Papa’s Cats and My Cats


Ernest Hemingway was an inveterate cat lover, and so am I.  Having lived in Key West, I’ve been to the Hemingway House and Museum on several occasions. It’s not uncommon to find 50 to 60 cats roaming the grounds or snoozing in the gardens. Most of the Hemingway cats are descendants of the author’s first cat, Snowball, a six-toed cat. Cats with six-toes are called polydacts.  They look like they’re wearing mittens on their front paws.

Hemingway’s cats kept him company as he wrote, sequestered away in an upper bedroom of the house. My cats share my writing space as well, and three of them are all I can handle.

Prunella is 16 years old and the most spoiled cat on the planet. A homely little black and white, her markings look like someone dipped a brush into a pot of black paint, closed their eyes, and randomly daubed the brush on her white fur. She appears to be wearing black underwear, and she has a black mustache.

Earlier this year, Prunella was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. She lost a lot of weight and will be on meds the rest of her life. Along with her thyroid med, she takes Prednisone, which increases her appetite. She wants to eat all the time. Even though she always has access to dry food, Prunella meows constantly, begging for canned Fancy Feast. It’s a bit difficult to concentrate on my writing when all I hear is a rusty, raucous meow, meooww, meooowwwww.

Basil Brian is a head butter-face patter-kneader sort of cat. He likes to stand on my lap while I’m at the computer, and he gets those little paws going in a rhythmic march until I can’t take the pin pricks anymore. I have to curve my arms over him to type, which is a bit awkward. Amber-eyed, Basil Brian is a pale-golden and cream with just enough light markings to identify him as a tabby.

A lean, swaggering, street-wise brown tabby, Cooter Brown is my rebel cat. If he were a human, he’d look like Willie Nelson. Cooter would play a harmonica and swig his beer right out of the bottle.  He adopted me about nine years ago. Cooter Brown is a roamer. I’ve tried my best to make an indoor cat out of him, but with no success. Cooter shows his affection by biting. I’ll be typing away, deep into a scene, and he’ll pad in on his little silent cat feet. Next thing I know, he’s nailed me on the ankle, or stood up on his hind legs and taken a chunk out of my elbow. He gazes at me with those emerald green eyes and purrs so loudly he snuffles.

Cooter Brown thinks of Prunella as his Mama, and he sidles up to her and nudges his head under her nose for a grooming session. She licks him so vigorously the dark tabby “M” on his forehead shines like patent leather. A jealous cat, Cooter hisses, snarls, and growls at Basil until he turns tail and runs.

Some days I don’t get much writing done. I’ll bet Hemingway’s cats were all nice and sweet,  curled up in little round, furry-purry balls.  I’m certain they napped while he pounded the keys of that old Royal typewriter. If Papa had had to put up with incessant meowing, kneading, head-butting, face patting, biting, snuffling, hissing, growling, and yowling, he might have spent more time down at Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street instead of at the typewriter. Just sayin’.


About joyackley

I am a published writer living in sunny Florida. I share a home with my three spoiled cats. I am mother to two wonderful daughters, and I am grandmother to Sam, Jackson, and Elin.
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3 Responses to Papa’s Cats and My Cats

  1. My wife and I visited the home of Ernest Hemingway while passing through Key West a few summers ago, and it was so inspiring to actually see the desk where he worked on his novels! It seems like such a relaxing place to live. Anyway, maybe that’s what I need… a few cats!

  2. joyackley says:

    I haven’t been back to Key West in several years, but I suppose the cats are still part of The Hemingway House. I think he made provisions for them in his will. It is inspirational to see where he lived and worked. Don’t know about the cats – your sure don’t need any like mine! LOL

  3. It’s wonderful how our pet-babies inspire us. I’m a dog person (mostly because I’m allergic to cats) and one or both of mine usually curl up at my feet or on my lap when I write–little muses, aren’t they?

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