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Hemingway House Polydactyl Cats
Special Cats at Hemingway's Key West Home
If you have been to Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, you no doubt met some polydactyl cats. There have been, still are, and, hopefully, always will be quite a few of these famous cats there.
You can meet them for yourself when you tour the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West. If you're like me, your visit there will probably be as memorable as mine was.
On your tour, you'll learn quite a bit about the cats, and get to meet some of them, too. Or, if you're not on your way to the Florida Keys today, you can simply continue reading this page.
What is Hemingway House?
And Where is it?
Properly, it's actually the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. The house was built in 1851, and purchased at a tax auction in 1931 by Hemingway's second wife's uncle as a wedding present for the couple. He paid $8,000.00 for it.
The author lived - and wrote - in the home from 1931 to 1939. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark, and is preserved, complete with the writer's own writing desk and other furnishings, AND the descendants of his cats. You can tour it, as we did several years ago, and it is well worth your time and the $12.50 price of admission.
Often referred to as just Hemingway House, it's in the southernmost city in the continental United States, Key West, Florida, way down at the end of the Lower Keys. Here's the address:
907 Whitehead Street
Key West, FL 33040
Ernest Hemingway House Visitors - a poll
Each year, around 200,000 people visit the home where Hemingway and his cats lived. Are you one of them, or will you be?
Have you been to the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West?
Funny Cat Doormat - The Cat and His Staff Live Here
Do you sometimes feel that your cat regards you as "staff?" (It's a standing joke among cat owners, or more correctly, those owned by their felines.)
Well, those at Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West do, indeed, have staff . .. And quite a bit of staff, too! (Read further to find out about that)
Getting to Hemingway House
Walk or Take the Conch Tour Train
Once you arrive in Key West, it's easy to get to the Hemingway Home and Museum.
It's not a bad walk from just about any other point in the Conch Republic, and most anyone can point you in the right driection.
People walk a lot in Key West. You'll see a lot of bicycles there, too.
If you'd prefer to ride, one popular option is the Conch Tour Train. Once you purchase your ticket, you can get on and off at will, and it goes right by the former home of one of America's most famous authors, and present home of some pretty famous felines.
One of the Cats at Hemingway House
Polydactyls Have Extra Toes
Poly means many, and dactyl means digits. So, those polydactyl means having extra toes or fingers. Polydactyly, with the extra "y" on the end, is the name of the condition, which is congenital.
Ernest Hemingway's cat, Snowball, reportedly had six toes on each front paw. The normal number of toes is five on the front paws and four on the back.
The story goes that Snowball was given to the writer by a friend who was a sea captain, and that Hemingway actually took the kitty out on his boat with him on fishing trips. This may be true, or it may simply be based on the fact that sailors supposedly consider it good luck to have a polydactyl feline sailing with them.
At any rate, the man was quite fond of his kitty, something which all ailurophines understand.
The word POLYDACTYL comes from
the Greek "poludactulos"
which means "many-toed."
Thumbs Up T Shirt - Polydactyls Rule
Snowball's Decendents Today
Are a Large Clowder
Over the years, Snowball's bloodline has supposedly been maintained, with the actual descendents of the Nobel Prize winning author's original extra-toed cat living at the house to this day.
There are some 40 - 60 of them on the one acre walled estate at any one time, and a very high percentage of them - about half - are polydactyl, since the gene that carries the benign abnormality is a dominant one. Some even have extra toes on both front and back paws.
These cats have the run of the house and grounds, and can be seen inside and out, going anywhere they will. The day we were there, a large yellow one was comfortably snoozing on Hemingway's bed, which is roped off so that human visitors can't touch it, much less nap on it.
** PS - Just as there are schools of fish and flocks of birds, there are clowders of cats.
Books about Papa Hemingway, - His Cats, and Key West
See The Hemingway Cats Here - (for those who can't make it to Key West today)
Key West Hosts Hemingway Days Festival each July.
With a Famous Name
The polydactyls at the Hemingway Home and Museum have become very famous cats indeed!
In fact, they are so well known that any kitten born with extra toes now belongs to an elite group that are sometimes referred to as "Hemingway Cats."
Not only are these kitties famous, but they are are named for well known people who lived at the same time as the famous author.
This beauty was sleeping in the tropical garden. Later on, we saw her on the veranda, and ready to be petted... at least I think it was the same one!
Famous Cats, Named for Famous People
Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo, for Example
Hemingway always had cats, and was fond of naming them after famous people. I am guessing he may have believed it either bad luck or poor taste to change an animal's name, as he doesn't seem to have changed Snowball's name to that of someone famous.
The tradition has been kept up by those who care for the cats. Each carries the name of a famous person... mostly well known contemporaries of the famous writer.
Charlie Chaplin, pictured above, volulntarily comes to the breezeway between the main house and the writer's studio, where he does tricks for visitors, in exchange for treats for the guides.
We also met Greta Garbo that day. Cool, huh?
However, we missed the opportunity to get acquainted with Howard Hughes and Gertrude Stein.
Amazing Book for Cat Lovers - Why Do They Do That?
Have you ever wondered why cats do a certain thing? Find the answers in this book of 101 answers.
Well Cared for Cats - These Feines Really DO have "Staff."
Most cat owners understand the little joke about dogs having owners, while cats have staff.
But the cats at Hemingway House really DO have staff! They are well looked after, have meticulous records kept of births, names, markings, likes, and more. They even have a staff veteranarian who makes weekly visits!
Only certain pre-determined number of males are allowed to remain capable of fathering kittens, and selected females have a SINGLE litter, This is to keep the feline population there fairly constant.
You'll find a variety of colors and marking patterns on the cats there. I think my pick for Prettiest Hemingway Cat was a sweet tortie. I've saved her photo for last. It's next.
My Pick for Prettiest Hemingway Cat - I've Always Been Fond of Tortise Shells
Do You Have a Hemingway Cat? - Have you ever seen one?
Have you ever had - or known - a Polydactyl Cat?
Have you owned a polydactyl cat? Or have you met one? Have you seen the ones at their home in Key West? What do you think?