Six-Toed Hemingway Cats Survive Hurricane Irma


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. 


polydactyl hemingway cat


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. 


hemingway house cats hurricane irma cat rescue


“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.” 

hemingway house cats hurricane irma cat rescue

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.”'

hemingway house cats hurricane irma cat rescue




  • Barbara Mancini

    Previous comment……So happy…..not soapy! LOL!

  • Barbara Mancini

    I was soapy to hear that the staff of wonderful people were going to stay to take care of the cats. Thank you to all from me and your beautiful furbabies! I hope to visit someday soon!

  • Dawn Cordova
    “The Museum has always kept, fed, and provided weekly veterinary care for the Hemingway cats. The cats live and roam freely on the grounds that are enclosed by a brick fence at the property’s perimeter. To prevent population beyond the historical norm of 50-60 cats, the majority of the cats are spayed or neutered so that only a couple of cats of each sex are reproductive." So everyone can relax about them being so irresponsible. This has been going on for a century… they have it under control.

  • Kathy Riegler

    PLEASE have them all fixed to cut down on the inbreeding of these cats…..maybe only allow a few to have kittens but not them all……53 is already TOO MANY and they will only keep inbreeding and having more than they need to care for safely…..I am sure they can raise the money to keep them healthier and safer….

  • joei joslyn

    So glad are all safe and accounted for. Thank you for taking care of them.

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