Meet the Cats of Ernest Hemingway’s Old House
Ernest Hemingway: writer of immortal stories, booze-drinker, four-time husband, soldier, and…cat lover? You probably didn’t know that this great American writer was something of a feline fanatic. (Here are some more facts you never knew about him—and your other favourite authors.) It may seem a little unusual that a man who so loved hunting lions would enjoy the company of smaller cats. But if you visit the Hemingway Museum in Key West, which was once the author’s home, you’ll encounter dozens of kitties descended from Ernest’s original pets.
In 1927, Ernest Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer, his second wife. Pauline’s uncle bought her and Ernest what might be the best wedding gift ever—a Spanish Colonial house in Key West, Florida. Ernest would spend nine years in this house, and would produce works like “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and For Whom the Bell Tolls there. It was also while living in this house that he would become the owner of a cat named Snow White, a gift from a visiting sailor. Snow White wasn’t just any cat: his front feet each had an extra toe. Sailors believed that these six-toed cats, also known as “polydactyl” cats, brought good luck. (Ever wonder why people think black cats are bad luck? We’ve got the answer.)
After Hemingway brought Snow White home, the number of kitties living at the house continued to grow, throughout the rest of Hemingway’s life and beyond. Today, there are 54 cats living on the property, all descended from Snow White. Several of these cats have six toes just like their ancestor, and all of them carry the polydactyl gene, meaning that they could all produce six-toed kittens.