Yes, Ernest Hemingway’s Florida House Is Now Home to over 50 Six-Toed Cats—Here’s Why

Come for the literary history, stay for the cats!

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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 favorite 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 famed author’s home, you’ll encounter dozens of kitties descended from Ernest’s original pets.

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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.

Today, the Key West house functions as a museum for Hemingway aficionados—though it’s arguably just as famous for its cats. Stroll through the house and grounds and you’re bound to encounter many members of the house’s 54-cat-strong feline population. They venture both inside and outside the house. You’ll see cats prowling through the palm trees that surround the dwelling, snoozing on a railing, or even taking a catnap on one of the beds. Check out these pictures of cats sleeping in funny places (complete with some words of wisdom from Hemingway)!

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The museum’s general manager and curator help take care of the cats, feeding them with Purina cat chow. A Key West veterinarian makes sure all of the cats are healthy, and the house’s limestone walls keep them safe from the elements. In fact, all 54 four-legged residents recently made it through Hurricane Irma unscathed. Nope, these cats aren’t going anywhere. Cats are smart, as well as easy to take care of–this is why they know how to use a litter box automatically.

Love the idea of cuddly animals living in a tropical place, but are more of a dog person? Learn about the Caribbean island that’s home to dozens of puppies.

[Sources:, HuffPost]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.