Odd Writers #8: Hemingway the Crazy Cat Lady

‘Papa’ Hemingway was as tough as old boots, devilishly handsome, and as macho as they come. It seems the die was cast in his early years with a mother who dressed him as a little girl and called him ‘Ernestine’, and a broken heart that coloured his whole romantic life. Perhaps to (over)compensate, he filled his life with masculine pursuits and many wives…

Amongst other extreme life experiences, Hemingway was peppered with shrapnel during the first world war, brawled in bars with James Joyce, survived two plane crashes, caught seven marlin in one day (a world record in 1938), hung around in war zones, developed a bullfighting obsession, and hunted bears, lions, elephants and many other unfortunate creatures.

Most macho men have a hidden softness, though, and Hemingway was mad about cats…

He was basically a crazy cat lady.

“One cat just leads to another. . . . The place is so damned big it doesn’t really seem as though there were many cats until you see them all moving like a mass migration at feeding time. . . .”

Ernest Hemingway

It all began with just one cat. ‘Snowball’ was famously polydactyl (from the Greek for ‘many digits’). The cat had six toes on each paw and was gifted to Hemingway by a sea captain. It wasn’t long before his cat population literally ‘snowballed’.

The good old cat spread his love around so much that, at Hemingway’s old home in Florida, you can visit the 54 descendants of Snowball, named after famous people and looked after by their ‘staff’. Visitors may pet the cats but not pick them up, and only the cats can sleep on Hemingway’s bed.

Even today, six-toed cats are often known as ‘Hemingway Cats’. Never mind Nobel prizes, Pullitzers and worldwide fame… imagine having a type of cat named after you! The ultimate honour 😉

Cover Photo Credit: Pexels (Pixabay)

Photo of Hemingway: Creative Commons


  1. I Just returned from the Key West Literary seminar. Enjoyed the Hemingway House tour and the 50 plus cats roaming the beautiful grounds. There’s a cute gift shop, too, where you can buy prints of the house and cats created by local artists.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Jo, there were a few dozen cats roaming the house and grounds–all descendants from Hemingway’s Snowball. They are a delight! I just added a photo of the 6-toed cat to my blogpost.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. He sure packed a lot in. A really interesting writer and so accomplished too. I remember reading ‘A Farewell to Arms’ years ago and being blown away by the way he wrote the ending – it was devastating but so simple.

      Liked by 1 person

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