Tabby’s Place lives in Ringoes, NJ.
Certain winters, Tabby’s Place has fantasized about moving to warmer climes.
But, since Tabby’s Place is 7,000 square feet of building, 13 years of history, and 120 cats of stubbornness, Tabby’s Place shall continue to dream on from Jersey.
Few places inspire our collective wanderlust more than that magical land where toes are abundant, cheeseburgers live in paradise, and a man named Papa lives on in the hearts of two species. But don’t take my word for it. Maximally fabulous volunteer Florie has been there. Take it away, you traveling cat:
For Whom the Kitty Tolls
“Did anyone else not realize that Ernest Hemingway was such a cat lover?
“Quite unexpected, from my perspective at least. I had an English teacher in high school who forced us to read several of his books, and I was never a fan of his writing or his seemingly super macho persona. But on a recent visit to Key West, we decided to visit his home (now an official museum) and discovered that he was a conspicuous cat lover.
“In fact, along with being a historical site, his property is now an officially protected home for the kitties that live there. There are about 40 cats currently enjoying Key West on his estate, all descendants of his original rescue cat. Some are polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes — as Hemingway’s own first cat did, according to local legend. Key West has become famous for these ‘six-toed’ cats, and I was excited to go see them for myself.
“Hemingway wrote several of his most famous novels at his home in Key West, so my wife was interested, like most normal people, in taking the official historical tour of the property.
“I, however, was more in tune with the children on our tour. I was falling asleep standing up as the tour guide droned on, but then…I saw my first Hemingway cat!
“I couldn’t control myself, and I ran over to her (along with the children), immediately cooing and trying to befriend the adorable polydactyl. She was obviously quite accustomed to tourists fussing over her. She let me pet her and photograph her as she lounged and purred without a care in the world.
“The cat-sighting pace just snowballed from there. They are everywhere throughout the property, and it’s clear they are well cared for. There are several outdoor structures, some simple and some elaborate mini versions of Hemingway’s house itself, and plenty of food and water for all.
“After a bit of recent legal hubbub, the cats are now officially part of the site’s ‘protected’ status, and you can tell that the staff loves and dotes on them. There is even a beautiful dedicated cemetery area on the property to honor all the kitties who have crossed over the rainbow bridge. Most of the cats were named after famous movie stars throughout the years, so the gravestones read a bit like a feline Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“If you ever find yourself in Key West, go visit the six-toed cats at Hemingway’s house, and say hi to all my new friends for me. If you’re like me and you miss your pets desperately while you’re away from home, the Hemingway cats will happily give you a snuggly ‘hit’ of kitty cuddling that will get you through until you’re back home with your own fur babies.”
And “back home” is where we’re happy to have Florie, too. Even though she could be Floridian Florie…Florie came back.
Back to Ringoes, home of 14 people, 120 cats, 400 cows and 1 deli that looks like a saloon.
Back to weird New Jersey.
Back where the winters are long, the governor is large, the sports teams are borrowed, and only the strong and the strange survive.*
Back to Tabby’s Place.
There aren’t enough toes in the world to count all that love. Thank you for taking us with you, Florie — and thank you, most of all, for coming home.
*On pork roll. While listening to Bruce. At the diner down the shore. Everything you have heard about Jersey is real, and it’s fabulous.