“My grandfather’s famous quote was ‘courage is grace under pressure,’ but I think this is taking it too far,” said Mariel Hemingway when she heard that the manager of her family’s historic home, the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, had decided to stay with the 54 cats that live on the property despite the massive approaching storm, Hurricane Irma.
The house, which now operates as a museum, was built in 1849 and completed in 1851. Hemingway moved into it in 1931, and he lived there until 1940. The house is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and Literary Landmark by the U.S. Library of Congress. The iconic writer’s original polydactyl (six-toed) cat, Snow White, is the ancestor from which the home’s current 50-plus felines have descended.
As news spread of Irma’s force, magnitude and intended path — Florida, by way of the Keys — residents of Key West and concerned animal lovers around the country focused on the safety of these beloved felines.
TMZ first reported that the home’s 72-year-old manager Jacqui Sands intended to stay with the house and the cats, while the museum’s curator and executive director David Gonzalez told the Houston Chronicle that he and all 10 staff members intended to hunker down there as well.
Although the felines are allowed to roam free on the property, “Cats know naturally when to go. As soon as the barometric pressure drops, they come in,” Gonzalez told Chron.com. “They know before humans do when it’s time to get in.” He also said the cats are used to weathering many extreme storms, and the house has yet to lose even one animal to such conditions.
“The house is boarded up … and shuttered with half-inch thick plywood,” Gonzalez continued. “We have 54 cats in the property [and] we’ve stocked up on cat food and water [and medication] … staff will be staying here for 24 hours a day.”
Ultimately, despite the hubbub, all the human caretakers and kitties were just fine. Staff frequently updated the museum’s Facebook page with information in the lead-up to and in wake of the storm.
“This isn’t our first hurricane. We’re here to stay,” Gonzalez said.