Ernest Hemingway and His Cats (9 rare pictures)

3 Mins read
Cats didn’t bring any extra luck to Hemingway. But the writer used to say that felines grant an inspiration for his creativity.

There’s something special about pictures of Ernest Hemingway and his cats. The writer shared some unique feelings to kitties; they felt as masters in his house. When looking at these pictures, observing his tender feline love, you may understand better why Hemingway even mentioned cats in his final will. Hemingway’s relationships with other animal types, like bulls, were a bit more complicated.

Hemingway used to say that cats were among the four things that he loved the most in his life. The other three were women, adventures, and alcohol. The rumor has it, that writer admitted by the end of his life, that if he could spread his love on cats only, ignoring women and alcohol,  then he could live a longer life.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another may hide their feeling, but a cat does not.” Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway, Alcohol and a Cat
A Hemingway’s classic: booze and cat

It`s hard to believe but the manliest man on the literary scene had a soft spot in his heart for felines.

By 1945, Ernest Hemingway had 23 cats.

Hemingway`s wife Mary and their cats
at the Finca Vigia in Cuba.

Why Hemingway cats are good sailors

In the 1930s, a ship’s captain Stanley Dexter gave the writer a polydactyl (many-toed) cat. Ordinary cats have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on each hind leg, and polydactyl cats may have as many as eight digits on their front or back feet. They have been extremely popular as ship’s cats because sailors believe they were good luck.

There’s a wanna-be scientific explanation of the bonds between ‘Hemingway cats’ and ships, at least old ones. It says that their extra fingers improve their abilities as mousers and let felines stand firmly on the vessel’s deck. They are often called “mitten cats.” The rumor also has it that young Hemingway became a cat-lover during his rehabilitation after an injury during the WW1. He spent several months in a Hospital of Milan, recuperating the mortar fire wounds. Hospital’s nurses kept a dozen cute felines at the hospital yard, and injured soldiers, including young Hemingway, spent a lot of time with cats.

Hemingway cats pictures

White six-toed kitten, named Snow White was one of Hemingway`s favorites. Today, nearly 50 of Snow White’s descendants still live at the Hemingway Home in Key West.  Some details of the writer’s bonds with cats may be found in Hemingway’s Cats, by Carlene Fredericka Brennen.  She writes that Hemingway’s son, Patrick, mentioned in an interview that the father never had a cat in Key West. Later, a neighbor wrote that “his family had several polydactyl cats, possibly some of the forebears of the cats in Key West now known as the famed ‘Hemingway’s Cats.’”

Hemingway cats pictures

Polydactyl cats are known by many names, including “mitten cats,” “big-foot cats” or “six-toed cats”, now they are also called “Hemingway cats”.

Hemingway cats pictures. A black one!

Hemingway named the cats after famous people of his time.

“One cat just leads to another.” Ernest Hemingway

Why Polydactyl Cats are so special?

Polydactyly is a genetic deviation that leads to additional digits. Polydactyly is inherited from a dominant gene and can occur in multiple species.

Polydactyl cats usually have extra fingers on their front paws. It less frequently occurs on the back paws and very rarely presents on all four paws. Polydactyl cats come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds. The polydactyl gene is more commonly found among cats along America’s East coast, as well as in southwest England and Wales.

Hemingway Cats in his museum nowadays

Hemingway Museum in Florida shares the same atmosphere that the genius writer lived once. It’s hard to imagine it without his Polydactyl cats, so you’ll meet dozens of special felines there. About half of the cat population at the Hemingway Museum exhibit the physical indicator of polydactyly: extra toes. However, all of the property’s cats carry the polydactyl gene. This means that even the cats with normal numbers of toes on each paw (five front toes and four rear toes) can produce polydactyl kittens.

Meanwhile, Ernest Hemingway didn’t enjoy all the cats he met. Some of them ended their days in a sad way.

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