KID AND CAT BONDING AT TILLINGHAST – Paisley Stewart is only one of the students making the daily pilgrimage after school to check in with their favorite feline friend, Six. – Photo courtesy of Richard Schmitz
It was 2:30 pm and Paisley Stewart walked home from school on Morris street. She detoured, popping into Tillinghast Postal for her daily visit. Stewart is just one of the band of school kids who come to visit Six, the mild-mannered cat who bedecks the shop counter, laying in her wicker basket or holding down the shipping scale. In October Six came home with Lucy Kelly, Tillinghast’s owner. Kelly’s other kitty companion, Maggie, had passed away in September. When she was ready to adopt another feline, Kelly chose to rescue her new shop kitty from the Humane Society. Not long into her search Kelly spied Six sitting under a chair. Six did not require much coaxing to come out and play, instead coming out from under the chair with a gentle, friendly demeanor. Six’s calm personality convinced her this was the cat for the store. And so she was. She readily made the December move to 521 Morris Street. Where other cats may hide around corners or lurk in the shadows, Six sets herself right in the middle of the action. Her cat bed is to the right of the counter. From this vantage, Six has full view of the bustling mail shop and customers. She thrives on the attention and the stroking behind the ears which she receives from patrons several times a day. Kelly’s take on school days: “when the crossing guard appears on Morris and Sixth, there will be a troupe of children coming in to visit Six”. The children take great pleasure in petting, grooming and playing with their feline friend. A stop in has become a daily ritual, with Six’s pleasant personality accepting the children’s enthusiasm. Six is different in another way. She is a polydactyl cat, meaning she has extra toes on her feet. This is how she got her name. Kelly did not name her but believes she was given this name because of her additional toes. Polydactyl is a congenital, physical abnormality which can affect one paw or multiple paws. All four feet on Six have an extra digit, even though this is commonly limited to the front feet. This genetic trait is not specific to one breed but is more commonly found in populations in the eastern United States. Polydactyl cats are also known as “Hemingway cats” for the author Ernest Hemingway, who was a great lover of these felines. He was gifted his first polydactyl cat by a ship captain in the 1930s. These cats were believed to bring good luck aboard sea vessels. Their wider paw shape giving them better balance on deck as well. Hemingway’s home is now a museum in Key West, Florida. It is home to over 50 polydactyl cats. While Six ‘s biography is not completely known, her future seem bright amongst the postal store’s boxes and shelves. Six may be between six to eight years old; she was found in an abandoned home by a kind neighbor, according to the Humane Society. Her ancestors may have caught mice aboard sea vessel, but today Six can be found catching a nap in a sunny corner of her store. But just like her ancestors bestowing good luck to their homes, she too is bringing good fortune to Tillinghast Postal. Come visit Six and give her a scratch behind the ears, just for luck.