Those Hemingway Kitties

Safe from the Storms
by Elijah Jones, Staff Writer

Looks like this has been a year for BIG hurricanes. In August, Hurricane Harvey dumped feet of rain on the city of Houston, Texas, literally drowning that city and, sadly, leading to the loss of dozens of lives. It was heart-wrenching hearing those numbers and watching the images on TV from Houston. For us pet lovers, it was just as hard thinking about the many furry friends also affected by the storm. We were encouraged to see the number of pets, dogs and cats that were rescued from Harvey’s catastrophic flooding.

But just as we were still catching our breath from one terrible storm, we had another one to keep an eye on. Barely two weeks later, Hurricane IRMA barreled its way through the Caribbean, before striking Florida and heading on up into the southeastern United States. After seeing what the people of Houston suffered, Florida residents learned a lesson from watching the devastation of Hurricane Harvery and, wisely, heeded the warnings as Irma approached their state. Many of them sought shelter from the storm and left their homes, getting themselves and their families out of harms way. We’re glad they did. And even though the loss of even one life is one life too many, the dangerous storm that was Irma, could have been much more tragic.

The popular vacation cities along the Florida Keys bore the brunt of Irma’s wrath, and got us here at Just For Cats Pet Sitting thinking. You may recall, in a story we did about “Cat Cation” ideas a few months ago, one of the places we highlighted was the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. It’s located, in of all places, Key West, Florida.

Mr. Hemingway’s former residence is famous today, not only as the Florida home of the acclaimed author, but has become famous for another reason, too. The museum is also home to over 50 six-toed cats. Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes, but about half the cats at the museum carry the six-toed trait. When he was still living, Ernest Hemingway was gifted with a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain, who’d docked in the Florida Keys. All of the cats living at the museum today are direct descendants of that very first six-toed cat. These very special felines at the Hemingway Museum have become as much a part of the experience as the home itself.

Getting back to Irma, naturally, we cat-lovers here at Just For Cats were very worried. How would those precious six-toed Hemingway kitties weather…Hurricane Irma? Well, we’re happy to report, the Hemingway kitties weathered the storm just fine! Whew!

The general manager of the museum reported that the building itself was not severely damaged. Plus, the museum’s 10 staffers and the dozens of six-toed kitties that live on the property are all safe and accounted for. HOORAY! Actress, Mariel Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s grand daughter, had urged the staff to be safe, evacuate the museum and seek safe shelter as Hurricane Irma approached. But the staffers chose not to do so. Here’s a little background on how the museum staff chose to handle the situation…and why.

Each and every day, the Hemingway kitties are allowed to roam the grounds of the museum freely. But here’s the curious thing. The cats all sought shelter indoors as the storm approached. One staffer said the cats actually seemed to sense the approach of the hurricane before it battered Key West and the rest of the Florida Keys. The cats seemed to be aware of the the storm, and as they were rounded up to be brought indoors, some of them actually ran inside. We always say, in a lot of ways, cats often appear to be a lot smarter than people. Looks like there was no way these cats were going to try and ride out the storm and certainly…not outside.

Here’s the other part we like. The Hemingway kitties are accustomed to the voices of the museum’s staffers and, we’re sure, know the people who work there are their friends. The staffers are very comfortable with the kitties and, likewise, the kitties are very comfortable with them. One staffer said, “We love them. They love us. We all hung out last night together.” Now come on, how sweet is that? (Hey, those Hemingway Museum staffers sound very much like our Just For Cats sitters. We LOVE our own cats so much and the ones we care for, too…YOUR kitties.

We’re so sorry for the destruction, the loss of homes and most of all, for the loss of life caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. We wish the residents of Texas, Florida and all the states affected by the storm a better-than-ever recovery.

But we can’t help but smile, thinking of those Hemingway kitties who survived Hurricane Irma. Those sweet little felines didn’t have to sacrifice even one of their nine lives as they weathered this oh-so destructive storm.