Weird bit of trivia about Ernest Hemingway: Approximately 50 direct descendants of the six-toed cats the famed author lived with in the 1930’s still live in his Key West home today. Hemingway loved cats – indeed, he claimed they helped him with his work – and he and his family lived with 16 of them at one point. They were an inescapable part of the Hemingway home. And so he stipulated in his will that they would continue to live in his home after his death. The house has since been turned into a museum.
An added quirk to this already unusual story: Many of these cats are polydactyl, or six-toed. They each have an additional digit that almost looks like a thumb, or makes them appear as if they are wearing mittens. Half of the current generation of Hemingway cats are polydactyl, a trait that can be traced back to “Snowball”, a white, six-toed cat given to Hemingway by a sea captain. In fact, because of his association with these six-toed felines polydactyl cats are often nicknamed “Hemingway cats.”
Visitors to the museum get to see the cats roam free on the museum grounds. The house has been perfectly preserved the way Hemingway once lived in it. The cats are not only a part of the “Hemingway experience”, but also a living tribute to Hemingway’s love of felines.
The museum and the cats have been in the headlines recently because of a federal case giving the government more say over the way these cats are treated. Find out more about that here.