Hemingway Cats – Ernest Hemingway is prestigiously one of the Great American Writers of all time. Among his works such as The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), perhaps the best known of all is The Old Man and the Sea (1951). He is known as
manliness for his style. He worked hard and traveled intensely, loved so much with his extraordinary energy… and he is known as a
cat lover. What he had found in cats?
Hemingway’s writing career began when he worked on the high school newspaper.
He got injured when he was serving as an ambulance driver in Italy. When he returned to the United States, he was still at the young age of 20.
His writing theme is love, war, wilderness, and loss. He also loved adventures, fishing, booze and women as he married four women and constantly changed locations.
In later years, by the time he closed his life by himself, he won Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature as well.
Snowball, Beloved Six-toed Cat
Throughout his life, he had loved animals especially feline friends. And among them, Snowball is the most publicly recognized cat in Hemingway’s life. It’s said he was given Snowball by Stanley Dexter, a ship captain who was one of Hemingway’s drinking buddies, while he resided in Key West, Florida. Snowball was an exceptional cat, he had some
extra toes attached to him.
Polydactyl Cats aka Hemingway Cats
Cats who have six or more toes are called
polydactyl cats which are an inherited congenital condition. Normal cats have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on each hind paw; polydactyl cats may have as many as eight digits on their front and/or hind paws. And they have been extremely popular as ship’s cats.
Sailors were long known to value polydactyl cats especially for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities as an aid in controlling shipboard rodents.
Their extra toes gave them better balance on ships that encountered rough waters. Some sailors also considered them to be extremely good luck when at sea.
The cats’ many travels might explain their widespread presence today, predominantly in the United States, Canada, England, and Wales.
Feline Friends as Good Luck Charm
After Hemingway was captivated by its charm of Snowball, he collected more than 50 cats, almost half of whom had extra toes.
Thanks to his obsession, today polydactyls are frequently called
Historically, polydactyly was a useful trait for Maine Coon cats. For a breed originating in snowy Maine, doublewide paws with extra digits functioned as natural snowshoes.
At one time, as many as 40 percent of all Maine Coons had extra toes. Though the trait is no longer as predominant in the breed, Maine Coon polydactyls are still recognized as an official breed by many cat fanciers.
Ernest Hemingway (goodreads)
One Cats Leads to Another
In every twists and turn, cats have been by Hemingway’s side despite the change of human members. He named all of his cats after famous people. Apparently, he had found something special about cats so did he keep them close to him.
Cats are capable of learning and responding to their names, particularly if they have an affectionate relationship with the person who calls them. Despite his image of
manliness, or we should say because of that, Hemingway needed, even more, solace outside from his work especially in times of loneliness and stress.
The cats called
Hemingway cats had fit into his space pretty well as we can guess. He once had one of his kitten, Uncle Willie, hit by by a car. He badly injured and both of his right legs were broken. Hemingway relieved Willie by shooting his head while Uncle Willie was drinking milk out of a bowl. He was the man who perform the responsibility until the very last.
Also published on Medium.