As Hurricane Irma blew through the Florida Keys over the weekend, some of the archipelago’s most beloved residents ran for shelter — on their six-toed feet.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on Key West is home to a long lineage of six-toed cats, descendants of the esteemed author’s own polydactyl cat, Snow White.
These unique felines had many fans and museum employees worried for their safety in the face of the storm.
— Phil Nugent (@PhilNugent) September 9, 2017
Happily, David Gonzales, the museum’s curator, told MSNBC on Sunday that all 54 cats had successfully weathered the storm. Gonzales and other employees spent Saturday night in the museum with the cats.
“The cats are accustomed to our voices and our care. We love them. They love us. We all hung out together,” Gonzales said.
The curator told The Washington Post he felt confident that the museum’s humans and animals would remain safe. “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,” Gonzales said of the Spanish Colonial style home.
Hemingway lived in the house in the 1930s and continued to visit Key West until his death in 1961, according to the museum. The cats are one of the museum’s most popular attractions and spend their days lounging in the home or garden.
Not all of the cats have six toes, but they all carry the polydactyl gene, the museum says. Most of the cats have six toes (instead of the normal five) on their front feet. Some have extra toes on their back feet as well, where most cats have only four toes.
Some of these famous felines have famous namesakes.Cats named Kim Novak, William Scott, and Gremlin, among others, are buried beneath marked headstones in the home’s cat cemeteries in the garden.
In addition to their extra digits, these cats may be extraordinary in other ways. Gonzales told MSNBC the cats were aware of the impending storm, and “some of them actually ran inside, knowing it was time to take shelter. Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”