The reason so many six-toed cats live at The Hemingway House

Ernest Hemingway was, in the minds of many, the last of a particular breed of man's man. He was a Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner. After being turned down by every branch of the military on account of his poor eyesight, he worked as an ambulance driver during World War I, then as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, coming within spitting distance of the Normandy invasion and leading a French Resistance militia. More than half a century after he took his own life on July 2nd, 1961, he remains the quintessential 20th century icon of liquored up American masculinity, and his writing lives on as an inseparable aspect of western culture.

Also, his home in Key West, which now exists as a museum dedicated to the writer's memory, is more overrun by six-toed cats than an Andrew Lloyd Webber production at an Appalachian community theater. What's going on there?

The old man and the C-A-T

Your standard house cat has, at any given time, five toes on each front paw and four on each back paw. There exists, however, a genetic abnormality called polydactyly, in which the little allergy grenades are born with more little piggies than normal.

This was, according to the Hemingway Home museum, the case with Hemingway's cat Snow White. Gifted to Ernest sometime in the 1930s by Stanley Dexter, a ship's captain, the polydactyl cat apparently made himself at home on the island and got down to the business of making more cats.

From what can be gathered about Snow White's life, the kitty was down for whatever, and he spread his genetic whatnots all across Key West, making sure not to forget that sweet, sweet polydactyly gene. As a result, the 40 to 50 cats now residing at the Hemingway Home all either possess extra toes or carry the DNA necessary to pass the trait on to their offspring.

Yes, there are dozens of cats currently living at the old residence of one of the greatest writers in American history. The real takeaway here might be that, no matter how brilliant you are, you still need to spay and neuter your pets if you don't want your legacy to smell like ammonia.