. Yes, your home is safe, and your family is likely the best thing to ever happen to Fido, but here’s the catch – he doesn’t know that yet. Something called a ‘stress event’ triggers when a dog’s schedule and environment changes. This means a whole lot of stress hormones flood Fido’s system, and continue to increase over a 3 day period before stabilizing to normal levels. It is a best practice to separate your new canine from the rest of the pack until he has had some time to decompress in his new environment. Even after 3 days, they should not be left together unsupervised during the first few weeks or perhaps months. It can take a long time for dogs to acclimate to one another in a new home, and spats over jealousy, territory, and miscommunication are to be expected.

  • Find out what food he is currently eating so that you can keep him on it to avoid any tummy troubles. You can gradually transition him to a food of your choice over a 1-2 week period. Adding flora Fiora or pumpkin can assist with this transition but isn’t necessary.

  • Stock up on some training treats. Kibble can be used for a lot of training, but I recommend high value treats for anything that may be particularly challenging for your new dog (keeping in mind, that for some dogs, something as ‘easy’ as stairs might constitute a challenge that requires payment in a much higher currency).

  • Kongs and bully sticks! Give Fido something appropriate to chew on so that he isn’t tempted by your delicious looking baseboards.

Be Prepared for the Drive Home

Crate your new canine companion for the first ride home, or if he isn’t crate trained, have a second person with you to hold onto his leash during the drive. As much as you might want to show him off or introduce him to fun new experiences, avoid making any stops on the way home. Your first stop should be the area where you want him to do his business. Once he has done his business outside, you are ready to introduce him to his new home.

Who could say no to this face!? Jally is up for adoption, AARCS ID# A40332781

Who could say no to this face!? Jally is up for adoption, AARCS ID# A40332781

Create an Effortless Schedule for the First Week

It’s a good idea to keep a 10-15 feet lead on him as he explores the house. After he has had a chance to explore, help him get acquainted with the area that you’ve prepared for him. You can spend some time hand feeding him, and petting him while he gets adjusted to his designated space, but do make sure to leave him for an hour or two, preferably with a stuffed chew, to allow him some time to rest.

This is a general outline of what his routine should look for the first few days. When Fido isn’t in his designated area, it is a good practice to keep him on a 10-15 foot lead at all times during the first few days.

  • Wake up and let Fido out for a bathroom break
  • Feed breakfast
  • Bathroom break
  • Exercise, play, and/or family time
  • Bathroom break
  • Fido’s designated area
  • Repeat bathroom break-exercise, play and/or family time-bathroom break-Fido’s designated area circuit until it’s dinner time
  • Feed dinner
  • Bathroom break
  • Exercise, play, and/or family time
  • Bathroom break
  • Bedtime in Fido’s designated area

Note that there are tons of bathroom breaks to remove any room for error. You might be wondering why all the extra precautions? Perhaps your dog has already been housetrained and has never gotten into anything he wasn’t supposed to in his foster home. Here’s the thing- dogs are terrible at generalizing. Just because he knew the rules in one household doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to realize those same rules apply to your household. That, coupled with the stress and anxiety of moving into a new household makes an accident that much more likely to occur.

Make the First Week Utterly Unspectacular

The first week should be relatively quiet and stress-free. This week is all about bonding with Fido and teaching him his new routine. Avoid introducing him to all kinds of new people, places, and animals. He needs time to feel safe, and to adjust to his new environment, people, and routine. This is also a good week to practice a few short departures to prepare your new dog for the first time you have to leave him for an extended period of time.

Bear makes boring look cute!

Bear makes boring look cute!

Thanks for reading everyone!

Love, Sammy & Bear

AARCS_adopt_canine

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

“We are so proud of our contribution to their happy-ever-after-life. We’ve met so many amazing volunteers who’ve become friends because of our shared passion for rescuing.”

Kelly A.
Kelly A.

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Victoria H.
Victoria H.

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Janice B.
Janice B.

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Tami M.
Tami M.

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Annik T.
Annik T.

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Emily D.
Emily D.

“Volunteering is my therapy from daily life stresses!”

Shelby W.
Shelby W.

“Whether you foster one and decide to adopt, or foster 100 and adopt none, it’s still having a positive impact!.”

Candice B.
Candice B.

“I have learned that it is okay to show our emotions on our sleeves. Volunteering with AARCS has allowed me to grow in so many ways!”

Amber B.
Amber B.

“I am so much happier since starting with AARCS. I have a purpose in my life now other than my day to day tasks like work and home life!”

Erin K.
Erin K.

“AARCS gives these animals a chance at a better life and I am so grateful!”

Brenda B.
Brenda B.

“Volunteering is a great experience, you meet lots of people and you help the animals no matter how much time you give. Even 5 minutes of your time can make a difference!”

Shelia W.
Shelia W.

“I have learned so much about myself through fostering each of the dogs I’ve met. When I foster, it feels like I’m really making a difference for animals and people in our communities.”

Samantha K.
Samantha K.

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Cindy G.
Cindy G.

“The people at AARCS are all amazing and it’s great to work with so many people that share my love of animals. I honestly can’t imagine my life without AARCS!”

Lori U.
Lori U.

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Bianca D.
Bianca D.
Ioana Busuioc

Ioana Busuioc

Blog and Website Content Creator

Ioana is a soon-to-be business graduate with a passion for animals and educating the public about their care. Ardent advocate for animals big and small, she can typically be found juggling her academics and work with her love of food, kitty and bearded dragon cuddles, video games, hiking and boxing.