Hemingway’s Cats

March 29, 2007

Emily Dickinson

A healthy cat with dilute calico fur, I am named for a poetess who lived during the 1800’s. Coincidentally she wrote about 1800 poems during her lifetime. She was recluse but I am not. I spend my time sprawled near the guest house so people can see me and admire my extra toes.

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum © 2002
Key West CyberWorks ® 2002

I was surprised to learn in an article in the April edition of National Geographic, that Ernest Hemingway was a fan of cats. The twist is that a sailor gave Hemingway a polydactyl cat, which is a cat with extra toes. According to the article, there are now 50 descendants of this car that prowl the home, now the Hemingway museum. I checked out the Hemingway home website, which claims 60 cats, about half polydactyl.

Unfortunately, in order to keep the cats, the museum will have to get a license to exhibit animals, like a zoo. To get the license, the museum will have to ensure that the cats don’t leave the grounds. And, (borrowing an appropriate phrase from Joseph Heller), the “Catch-22” is that if they put up walls high enough to contain the cats, they will lose their status as a historic landmark.

Fortunately, a federal judge, in reaction to a lawsuit filed by the museum, told the museum and the Dept. of Agriculture to “work it out.”


6 Responses to “Hemingway’s Cats”

  1. JCR Says:

    I love Hemingway and I loved visiting his place in Key West. What is amazing to me is how all those cats survive the hurricanes that often hit the island. I am sure they have a way to collect them and putting them in a safe place, no? I hope this gets resolved.

  2. jenclair Says:

    When we were there last summer, the cats were almost the main point of interest. There was one woman museum employee who was doing nothing but following and watching a former escapee! And yes, I think the safety of the cats is a paramount concern during hurricane season.

  3. Brad Says:

    JCR – I’ve enjoyed several of Hemingway’s novels as well. I was just thinking about rereading A Moveable Feast as well.

    jenclair – I’m curious if you enjoyed any of Hemingway’s books. I read some blogs of those who did not. Many have tried to emulate his style, but not many succeed. I’m jealous of the trip to the museum.

  4. Stefanie Says:

    I’ve heard about the cats, and I’ve seen ads out here for kittens with six toes that call them “Hemingway cats.”

  5. Donna Says:

    I have a “nephew” that is a “Hemmingway Cat”, living in Virginia. He “owns” my neighbor, Toby, and I care for him on occasion, as “Aunt Donna”…you KNOW most cat lovers are a bit loopy and we are no exception! FELIX, is about 5 years old and his jet black coat sets off his beautiful yellow/green eyes (depending upon the light–and probably his mood)! Whatever his ancestry, his is ONE OF A KIND…in many ways!!!

  6. Donna Gandee Says:

    As a PS to my other comment…THE BEST CAT IN THE WORLD !!!! “Felix” lost his Daddy last year and knowing animals grieve, too, became somewhat concerned over his overall behavior a few months ago. So, off to the vet we go and…>$200’s-worth of blood-work (not complaining–it was a Complete Blood Panel + Thyroid ++).

    Two days later, we found out that he had Diabetes (hence his mood swings, lethargy, etc.) with a level of 578…normal is 60-120!!!!! Not at all impressed with going to the doctor (who is!), he and I went back for ME to learn everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-diabetes, but were-afraid- to-ask!! Luckily, I am an RN who happened to work in our largest hospital’s Diabetes Treatment and Learning Center (forever ago), so I only needed a short “refresher course”. Felix, on the other hand, knew nothing about anything!

    He’s doing so well now, even at 5 years old, playful like a kitten at times, snooping (like they should), climbing, etc., instead of lying around and sleeping most of the day!!! He took all but his first 2 injections “like a champ” and now even waits for it first or allows you to inject him while he’s eating. “I” am happy to announce that his Mommy has learned to give him his Insulin without any problems…that was a great accomplishment for a retired “teacher” who never had to deal with those things!

    He visits with me some days (just to get out of the house–we live two townhouses apart) and he plays with “his brother”, my 75-pound Flat Coated Retriever…and I am sure you do not have to guess who is boss AND wins most “tiffs”!!!!!

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