Hurricane Irma came barreling through the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm earlier this month, causing incredible damages to homes and buildings as it went. Luckily, one beloved tourist spot in Key West managed to ride out the storm miraculously untouched, and its residents completely unharmed.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on Key West is now the home of 54 famously six-toed cats, or polydactyl cats, who weathered the hurricane along with 10 staff members within the 18-inch-thick limestone walls of the Spanish Colonial home.
“The cats are accustomed to our voices and our care. We love them. They love us,” Curator David Gonzales said after the storm. “We all hung out together. It’s a very comfortable place for the cats, very comfortable place for our employees.”
On a normal day, many of the cats often lounge around the museum grounds, by the swimming pool to soak up the sun, or under some tropical plants for a nice bit of shade on a hot day. Others make use of the beds within the museum and sleep there like people!
Many of the Hemingway cats supposedly descend from one cat named Snow White, who was given to Hemingway by a ship’s captain, according to the museum. Not every cat has six toes, but the museum claims that every cat at the home carries the polydactyl gene.
As the massive storm hit the Keys at Category 4 wind speeds, Gonzalez told MSNBC that the cats “actually ran inside knowing it was time to take shelter. Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”
Gonzalez may be right about that! They may instinctively know that the home itself is somewhat of a barrier against the elements. The house sits about 16 feet above sea level, which was enough to keep the staff and cats out of harm’s way this time.
We’re glad that the famous home and its even more famous occupants were well-protected and safe throughout the record-breaking Hurricane Irma. They may have lost one of their nine lives in the ordeal, but at least we know they’ll be there to entertain another day and continue making history as one of South Florida’s most beloved landmarks.