Exploring Ernest Hemingway's Love for Cats in Key West

Ernest Hemingway’s love for cats is legendary, and his home in Key West is home to a colony of polydactyl cats, many of which have extra toes. These cats, known as Hemingway’s six-toed cats, have become a beloved attraction at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Visitors can see the cats up close, learn about their history, and even take a tour of Hemingway’s writing studio, where he wrote some of his most famous books.

One of the most fascinating things about the cats is that they are all descendants of a cat named Snow White, a gift from a ship’s captain to Hemingway in the 1930s. The museum is home to approximately 60 cats, and about half of them have the physical trait of extra toes, but all of them carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA. This means that even cats with four or five toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens. The museum staff will tell you about the cats’ personalities and their role in the house.

Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people, and the tradition continues today at the museum. Visitors can see the cats lounging in the lush gardens and catch a glimpse of them taking a nap in one of Hemingway’s favorite spots on the property. The museum is open 365 days a year, from 9 am to 5 pm, and is located at 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040.

The Hemingway Days Festival, held annually in July, is a celebration of Ernest Hemingway’s life and work. Visitors can enjoy live music, a marlin tournament, a look-alike contest, and other events that pay homage to Hemingway’s love for the sea, writing, and of course, cats. There’s even the popular Running of the Bulls. If you want to meet all the Papa Look-Alikes, head to Sloppy Joe’s for all the festivities.  This year’s festival will be held from July 18-23, 2023, and is the perfect opportunity for visitors to experience the unique culture and history of Key West and Hemingway’s enduring legacy.

One of Hemingway’s famous quotes about cats is, “A cat has absolute honesty.”  The quote highlights Hemingway’s appreciation for the honesty and authenticity of cats, which is evident in his writing and home. (Photo credit: Hemingway Home Museum on Facebook)

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore Ernest Hemingway’s love for cats in Key West by visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Book your trip now and immerse yourself in the world of one of America’s most celebrated authors. #somolife