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Things have been hectic here in DC, and I needed a bit of a break. So, I booked a flight, said goodbye to the boys, and headed to Key West, FL for my first-ever solo vacation. I packed way too much into my long weekend, but I did what I wanted when I wanted. I stalked all of the famous authors homes. I ate frozen key lime pie dipped in chocolate. I collected to-go cups frothy with adult beverages. It was pretty glorious.
One of the reasons I picked Key West– other than the sun, people watching, and pirate history– is Ernest Hemingway. Even more specifically, his cats. He loved cats, and often professed that they were the most emotionally honest creatures living; Hemingway himself was not a particularly emotionally honest human. He thought they brought luck.
Hemingway was given a white polydactyl cat by a ship’s captain passing between Cuba and Key West sometime in 1936. This cat, Snow White, became the first six-toed cat on Hemingway’s property.
Polydactyl cats carry an extra gene that manifests as extra toes on both the front and/or back paws. 53 cats currently live on the Hemingway property, and they all possess the polydactyl gene although only (!) 17 of the cats have the extra toes. So many mitten-feets!
The gates to the property are wide open during the da, and there are trees that stretch over the gates and walls that surround the house, but the cats stay where they are. They’re born there. They live there. They are buried there.
They receive food, treats, medical care and tons of love from visitors. Each cat is named after a ’30s or ’40s celebrity. And really, they’re as attention-seeking as some of their namesakes:
The cats are not up for adoption, although about 10 years ago a couple made off with F. Scott Fitzgerald, poor tom-cat. Now the guides says they take a peek inside the handbags of crazy cat ladies who come through. I get it.
I’m particularly fixated on polydactyls because of Athena, she of six toes, walking like a runway model because her thumbs get in the way. I feel like I met her long-lost relatives. Maybe she’s a descendent of the purloined F. Scott. SHe’s certainly as surly as I suspect he was in feline-form.
Hmmm…. this bookish girl can hope.
This week, James and I are taking a vacation, which means the dogs are hanging out at Olde Towne Pet Resort and will never want to come home with us again. In our absence, I’ve asked our pal Autumn to guest post about her internet celebrities: her son and her cat. If you’re not reading her blogs, Act Like a Mom or Finishing the House, you’re absolutely missing out.
When I was a kid, all I ever wanted was a pet. I was an only child, and although I had plenty of sleep-overs and was involved in lots of activities that kept me social, I craved the cuddle-time of a furry companion. Once, I won a goldfish at the fair, and my mom took me to the pet store and not only got me all of the usual goldfish accouterments, but a second goldfish to keep it company! Peanut and Foo Foo only lived a few short days… after my mom over-fed them to death. She’s the most wonderful, soft-hearted animal lover I know, and she still holds guilt from this tragedy.
Then for my eleventh birthday, while eating breakfast at the Denny’s, my mom read something in the newspaper about an adoption drive at the San Diego Humane Society, and we rushed right over. In the cat cage, we saw two black and white, brother and sister kittens cuddled together, and they were ours. Benny was my guy, and he moved around with us from California to West Virginia, and then with me from my mom’s house in West Virginia to my college apartment, to an internship in South Carolina and finally to the Washington, DC area. He lived almost 19 years, and losing him was almost as tragic as losing my best friend. His sister, Katricia, though sickly, is still alive and kicking and living with my mom. (Mom was always her favorite.)
When my son, Kevin, was born in October of 2011, Benny loved to sit with him and endure lots of baby kicking. But he didn’t seem to mind.
When he passed away, I knew we needed to get another pet, if not for us and to save another animal from the misfortune of homelessness, but for Kevin.
Having a pet teaches kids so much: compassion, being gentle, how to care for another living thing, undying love, responsibility, loyalty, you name it.
So a couple months after losing Benny, we adopted Lucy.
And let me tell you, Lucy has been a completely different experience.
Crazy doesn’t even begin to describe her personality. She is wild. Feral, even. She rarely, if ever, cuddles. She attacks every time you go to pet her. We all have bite marks and scratches on our hands/arms.
People look at me in horror on a regular basis. “Oh my goodness! Is she okay with Kevin?! Did you have her declawed?!”
“No,” I say. “Declawing is not nice, so we trim her nails. And Kevin is learning how to deal with a difficult cat, and that’s good.” Yes, I worry sometimes. But overall, it’s a good learning experience for him. There are all kinds of people in this world, and the same goes for animals.
And the two of them together are priceless.
I regularly hear Kevin laughing hysterically, and when I go to check on him, he and Lucy are swatting at each other, having a great time.
I also hear, “Cat, cuddle!” all the time. Apparently, Kev craves the same animal cuddles I did when I was a child, but he’s probably not going to get it from Lucy.
More often, though, I hear, “Cat bite you.” Which is a common occurrence.
I love seeing Kev’s love for animals grow. And I know having a pet at home has nurtured that love and taught him how to handle himself around other animals.
Even fake ones…
Kevin and Lucy love each other. And my husband and I love Lucy…
…but eventually we’re getting a dog.
March 6, 2013
We’re all a-giggles here, because we’re a featured New Blogger on Pet Blogs United!
We’re thrilled to be so warmly welcomed to the pet blog community. If you looking for lots of furry tales, spend some time browsing there (but don’t forget to come back!). And make sure you tell them Zozo, MJ and Athena sent you.