We made this card for The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida. This is the house where Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, lived in the 30’s and where he wrote his most famous novels.
About those 6 toe cats:
The story goes that Hemingway became friends with a sea captain who owned an unusual six-toed tomcat, named Snow White. Hemingway was enchanted with the cat.
Sailors favored polydactyl cats, believing they were good luck. Their extra toes enhanced their abilities as mousers and provided better balance on rough seas. Ready to set sail and knowing how much Ernest Hemingway loved cats, the captain gave him Snow White as a parting gift.
Soon Snow White had a litter of polydactyl-gene-carrying cats, who Ernest Hemingway named after famous people of his time. Today many of the numerous cats living in and around the house have six toes.
He loved cats.
With names like Princess Six-Toes, Feather Puss, Zane Grey, Clark Gable, Uncle Wolfer, and Good Will, Hemingway believed in the individuality of each of his felines. He professed a deep regard for what he called the “absolute emotional honesty” of cats.
Hemingway’s favorite cat, a black and white tom called Boise, was immortalized as a character in his novel Islands in the Stream.
Key West cats:
Key West is a small island off the south tip of Florida, and many of the cats on the island are related. 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.
About those 6 toe cats today:
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to approximately 50 or 60 polydactyl (6-toed) cats.
Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people and the tradition is still carried on at the house. Today you can visit the museum and meet Sylvia Beach, Dorian Gray, Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, Joe DiMaggio, Betty Grable, Billie Holiday, Hunter S. Thompson, Rudolph Valentino and other prolifically-toed felines.
The Hemingway House Museum is open and welcoming to visitors, as are the cats. While the rooms of the house are restricted to public access, the cats are not hindered by “Do Not Touch” signs and velvet ropes; the creatures that he so adoringly called his “love sponges” still sleep on Hemingway’s bed, lounge on his writing desk and wander the gardens at ease.
*other accounts say the original tom cat was named SnowBall, but I wasn’t there and don’t know.
For a related card, see Cats Are Like Potato Chips, (You Can’t Have Just one.)
Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes. About half of the cats at the museum have extra toes, but they all carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA, which means that the ones that have normal quantity of toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens.
This is a wildly complex card! Guaranteed to please Hemingway fans and cat lovers!