Darwin the polydactyl catThis is Darwin, the newest addition to the Castillo clan!

We got her yesterday from the animal shelter. We wandered down there a little after lunch time…I have to tell you, that must be the time for adoptions because there’s a good chance that there were more people than animals when we arrived. So we wandered in and weaved through the throngs of people in the adoption office, waiting to get their animals, and headed back to the cat adoption area.

The first room we went into was an outdoor room with cages on wheels (kind of like those baggage carts, but with cages on them. The room was hot and loud from the cries of all the cats. It was kind of a stressful room to be in and I felt sad for all the animals there. Then we went into the main cat adoption area. This area was better suited for handling animals and I realized that the other room was the overflow room. The humane society had so many animals that they simply didn’t have enough space in the main room. So anyway, we walked into the main room and it was nicely air conditioned with stacks of cats in their own little cages. We walked past cat after cat. It really surprised me to see so many adult cats. My heart hurt for them, abandoned by their families and just sitting there waiting to either be adopted by another family or be euthanized. I wanted to take them all home, to get them out of there, but it wasn’t an option – and we were there for a kitten. I know it’s cliche and that the kittens have no problems getting homes, but we wanted an animal that we could start with…one that would be like our lives and our marriage; so we walked by the adult cats, pausing at each kitten.

First we walked all the way around the cages. There was one tortoise shell kitten that was actively attacking a ball. It was so active and eager that it stood out to us, but I’m a careful shopper, so I suggested to Emily that we circle back around the cages. When we got near the entrance, one of the workers was cleaning out the cage of a set of kittens. The three of them were climbing all over the worker – seriously hampering the efforts of the worker to clean the litter and sweep out the hair and whatnot. Inside the cage were two tabbies and a little black kitten. The black one was particularly active and troublesome. We looked at each other and knew that we had to take a look at her so we asked a volunteer to bring her to an acquaintance room. There, we were left alone with the kitten. We were impressed with how friendly and approachable she was. She seemed to feel perfectly at home with us, happy to let us pet and hold her, but just as happy to investigate the room and crawl through Emily’s purse. There was one weird thing though, she looked like she had thumbs; so when the volunteer came back into the room, I asked about it. The lady smiled and told me they called it polydactyl. I had never heard the term or anything, so I thought she was making fun of me, but the lady also said that it wasn’t a big deal and that some cats had it. Emily and I were entranced. Our cat was going to have thumbs!

While waiting for somebody to take care of the paperwork, I used my phone to google polydactylism. It turns out that it’s a fairly common genetic mutation in cats, particularly from SW England and the NE of the United States. They tend to exhibit higher intelligence and have a knack for getting into places that normal cats often can’t. It’s said that they commonly open doors and latches that are typically cat-proof. Emily and I were joking that our cat was the next step in the evolutionary development of cats, that we should call her Darwin – and the name stuck.

When the humane society adopts cats out, they give the animal to the family in a cardboard box with holes cut in it. From the moment they brought her into the adoption room, she was yowling and crying – clawing at the holes and generally making sure everybody in the room knew that she was there and she wanted out. It was embarrassing and exhilarating all at the same time. All the way home, she cried and mewed and scratched at the box, but we finally got home and let her out. Many cats when they come to a new place will hide under a couch or a bed, but not this one. She was out, immediately, checking out the house. Yet, she also frequently wandered back to Emily or I and would want to play. We knew we had picked the right cat – outgoing and friendly. Already it was obvious that we were family…

Sadly, Emily didn’t have her camera with her, but we took some pictures with our phones and posted the pictures here – I’m sure there will be more to come.

Oh, she’s a natural with the computer, too. Figures, doesn’t it?
Developing the cure for cancer?

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