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How Ernest Hemingway's cats became a federal case

A catfight brews in Key West, Fla. as descendants of the famous six-toed felines raised by the late famous author are subjected to federal oversight.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Dec 12, 2012 7:00PM

For most of the 1930s, Ernest Hemingway lived and worked at 907 Whitehead Street in Key West, Fla. It was here where the author completed the partially autographic novel, A Farewell to Arms. According to the website for The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, the Spanish Colonial style home was built in 1851. Following a major restoration by Ernest and his wife, Pauline, the stately residence landed on the National Historical Landmark list.

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In a very visible living link to the past, are the 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) descendants of Hemingway's cats that freely roam the writer’s former home, reports The Christian Science Monitor. According to the museum’s website, Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat, named Snowball by a ship's captain.

Concern for the cats’ care has placed the museum under the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.), which said that if the museum wanted to display cats it needed an exhibitor’s license as required under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Federal officials insisted upon the implementation of drastic measures in the care and feeding of the cats, to which the museum fought back. It was ruled that the U.S.D.A. was well within its rights to regulate the felines, questioning whether the Hemingway cats “substantially affect” interstate commerce.

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“The Museum invites and receives thousands of admissions-paying visitors from beyond Florida, many of whom are drawn by the Museum’s reputation for and purposeful marketing of the Hemingway cats,” Chief Judge Joel Dubina was quoted.

“The exhibition of the Hemingway cats is integral to the Museum’s commercial purpose, and thus, their exhibition affects interstate commerce,” Dubina was quoted. “For these reasons, Congress has the power to regulate the Museum and the exhibition of the Hemingway cats via the AWA.”

Photo: Tore Johnson/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Bing: Facts about Ernest Hemingway

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