Feb 182012

Key West has more than its share of animal life, over and beyond the human variety. It’s not uncommon to be sitting at a restaurant with a big dog laying under your table…as opposed to in China where the dog may be lying on your table, as an entreé next to the gravy and potatoes. The population of wild roosters and chickens has overtaken every corner of the island. And while their incessant clucking and cock-a-doodling may be a bit distracting, at least we got a steady supply of protein when the zombie apocalypse hits the mainland. (Just so you know, first sign of the walking dead, and the bridges to the mainland are history.)

Anyways, of all the varmints and critters that inhabit the island, none is more at home or in tune with island life than the Key West cats. Feral or domestic, tamed or trained, cats can be found in just about every corner of the island. Lazing in the sun, catching some shade, or hanging around the docks looking for some shrimp, the Key West cats are a unique population unto themselves.

The cats on the island have it made. You never see any starving. I’ve seen homeless people beg for money and spend it on cat food to give to some of the ferals. Over on Mallory Square is this little donation box…


Some of the performers solicit donations to feed and take care of the strays. Some of the strays only come out at night, others like this guy hang out by the dock all day…


You rarely see any signs of road kill on the streets either. I’m not sure if it’s because the traffic moves slower, drivers watch for animals, or the fact that some of the homeless carry around a bucket, a shovel, and look remarkably well fed. The bottom line is life is good for a feline in Key West.

However, if Key West is cat heaven, then the Hemingway House is cat nirvana. Hemingway had a cat or two in his time here on the island and some of the descendants of those cats still reside on the grounds today. You’ll see them everywhere, tucked into little corners of the property, under bushes, or right out in the middle of the sidewalks. There are nearly 40 cats on the property at any one time. They are well cared for and have a full time vet looking after them. The population is kept in check through spaying and neutering and there are little cat houses all over the property. A large fence keeps the escapes to a minimum, but they have is so good here, why leave?

Some of these cats have a unique trait that they inherited from Hemingway’s original cat, Snowball. They are polydactyl which means they can fly and breathe fire…I’m just kidding of course. They can’t fly, just kind of hover around a bit. Actually polydactyl means these cats have six toes on their front paws. Take a look…


It’s a rare trait but common among most of the cats in the compound. On my day around the property I spotted cats everywhere. So naturally I got a few pictures. Have a look…







All the cats have names and many are named after movie stars. There is even a small cemetery for those who have passed…











Yup, life is good if you’re a cat in Key West.

Capt. Fritter


  One Response to “If you got four paws and a tail, Key West is the place to be…”

  1. i love this post captain! thanks.
    it’s like those little cats have thumbs.
    nice to know that all the animals are so cared for and welcomed in your bit of paradise.
    i hope they’re as careful and appreciative about the beloved mantaees and dolphins.
    that was my only fear when you told us about the speed boats everywhere in last year’s festival.
    great pictures, as always.
    maybe your true calling is photojournalist!
    tammy j