Hurricane Irma

Hemingway’s six-toed cats survive Hurricane Irma, still have nine lives

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 2:20pm

Hurricane Irma may have wreaked devastation to the Florida Keys islands, but, much to everyone’s relief, a colony of six-toed cats who are descended from a pet owned by Ernest Hemingway have survived without a scratch.

Stern orders to evacuate, dire warnings of the doom that inevitably awaited and the desperate pleas of the legendary writer’s granddaughter weren’t enough to budge the caretakers of the historic house – who decided to place their faith in the building’s thick limestone walls and ride out the monster storm with their 54 feline friends.

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“We took them inside that fortress with us and we had 10 employees stay here on site,” Dave Gonzales, curator of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on the island of Key West told broadcaster NBC.

“We’re comfortable with them; they’re comfortable with us. We love them. They love us. We all hung out last night together,” he added.

As the hurricane approached, packing gusts of 200km/h, many grew worried and urged the staff to reconsider their decision.

“Ultimately it’s just a house. Save the cats. Get all the cats in the car and take off!” actress Mariel Hemingway, Ernest’s granddaughter, urged in a video posted to the website TMZ Friday.

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Jacque Sands, the site’s general manager, did not. Instead, she and the others reinforced the windows of the colonial-style home, where Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms, and waited it out.

“The cats seemed to be more aware sooner of the storm coming in, and in fact when we started to round up the cats to take them inside, some of them actually ran inside, knowing it was time to take shelter,” said Gonzales. “Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”

The animals are descendants of a six-toed cat named “Snow White” that was given to Hemingway by a ship’s captain, according to the museum. About half of them have inherited six-toes, as opposed to the usual five on the front and four on the rear paws, which sometimes give them the appearance of wearing mittens.

Hemingway bought the home in 1931.