Caretakers of historic house that is home to 54 six-toed cats defied warnings and rode out storm with their charges
Hurricane Irma may have wreaked devastation to the Florida Keys islands, but, much to everyone’s relief, a colony of six-toed cats 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.
“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 200 kilometers an hour, 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 on Friday.
Jacque Sands, the site’s general manager, did not. Instead, she and the others reinforced the windows of the colonial-style home, which Hemingway bought in 1931 and where he 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 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.