As cat lovers, we were thrilled to see the AP news last Thursday that–after a contentious five year legal battle with the U.S. Department of Agriculture–the Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West will be allowed to remain the cathouse of choice for the 50 or so felines that have roamed the grounds there for decades.
The unique, six-toed cats are said to be descended from Hemingway’s cat Snowball, given to him by a visiting ship’s captain during his tenure on the island in the 1930s. (The novelist was a renowned cat lover, and at his later home in Cuba, kept up to 60 cats as pets.)
At the heart of the Key West legal battle was the government’s argument that the property needed an animal exhibition license and that the cats should be caged. The legal dispute began after neighbors’ complaints about the roaming cats in 2003 sparked the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to raise concerns about the cats’ welfare.
After an extensive investigation, which included video surveillance and the hiring of an independent animal behaviorist, a report issued by a veterinarian fromthat the cats appeared “well-cared for, healthy and content” (though any of the thousands of visitors to this legendary Key West attraction, including us, would have said that’s a no-brainer after seeing these glamour-pusses–with names like Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn–living in the lap of luxury!). The expert also recommended that a special fence be installed to keep the kitties contained on the property, while leaving them free to roam on the one-acre grounds. Now that’s a purr-fect ending.–Joni Rendon