About a year ago a legal dispute was started against the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, in Key West, FL, arguing that the 60 or so cats that live on the premise were actually being “exhibited” and therefore needed to be licensed. The museum opened to the public just three years after the author committed suicide and since day one the cats have been an integral part of it. The cats are direct descendants of “Snowball” a cat Hemingway received as a gift back in the 1930s, and who was polydactyl, meaning it had extra toes. Half of the museum cats today still express this train, and all are assumed to carry the genetic mutation that causes this.
The strange thing about this lawsuit is that the museum has been functioning for decades with no complaints, and the cats seems to be more of an attraction that the author’s belonging, so why sue now? Besides one of the museum guides explains that the cats are regularly visited by a vet, are up to date on their shots and the group’s size is regularly controlled through neuterings. The cats also seem to be real characters with names like Simone De Beauvoir, Emily Dickinson, Aubrey Hepburn, Pablo Picasso, and Sofia Loren, among many other notable. I got to see these cats back in 1996 and I’m happy to say that the lawsuit has been settle and at least for now the six-toed cats are free to continue roaming their house at leisure!