A trio of tiny kittens have been born with 12 extra toes after a stray cat living at a retirement complex gave birth to her “very distinctive litter”.
The kittens’ mother, Martha, was just a year old when she was spotted by the elderly residents in Bridgemary, Hampshire who started to feed her.
Attempts to find her owner failed and she was taken into the care of Cats Protection in Gosport where she soon gave birth to a litter of four.
The tots are now just over three weeks old with three of the four tiny cats are polydactyl, meaning ‘many fingered.
Black-and-white Ernest has five toes on each paw including elongated dew claw ‘thumbs’.
His brother Hemingway who is tabby-and-white has six toes on each paw while their tabby-and-white sister, Havana, has five toes on each back paw and six toes on each front paw.
The kittens were named in honour of Ernest Hemingway, who is said to have been given a six-toed cat named Snow White by a sailor who docked in Key West.
Over 60 polydactyl cats, many of which may descend from Snow White, live at a house and museum on the Florida island which was once the writer’s home.
Another famous polydactyl cat, a Main Coon named Pauline, lives at the Maison De Moggy cafe in Edinburgh where she can be found giving people ‘two thumbs up’.
Cats Protection are now encouraging pet owners to neuter their cats, as kittens can become pregnant from four-months-old.
Kate Stapleford, Gosport Cats Protection branch coordinator, said: “Kittens are always a delight, but to have three polydactyl kittens is extremely unusual.
“I’ve been fortunate in fostering several single cats over the years who have been polydactyl but I’ve certainly not cared for three polydactyl kittens at once before.”
She added: “Although the kittens are gorgeous and are taking advantage of their extra digits by learning to walk and climb over each other as soon as they can, Martha was a young mum, and pregnancy, especially in stray cats, can have many risks.”