Friday, May 30, 2014


Ernest Hemingway and His Cats
By Jill Anne Sparapany

Personal Quote by Hemingway
A cat has absolute emotional honesty:
human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.

The Hemingway House is a Historical Landmark

Ernest Hemingway was a famous American writer who suffered with many demons in his lifetime. He wrote many novels and short stories. His well-known works include “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway had several homes in the U.S. but the most famous home is his Key West, Florida, estate. Today, his estate, known as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, is maintained as directed in his Will and is home to 50-60 cats living freely on but confined to the estate. His Will stated the Key West cats would be allowed to live on the estate and the colony of cats would have lifetime homes and complete vet care.

Cat lounging on the Hemmingway Estate grounds

While living on his island estate, a ship’s Captain gave Hemingway the gift of a white cat that had extra toes. Snowball, a six-toed cat, was the original polydactyl cat and had sired many offspring, all of which exhibited the polydactyl trait. Because the Key West estate is on an island, it is assumed that most of the cats on the island are related to the Hemingway Cats. There is a high rate of polydactyly on the isolated island to support this theory.

The Hemingway Cats population is controlled by a spay-neuter program to keep their numbers to around 60. All the cats receive scheduled routine vet care from a visiting veterinarian and flea control products. At one time, some of the cats were adopted out but this is no longer allowed due to the spay-neuter program which keeps the population under tight control.  

Polydactyl cats are also called mitten cats

Early in the polydactyl breed development, most were Maine Coons. Up to 40% of Maine Coon cats had the polydactyl paws. Sailors considered having cats on board to be good luck and cats were used on ships to control the rodent population. Polydactyl traits are a common genetic mutation found in cats on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. and Canada and South West England and Wales. Most of these cats lived on the ships sailing between these locations. The polydactyl breed is a very mellow cat and the larger paws made them excellent hunters and mousers so they were well suited for travels on the ships. The extra toes also helped the cats maintain their balance on the ships during rough weather at sea. When the cats settled into the Northeast U.S., the big paws helped them survive in the winter snows, acting like snowshoes for easier travelling in deep snow.

The genetics of the polydactyl trait is not completely understood. Inheritance of a “dominant” gene means a kitten has one single copy of the polydactyl gene, either from the mother or father, and will have the extra toes. The inheritance is thought to be “incomplete” as clinical observation shows 50% of the cats show the extra toe trait. This explains why the all Hemingway Cats, which most likely have the polydactyl gene due to isolated inbreeding, only demonstrate a 50% expression of extra toes trait.

Many people feel the extra toes are an endearing characteristic in their pet cats. Their cat’s paws need to be monitored closely for potential problems related to the extra toes. The extra claws are usually situated between and beneath the normal toes. Because of this placement on the paws, these claws cannot be sharpened normally by the cat. This increases the chances of these claws growing into the paw pad and becoming infected. Occasionally, the claw can be growing outward so it tends to snag easier and is prone to infections. Therefore, it is critical the claws of polydactyl cats be trimmed on a regular basis. 

Some use Soft Paws vinyl nail caps that fit over the clipped claws. If you use Soft Paws, you should order two different sizes to accommodate the claw diversity. Also note that your cat is polydactyl when you order the Soft Paws nail caps.

Thank you so much for all the gifts from our Amazon wish list!!

This list is for several days!

Thank you Denise Maehara for the freshsteps!
Thank you Shelie Ann Badi Kopp for the freshstep, food & toys!
Thank you June Henry for the freshstep!
Thank you Elizabeth Shaw for the freshstep!
Thank you JoAnne Morris for the freshstep!
Thank you Patricia Hall for the freshsteps!
Thank you Nancy DeConcini for the freshstep!
Thank you Lisa LeGault for the freshsteps!
Thank you Charlie Hill for the freshsteps!
Thank you Jennifer Alquijay for the freshstep!
Thank you Monica Bellucci for the freshsteps!
Thank you Nancy Drais for the freshsteps!
Thank you Patricia Hall for the freshstep!
Thank you Kira Zielinski for the freshstep!
Thank you Jerry Wayne Quarles for the freshstep!
Thank you Kate Shifman for the freshstep!
Thank you Brenda Doman for the freshstep!
Thank you Jill Pusateri for the freshstep!

Thank you Patricia Hall for the freshstep and baby scale!
Thank you Courtney Moore for the foods, freshstep, blanket and sponges!
Thank you Patricia Haddock for the birdseed and freshstep!
Thank you Paul Shuster for the freshstep and Gain!
Thank you Jennifer Alquijay for the freshstep and catnip toy!
Thank you Janay Compton for the freshstep, crystal litter and Gain!
Thank you Veronica Perkins for the freshstep, cleaner and Q-tips!
Thank you Edie for the scratch kube, Gain and rainbow catnip toy!
Thank you Maria Machado for the tunnels and scratch and rest!
Thank you Nancy DeConcini for the trashbags!
Thank you Candace Righetti for the sponges, Q-tips and swiffers!
Thank you Nancy DeConcini for the toilet paper!
Thank you Josh & Kaci Lecheler for the catnip toys!
Thank you Michelle Graham for the car bed!
Thank you Leanna Klingsplr for the Snicker Stamp!

Thank you Kimberly Jones for the toys!
Thank you unnamed for all the cases paper towels and food!

Thank you Lesley Cartledge for the Q-tips for the scratch and Rest!!
Thank you Kimberly Ferguson for the tower of track toys!
Thank you Chrystal Carr for the toys and sponges!
Thank you Ingrid Brignoni for the bird seeds!

Thank you Paula Rockwell for the Amazon Gift Card!
Thank you Nancy Drais for the Amazon Gift Card!
Thank you Allen Johnson for the toys!
Thank you Dawn Latshaw for the Q-tips!
Thank you Kimberly Tischer for the bird food!
Thank you Maria Derrick for the cat bed!
Thank you Kimberly Jones for the catnip!
Thank you Carolynne Van Houten for the baby scale!