Here’s How A 72-Year-Old Museum Manager And 54 Of Hemingway’s 6-Toed Cats Survived Hurricane Irma

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It was dark and wet, and winds ripped through the Florida Keys like a scythe.

But the six-toed cats were safe.

The cats of Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, Florida, estate were watched over diligently by Jaque Sands, 72, the general manager of the home and museum, the New York Times reports. Local residents, emergency reports, even “Papa’s” granddaughter implored Sands to evacuate the Keys and find safety.

“Get in the car with the cats and take off,” Mariel Hemingway said in a TMZ video.

But Sands would not. And neither would the cats.

Fifty-four polydactyl cats lived at the Hemingway Home and Museum before Hurricane Irma barreled through the Keys. Many of them are generations removed from the white polydactyl cat, Snowball, Hemingway himself owned. They wandered back into the home when the barometric pressure dropped.

“When we started to round up the cats to take them inside, some of them actually ran inside knowing it was time to take shelter,” Hemingway Home and Museum curator Dave Gonzales told the NBC. “Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”

It was there, surrounded by 18-inch-thick limestone walls, that the general manager, 10 staff members of the estate, and all 54 cats endured the storm without a single loss of life or limb.

In the summertime, the islands are pleasant and habitable, a vacation spot for those who can make the trip. The Florida Keys are an invitation to relax and, when appropriate, enjoy a mojito with ice on a well lit veranda. Hurricane Irma, however, has shuttered up the bars and shops and, for a time, the Hemingway Home and Museum.

“Hopefully, things will get back to normal in Key West, and we’ll enjoy our life in paradise,” Sands said.

If you visit, remember to see the cats.


Hurricane Irma has caused massive damage to Florida and the surrounding islands, stranding humans and pets across the state. With your help today, we’ll be making multiple flights from Florida, urgently needed to carry loving, healthy pets to shelters across the country to be adopted into new forever homes, to make room for owned pets that desperately need shelter from the storm. Click the link below to make a difference!

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee. Find more about Matthew on his personal website.