A Date With Hemingway’s Six-Toed Cats

Key West was Ernest Hemingway’s home for a decade. I didn’t get round to visiting his house (now a museum) last year, but this time round, it was firmly on my list. My motivation was not so much the hunt for juicy insights on the illustrious, troubled writer and his seedy life, but to get my hands on the infamous six-toed kittehs.

Six-toedness springs from a genetic mutation, and cats with six toes are meant to bring good luck. For this reason, they were a popular choice for ships’ cats for centuries. Indeed, Hemingway was given his original six-toed cat, named Snowball, by a ship’s captain. The man was very accident-prone, probably because he was a war correspondent and pissed as a newt most of the time, and so he was always in search of good luck charms. He loved his lucky cats, and reportedly replied, when asked why his house was overrun by them, that “one cat lead to another”.

Today, there are 45 six-toed cats on the grounds of Hemingway’s house, all of them Snowball’s descendents.

Without further a do, here are some snaps of them:

See 'em toes?

See ’em tootsies?

Big feet or what?!

You need big feet to accommodate all of them!

Sorry lady, your toes may be all pretty and painted, but they are not nearly as interesting as mine!

Sorry lady, your toes may be all pretty and painted, but they are not nearly as interesting as mine!

The pampered creatures claim the best snoozing spots around the house, safely out of reach of the tourist hordes trampling through.

Like in the middle of Hemingway's bed

Like in the middle of Hemingway’s cordoned-off bed

...and on the chairs in his writing studio.

…and in a sunny spot in his writing studio.

This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a good scratch behind the ears.

Spoiled cat

Sometimes they like to pose:

Quite regal, aren't I?

Quite regal, aren’t I?

Sometimes they can’t be bothered to pay us any attention at all:

Bottom cat

They get into skirmishes, as cats do:

I'm the boss around here, you gangly git!

I’m the boss around here, you gangly git!

Nobody messes with me...

Nobody messes with me…


The six-toed kitty walk of fame???

And for all those who’ve slinked through the big cat flap in the sky, there’s a shady spot:

Cat cemetery Cemetery


41 thoughts on “A Date With Hemingway’s Six-Toed Cats

  1. Karolyn Cooper

    I like the photo of the cat sleeping on the bed. Most houses which are open to the public, and which can sometimes be just a little dull, would be improved by a cat on a bed.


  2. Andean

    Great post. I didn’t know they brought good luck. What precious faces. And I really like the one with the rust, black, and white fur.

    Did you see Hemingway’s sister ship in Islamorada? It’s very pretty.


      1. Andean

        If you have time to take a ride to Islamorada, google it. It’s not far from Key West. They let you on the “boat”, which I thought was cool.


  3. Every Day Adventures in Asia

    Now that’s a place I wouldn’t mind hanging around… too bad you can’t sprawl on the cosy bed, sip various beverages, write and scratch the svelte and sundry furry ones all day!? Pretty please? I’d be inspired to write a “GREAT NOVEL”! 😉


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      They won’t let you crawl into that bed… but once you’ve paid your admission, you can stay as long as you like and accost the kitties. Well, at least until closing time 😉


      1. Jennifer Avventura

        No, it’s that thingy, you have to have an iPhone to use and you scan it … after I have no idea what happens. Hell, I don’t even have a cellphone. Are we on the same page now or do I have to stop drinking in the afternoon? 😉


  4. TBM

    Talk about spoiled cats. They get to sleep on his bed! Not that I want to sleep on his bed, mind you, but you knew that. I haven’t been yet, but it’s on my list of places I want to see.



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