One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Florida Keys is the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, where the famed author lived in from 1931 to 1938.
The locale attracts approximately a quarter of a million visitors each year — not so much because it’s where the writer of such classics as The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls spent seven years of his life, but due to the six-toed felines who now inhabit the historical landmark.
Approximately 50 cats, descendants of a white six-toed polydactyl cat named Snowball who was given to Hemingway as a gift in 1935, currently reside at the Museum. According to the Museum’s website, all cats are under the care of a veterinarian, and are given medication to keep them free of parasites.
A majority of the felines are spayed and neutered for population control; a select few are not so they can retain the excessive-toe trait of the Hemingway cats.
Thanks to a complaint from a Museum visitor, however, some things at the Museum may have to change, and the welfare of the cats may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to an article on Today.com, a ruling upheld by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals claims the Museum is subject to regulations under the Animal Welfare Act. This would force the Museum to comply with several onerous regulations, including caging the cats at night, tagging the cats, building taller fences and walls, and payment of various fines.
Museum caretakers have claimed the facility does not fall under the Animal Welfare Act and have not yet commented on what the next course of action will be; however, they do have the option to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The cats’ freedom is one of the key selling points of the Museum.
“We want people to come and see it the way it was when Hemingway was here, to see it the same way [Hemingway] saw it,” Dave Gonzales, spokesman for the Museum says in a promotional video. “With the 50 cats running around the property.”