Hemingway's six-toed cats keep all nine lives after braving Irma

All 54 cats – and 10 humans – had hunkered down at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Monday 11 September 2017 22:18 BST
A cat lies in the bedroom of the Ernest Hemingway home July 22, 2001 in Key West, Florida. Hemingway owned the home from 1931 until his death in 1961.
A cat lies in the bedroom of the Ernest Hemingway home July 22, 2001 in Key West, Florida. Hemingway owned the home from 1931 until his death in 1961.

Hurricane Irma has destroyed buildings, homes and high-rise cranes, but Hemingway’s six-toed cats have survived.

The 54 felines – several of which are descendants of a white polydactyl cat owned by Ernest Hemingway – reside at a house in Key West, Florida that the author called home in the 1930s.

As the storm made its way to the US last week, officials ordered a full evacuation of the Florida Keys.

But all of the cats – as well as 10 humans – stayed put, hunkering down in the Spanish Colonial house now known as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

“When we started to round up the cats to take them inside, some of them actually ran inside knowing it was time to take shelter,” curator David Gonzales told MSNBC. “Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”

“The cats are accustomed to our voices and our care. We love them. They love us. We all hung out together,” he said.

Mr Gonzales added that the building’s thick limestone walls not only protected them from the storm by also kept the place nice and cool. “It’s a very comfortable place for the cats, very comfortable place for our employees,” he said.

One of Mr Hemingway’s granddaughters, the actress Mariel Hemingway, had urged the general manager of the home and museum, Jacque Sands, to evacuate.

“I think you’re wonderful and an admirable person for trying to stay there and to try to save the cats and the house,” she said in a video posted by TMZ, but “this is frightening. This hurricane is a big deal.”

“Get in the car with the cats and take off,” Ms Hemingway had begged.

While officials are still surveying the effects of the storm, the Miami Herald has reported that the damage done to Key West, a major tourist destination, appears to have been less severe than anticipated. “It’s just trees and foliage and cars,” one resident told the newspaper.

When the island is not being racked by a hurricane, Hemingway’s cats – as they are known – can be seen by visitors lounging around his museum’s gardens or sleeping on the indoor furniture.

Mr Hemingway, arguably one of the most famous cat loving writers, once wrote: “A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

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