Filed Under:

The Feds Can Tell Ernest Hemingway's Cats What To Do; Here's Why

Play associated audio

Cats were everywhere. Fifty or so of them. In the house. On the lawn. Sunning themselves on the wall surrounding the property.

Most were six-toed — making them polydactyls. That's different. The cats you usually see have five toes on each paw in the front. Four on each in the back.

They were descendants of Snowball, a present from a ship's captain. A gift to writer Ernest Hemingway. He — Hemingway, that is — died in 1961.

About 10 years ago, a visitor to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West thought something was wrong. Were the cats being treated well? The museum said yes. The visitor, who had doubts, filed a complaint with the feds. It's a complaint that's gone to the courts.

Yes, Hemingway's cats are a federal case.

Now, as Christian Science Monitor correspondent Warren Richey tells NPR's Robert Siegel, a ruling has come down: The U.S. Department of Agriculture can regulate how the cats are treated, judges say. The museum gets visitors from out-of-state. It charges those visitors to see Hemingway's home and the famous cats. Interstate commerce gives Uncle Sam an interest, according to the courts.

So the feds can tell the museum to build a higher fence. Or to give the cats some more elevated "condos" to sleep in. The government also could levy fines if the museum doesn't cooperate. Will the museum appeal, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court? Nobody knows just yet.

Richey's written about all this for the Monitor. His story is here. Want to see the cats? There's video of them.

All Things Considered will have more on this later. We'll add the interview to the top of this post when it's ready. Click here if you want to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

As for the cats, they're not commenting. We have our doubts, though, that they'll do what the law says. They're cats.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


'Washington Post' Reporter Explores How Pop Culture Influences Views Of Police

NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Washington Post reporter Alyssa Rosenberg, who has written a series for the paper about how Hollywood and pop culture has influenced the way the public perceives police.

In 'Appetites,' Bourdain Pleases The Toughest Food Critic (His 9-Year-Old)

Anthony Bourdain's new cookbook features comfort food he cooks for his young daughter. "She's who I need to please, and if she's not happy, I'm not happy," he says.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - October 28, 2016

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton joins us as the new series "Good Girls Revolt" based on her early civil rights work debuts.


Qualcomm Spends Big Money To Get In The Car (Chip) Business

The smartphone chipmaker has agreed to buy NXP Semiconductors for $38 billion. The deal allows Qualcomm to rely less on the smartphone industry. NXP makes semiconductors for cars.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.