The Hemingway Home And Museum In Key West
Head to Key West, Florida, and you'll find the Hemingway Home and Museum. Though the house was once home to the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway, it's not just a tourist attraction for fans of his work — it's also a draw to cat lovers.
Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, moved into the Spanish Colonial-style house om 1931 after Pauline's uncle gifted it to them. But ever since the literary giant moved in with his polydactyl (six-toed) cat, the island has been overrun with its kin.
Indeed, the 40 to 50 cats that now run the property, which has since been turned into a museum, are all believed to be descended from Hemingway's pet Snow White. She was allegedly also a gift from a sea captain whom Hemingway knew.
According to the museum's website, not all of the cats living at the house show the polydactyl trait, but all of them are believed to carry the polydactyl gene. This means they can still produce six-toed offspring.
The Hemingway Home and Museum has garnered a quirky reputation because of the pack of cats that commune there. They are spotted throughout the estate, lounging in the gardens, in the flower beds, or by the pool, which was the first in-ground pool constructed in the city.
Hemingway's cats range in size and color. There are tabbies, tortoiseshell, and calicos, among others. All of the cats are named after famous people, a tradition that's been kept up since Hemingway's death. Some of the names include Audrey Hepburn, Pablo Picasso, and "Hairy Truman."
The cats are docile and friendly toward visitors. Sometimes they will respond when called by their name.
There are a number of cat-centric items around the Hemingway house, such as the lace curtains which were made in the pattern of a cat. One of the strangest objects, though, is the cat drinking fountain that was installed by the author himself.
The giant cat bowl is actually an old urinal taken from Hemingway's favorite jaunt, Sloppy Joe's bar. His wife allegedly hated the recycled cat bowl and "decorated" it by attaching an old Spanish jar and tiling to the sides. The Hemingway cats still use it to drink.
There's also a big cat house that was constructed in the shape of the Hemingway house, where visitors can see the cats sleeping in their own kitty compartments.
Museum officials note that the house isn't the only place you'll find Hemingway's cats. The city of Key West is a small island town so many cats inhabit other parts of the island as well. Because it's such a small community, many of these cats are likely also descended from Hemingway's first cat.