There are about sixty cats living on Hemingway’s Key West property. Most are descended from Mr Pleasure Puss, a cat that was a gift to Hemingway from a sea captain friend. This cat was a polydactyl cat, a genetic abnormality having extra toes. These extra “toes” are almost like opposing thumbs and give their owners much added dexterity and allow almost human like feats, like catching a ball with one paw. These extra toes usually occur on the front paws only, although some display them on the back paws as well. About half the cats on the property display this characteristic and those with it are allowed controlled inbreeding to carry the trait on. The number of Hemingway cats is maintained at about sixty. They all have their own places to hang out and we only saw about five on the tour, one sleeping undisturbed in the middle of Papa’s bed.
They all have names and are treated with much affection by the staff of Hemingway House where they are free to roam inside and out. They are not allowed to be picked up. They are all named after actors and actresses. A secure fence keeps the Hemingway cats in and strays out. A vet visits once a week to care for the cats and is paid out of proceeds from admissions to the grounds.
There are an abnormal number of cats on Key West where, because it was a sea port, they were welcomed to control the mice and rats. The numerous strays do well here because of the climate and the willingness of local people and restaurants to feed them. There is however an active spaying program in effect.
Here are a couple of photos. The last photo is an elaborate “Cat Fountain” Papa had built for his cats.