Monday, July 21, 2014

Hemingway's Key West cats — and we’re not talking poetry readings

            American author Ernest Hemingway spent part of his life living and writing in Key West, first at Casa Antigua at 314 Simonton St., then at the Spanish Colonial home at 907 Whitehead St., that is now open for tours. While Hemingway was penning some of his best-known works in the southernmost point of the continental U.S.A., he was presented with a white six-toed cat by a ship captain.
            Hemingway named the unusual cat Snowball.
Six-toed Harry Truman at Hemingway House in Key West.
Photo by Rob O'Neal photography.
            Today, about 40 to 50 of Snowball’s descendants reside at the home, named after famous people in the tradition of Hemingway (not sure who Snowball was named after, however). About half of the cats have six toes but they all carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA, according to the home’s web site; the gene allows those with only four and five toes to mother or father cats with six. The web site claims, “The polydactyl cats are not a particular breed. The trait can appear in any breed, calicos, tabbies, tortoise shell. white, black, etc. They vary in shapes, sizes, colors and personalities.”
            The historic property known as the Hemingway House also hosts its own veterinarian, Dr. Edie Clark, who performs routine health care for the Hemingway cats.
             While you’re visiting Hemingway’s Key West house and his menagerie of felines, check out the city’s first in-ground pool, which was built for $20,000 in 1937-38. Hemingway felt the pool’s cost was so exorbitant that he took out a penny from his pocket and placed it in the wet cement on the pool’s side. “Here, take the last penny I’ve got,” he is rumored to have said. The penny is still there, located between flagstones at the north end of the pool.


  1. You are such a wealth of knowledge. I'd give a penny any day for your thoughts.

  2. Ernest Hemingway is well known for the adventure and his public image. Anything that relates itself with him is surely going to be very thrilled and I must say the above described piece is very significant as well.