Ernest Hemingway, Crazy Cat Man


Now that the Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest is over (that's the winner, Chris Storm, pictured at left), the Hemingway estate can move on to bigger issues -- specifically, what to do about the 50-odd cats roaming the old man's house, a popular tourist site:

The caretakers of Ernest Hemingway's Key West home want a federal judge to intervene in their dispute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the six-toed cats that roam the property.

More than 50 descendants of a multi-toed cat the novelist received as a gift in 1935 wander the grounds of the home, where Hemingway lived for more than 10 years and wrote "A Farewell to Arms" and "To Have and Have Not." The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum disputes the USDA's claim that it is an "exhibitor" of cats and needs to have a USDA Animal Welfare License, according to a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Miami.

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* Normal cats have five front toes and four back toes. About half of the cats at the museum are polydactyl, which means they have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes on their back feet as well.

* Ernest Hemingway was given a six-toed cat by a ship's captain, and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of that original cat.

* The vet comes to the museum to administer their yearly shots. The whole procedure is somewhat like a "cat rodeo." The job must be done rapidly, since the cats soon sense that something is amiss and will begin howling warnings and slinking and scurrying in all directions.