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Observations on Heredity in Cats with an Abnormal Number of Toes


DURING the last few years I have had occasional opportunities of studying heredity in various families of cats with an abnormal number of toes, and whose ancestors for some few generations at least, have possessed the same peculiarity. The observations have now been continued over a period long enough to render their publication a matter of interest. I first became acquainted with these cats in the winter of 1878, when staying near Haverfordwest. I made inquiries on seeing one of then for the first time, and ascertained that it had been obtained from Mr. Edward Vaughan, of Fern Hill, Haverfordwest, a relation of the friend with whom I was staying. Shortly afterwards I saw Mr. Vaughan, and had a long talk with him about the peculiarity. At the time I took notes of his experience, and he has since kindly written to give further information. He first became acquainted with two generations of tortoiseshell cats with the normal number of toes (living respectively to the ages of eleven and twenty). Then in the third generation the extra toes appeared (this cat died aged nineteen, and was also a tortoiseshell). This cat or the mother was brought from Bristol to Haverfordwest. The peculiarity was inherited by “Punch”—a cat now living, and fifteen years old last May, also a tortoise-shell—making four generations. “Punch” has six toes on each fore foot, and six on each hind foot, but two of her kittens have had seven on hind and fore feet, and all varieties between the extreme and normal form have occurred commonly. It is a very curious and interesting fact that now in her old age all her kittens have the normal number of toes. Mr. Vaughan is of opinion that the peculiarity is also dying out among “Punch's” descendants, but this is by no means my experience with the branch of the family I have observed. He also gained the impression that the female kittens were more affected with the peculiarity than the males. Mr. Vaughan also made the interesting observation that the peculiarity reappeared in the kittens of a normal female cat (a daughter of “Punch's”), although in smaller proportions.

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