Churchill Animal Protection Society: Ernest Hemingway’s magnificent cats |

Churchill Animal Protection Society: Ernest Hemingway’s magnificent cats

By Kathleen Williams-Miller
Ms. Pinknose is an elegant grand dame who is 13 years old. She is a lovely domestic short hair with orange and white fur. She came to CAPS because the baby in her family became a toddler that chased her and pulled her tail. She needs a home where she can spend the golden years of her life with someone who will appreciate her. She will reward you with love. We have five adorable puppies that are super sweet and available for fostering. Details at 775-423-7500.

One of America’s favorite authors was Ernest Hemingway, and when we visited Key West in Florida, we stopped by his former residence, now the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. The property is famous because of its former owner and its population of 48 polydactyl (many-toed) cats. The cats, known as Hemingway cats, are extraordinary.

Polydactyl is a genetic condition that causes individuals to be born with extra digits. Inherited from a dominant gene, polydactyl can occur in multiple species. Normally a cat has five toes in front and four in back totaling 18. The Guinness Book of Records has recorded cats with a record of 28 toes.

Most polydactyl cats have the mutation only in the front with an average of 2-3 additional toes. It is less frequent on the back paws and very rarely on all four paws. Polydactyl cats come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds. The polydactyl gene is common among cats along America’s East coast, southwest England, and Wales.

So how did the Hemingway cats come to Key West? As the story unfolds, it seems that Hemingway was at a local bar telling stories and drinking with Stanley Dexter, a sea captain. That night in 1930, Hemingway obtained a new roommate, a polydactyl cat named Snow White that was a gift from Dexter.

Sailors favored polydactyl cats, because they believed the cats were good luck charms. Their extra toes enhanced their abilities as mousers and provided better balance on rough seas.

Polydactyl cats often have wonderful personalities, because they come from a lineage of pampered cats that earned respect on the high seas.

Today the descendants of Snow White still roam the grounds of Hemingway Home. All of the cats are born there. To control the population, females only have one litter before spaying. Each cat sports an interesting name of a famous person. Over the years, Zane Grey, Marilyn Monroe, and President “Hairy Truman” have graced the halls.

When asked why he had so many cats, Hemingway answered, “One cat just leads to another.”


Bleach and cleaning supplies for our kennels

Aluminum cans. If you have, cans to pick up, give us a call (775-423-7500) and we will come get them. You can also drop them off at CAPS.

Folks to sign up for Chewy food delivery. During the pandemic, why not have your dog’s food delivered and help CAPS at the same time? Details are below.


To the folks who not only adopted shelter pets but also gave donations. Pooch Smooches to You!

The Kerrs for donating dog food in memory of Dottie. All tails are wagging for you.

Gail and Malone for donating dog food. Wags and kisses to you!


CAPS is now open, by appointment only, for adoptions, SNAPS, and food pantry. We cannot accept volunteers until further notice. Call 775-423-7500.


January Pet Holiday: National Walk Your Pet Month

You can open an account with Chewy and reference CAPS in the order. CAPS will receive $20 directly into the operating account with your first $50 order. Chewy offers quality food and free two-day delivery on orders over $50. Check our Facebook page, Churchill Animal Protection Society, for details.


CAPS’ mailing address is P.O. Box 5128, Fallon, Nev., 89407. CAPS’ phone number is 775-423-7500. CAPS’ email address is Please visit the CAPS website ( and Facebook page (Churchill Animal Protection Society). Be sure to “Like” CAPS on Facebook because we are likeable.

CAPS is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kathleen Williams-Miller is a CAPS volunteer. Contact me at