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Ernest Hemingway was known for many things, including his love for cats and writing. At his home in Key West, he kept a colony of cats, many of which were polydactyl, meaning they had extra toes. These cats, known as Hemingway's six-toed cats, have become a beloved attraction at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Visitors to the museum can see the cats up close and learn about their history.
During his time in Key West, Hemingway wrote several of his most famous books, including "A Farewell to Arms," "To Have and Have Not," and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." He wrote in a small studio on the property, surrounded by the cats he loved. Visitors can see the studio and learn about the writing process of one of America's most celebrated authors.
A cat named Snow White
One of the most fascinating things about Hemingway's six-toed cats is that they are all descendants of a cat named Snow White, a gift from a ship's captain to Hemingway in the 1930s. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to approximately 60 polydactyl cats, and about half of them have the physical trait of extra toes, but all of them carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA. This means that even cats with four or five toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens. The museum staff will tell you about the cats' personalities and their role in the house.
Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people, and the tradition continues today at the museum. The cats are capable of learning and responding to their names, particularly if they have an affectionate relationship with the person who calls them.
There are many times when tourists visiting the museum come just to see the cats. It makes you wonder if the cats are as popular or even more popular than Hemingway himself.
When visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, be sure to take a stroll through the lush gardens and see the cats lounging in the sun, or maybe even catch a glimpse of them taking a nap in one of Hemingway's favorite spots on the property. The museum is open 365 days a year, from 9 am to 5 pm, and is located at 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040. Learn more about Hemingway and his famous cats here. (Photos courtesy of Hemingway Home Museum on Facebook.)
2023 Hemingway Days Festival
Ernest Hemingway enthusiasts and those inspired by his literary accomplishments and adventurous lifestyle, including many with beards resembling his own, will gather in Key West from July 18-23 for Hemingway Days 2023.
As you leave the museum, take a moment to reflect on one of Hemingway's most famous quotes about cats: "A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not." And you'll realize that this quote applies not only to Hemingway's love for cats but also to the enduring legacy of both the cats and the man himself. #lovethemarker
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