All 54 cats that prowl the grounds of the famous Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, are safe and accounted for after Hurricane Irma slammed into the Keys over the weekend as a Category 4 storm.
The cats, many of which have six or seven toes, along with 10 members of the Hemingway House museum staff spent the duration of the storm safely in the estate's 18-inch-thick limestone walls.
After stories of the havoc and destruction that Irma wreaked in the Caribbean and the US, the survival of the Hemingway Cats is a welcome relief.
The staff and cats stayed even after officials had ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Florida Keys. But Jacque Sands, the general manager of The Ernest Hemingway House, refused to leave. She stated that she had an obligation "to see the property and the cats through the hurricane."
Built in 1851, the Spanish-Colonial style house has withstood many hurricanes since its construction. So the staff boarded up the windows, stocked up on food, water, and medical supplies, and hunkered down to ride out the storm.
The 10 staff that remained in the museum took a roll call of all 54 cats, aided by one particularly organized kitty, Grace Kelly.
“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 the curator of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. “Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”
Taking care of 54 cats on a daily basis is a monumental task, let alone caring for them without electricity and running water. But the Hemingway House staff are well prepared for weathering the after-effects of the storm. The cats go through two tons of dry cat food a year, about 60-80 pounds a week; in preparation for Irma, the staff brought over 300 pounds of cat food, enough to feed the cats for the next 4 weeks.
Many of the six-toed cats are direct descendants of Hemingway's original polydactyl cat, Snow White, who was gifted to him by a ship's captain.
Mr. Hemingway, one of the more famous cat-loving authors out there, once wrote: “A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”'