The Florida Keys’ most famous felines are safe after Hurricane Irma battered the sunshine state as a Category 4 storm. The 54 six-toed cats — most of whom are descendants of a polydactyl cat owned by the late Ernest Hemingway — live at the late writer’s home in Key West, Florida, which was turned into a museum after his death in 1961.
According to The New York Times, as the life-threatening hurricane approached the Keys, state officials ordered a full evacuation of the area, but Jacque Sands, the general manager of the museum, refused to leave — claiming responsibility for the home and for her furry friends.
Mariel Hemingway, one of the beloved novelist’s granddaughters, became aware of the animal lover’s devotion to the cats and publicly pleaded for her to evacuate.
“I think you’re wonderful and an admirable person for trying to stay there and to try to save the cats and the house,” Mariel said in a video acquired by TMZ. “This is frightening. This hurricane is a big deal.”
She added: “Get in the car with the cats and take off.”
Despite warnings, Sands remained in the home with several museum employees to watch over the four-legged companions.
“The cats are also accustomed to our voices and our care,” David Gonzales, the museum’s curator told MSNBC on Sunday, September 10. “We’re comfortable with them; they’re comfortable with us. We love them. They love us. We all hung out last night together.”
And while the storm knocked out the museum’s electricity and internet, all of the six-toed felines survived the storm.
“The cats seemed to be more aware sooner of the storm coming in, and in fact when we started to round up the cats to take them inside, some of them actually ran inside, knowing it was time to take shelter,” Gonzales explained. “Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”
According to NPR, Hurricane Irma was the longest-lasting and most powerful hurricane or typhoon on record. It claimed three lives in Florida, one in Georgia, and at least 36 in the Caribbean to-date.
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