Why do Hemingway cats have six toes?

Introduction: Understanding Hemingway Cats

Hemingway cats, also known as polydactyl cats or six-toed cats, are a unique breed of felines that have an extra digit on their paws. This physical trait has made them popular among cat enthusiasts and has earned them the nickname of “Hemingway cats” due to their association with the famous American author Ernest Hemingway. However, Hemingway cats are not a specific breed of cats but can be found in different cat breeds and mixes.

Polydactylism is a genetic mutation that causes a cat to have extra toes on its paws. Although it is considered a rare occurrence in cats, it is relatively common in certain breeds, including Maine Coons, British Shorthairs, and American Shorthairs. Hemingway cats, in particular, have become famous for their six-toed paws and their association with the Nobel Prize-winning author who loved them.

A Unique Trait: Six Toes on the Paws

Hemingway cats are known for having six toes on their front paws, which makes them stand out from other cats. The extra digit is not a deformity, and it does not cause any harm to the cat. In fact, some believe that the extra toe provides Hemingway cats with better balance and makes them more agile. The additional toe can also act like a thumb, allowing them to grip objects and play with toys more effectively.

The six-toed trait is dominant, which means that if one parent has the trait, their offspring will likely inherit it. However, not all Hemingway cats have six toes on all their paws; some may have only one or two extra toes on their front paws, while others may have extra toes on their back paws as well.

The History of Hemingway Cats

Ernest Hemingway was a famous American author who lived in Key West, Florida, during the 1930s. During his time on the island, he became fascinated with Hemingway cats, which were commonly found in the area. He even kept a colony of these six-toed cats on his property, which he named “Snowball” and “Boots,” among other names.

Hemingway’s love for these cats was so strong that he left his home and the cats to the care of his wife, Mary, after his death. Today, the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is still home to many descendants of Hemingway’s original cats, and visitors can see the six-toed felines roaming the property.

Genetics of Polydactylism in Cats

Polydactylism is a genetic trait that can be inherited from one or both parents. The extra toe is caused by a mutation in a gene that controls the growth and development of the cat’s paws. This mutation is dominant, which means that if one parent has the trait, their offspring will likely have it as well.

Polydactylism is not harmful to the cat’s health and is not a deformity. In fact, it is considered a unique and desirable trait in some cat breeds. However, some cats with extra toes may be prone to certain health issues, such as ingrown nails or arthritis.

The Link between Hemingway and Polydactylism

Ernest Hemingway’s love for Hemingway cats is well-documented, and many believe that he contributed to the spread of polydactylism in cats in the Key West area. Hemingway was known for his love of animals, and it is said that he was particularly fond of cats. He even included cats in some of his writings, such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Hemingway’s fascination with Hemingway cats likely contributed to their popularity in the Key West area. Today, many cat lovers seek out Hemingway cats as pets, hoping to have a piece of the author’s legacy in their homes.

Hemingway’s Love for His Six-Toed Cats

Ernest Hemingway’s love for his six-toed cats was well-known, and he often wrote about them in his letters and other writings. He referred to them as “six-toed carpet slippers,” and he even named one of his cats “Snowball.” Hemingway’s cats were so important to him that he once said, “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

Hemingway’s love for his six-toed cats was not just sentimental; he also believed that they brought him good luck. He once said, “I am a cat man, and I do not believe in good luck.” Hemingway credited his cats with helping him through tough times, and he even wrote about them in some of his novels.

Hemingway Cats as a Symbol of Good Luck

Hemingway cats have become associated with good luck due to Ernest Hemingway’s belief that they brought him good fortune. Some believe that owning a Hemingway cat can bring good luck and prosperity to their owners. In some cultures, cats are considered lucky animals, and having a six-toed cat is believed to be even luckier.

For many cat enthusiasts, owning a Hemingway cat is more than just having a unique and fascinating pet; it is also a symbol of good luck and fortune. Some even believe that Hemingway cats bring a sense of calm and tranquility to their homes.

The Significance of Hemingway Cats Today

Hemingway cats have become a symbol of the author’s legacy, and they are now one of the most popular cat breeds in the world. Many cat lovers seek out Hemingway cats as pets, hoping to have a piece of the author’s legacy in their homes. Hemingway cats are also popular among cat breeders, as the six-toed trait is considered a desirable characteristic.

Hemingway cats have also become a popular tourist attraction in the Key West area, where visitors can see the descendants of Hemingway’s original cats. The Hemingway Home and Museum is now home to over 40 Hemingway cats, and visitors can take tours of the property to see the six-toed felines up close.

The Popularity of Hemingway Cats as Pets

Hemingway cats are now one of the most popular cat breeds in the world, and many cat lovers seek them out as pets. The six-toed trait is considered unique and desirable, and Hemingway cats are known for their friendly and affectionate personalities. They are also known for their calm and gentle nature, making them great companions for families with children.

Caring for a Hemingway cat is similar to caring for any other cat breed. They require regular grooming, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise and playtime. However, Hemingway cats may require extra attention when it comes to their extra toes, as they may be prone to certain health issues, such as ingrown nails or arthritis.


Hemingway cats may have six toes on their paws, but they are more than just a unique physical trait. They are a symbol of Ernest Hemingway’s legacy and his love for animals, particularly cats. Hemingway cats have become a popular cat breed due to their friendly personalities and their association with good luck. However, beyond their popularity, Hemingway cats are also fascinating creatures that bring joy and companionship to their owners.

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