I’m a little ashamed to admit that the main worry I had when I first heard about the Irma threat was how The Hemingway Cats would fare during the storm.
The Hemingway Cats are a tribe of 54 polydactyl and polydactyl-gene-carrying felines who reside at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on Key West.
Some of the cats descended from Snow White, a six-toed white feline given to Hemingway by a ship’s captain, according to the museum. Cats typically have five digits on their front paws and four on the rear, but polydactyl cats have six (or sometimes even more) toes.
They weathered the storm while hunkered down behind the main building’s 18-inch walls with ten of the museum’s employees.
Curator David Gonzalez told MSNBC, “The cats are accustomed to our voices and our care. We love them, they love us. We all hung out together.” Gonzalez explained that the building’s limestone-block walls had not only provided a sort of fortress from the elements but also kept the place nice and cool. “It’s a very comfortable place for the cats, very comfortable place for our employees.”
The pawpular tourist destination sits 16 feet above the sea, the high point on the island.
Before the storm hit, Gonzalez and other employees rounded up the cats to ensure their safety. Some, he told MSNBC, “actually ran inside knowing it was time to take shelter. Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”
On Thursday, after Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic church in Key West, Father John Baker blessed the house, the Hemingway Home staff and the cats. Gonzalez told our correspondent, Francisco Alvarado, that he felt sure no cat would lose any of its nine lives.
“I have been watching the news, and people keep talking about how low-lying the keys are,” Gonzales said. “We are not in a flood zone. This is an 18-inch block-limestone building that has been here since 1851 and is still standing.”
He added, “We answer to a higher authority, and we feel very confident the outcome for us is going to be very good.”