Hemingway house's six-toed cats, in residence since 1935, allowed to stay

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KEY WEST, Fla. -- The famed six-toed cats at Ernest Hemingway's island home aren't going anywhere.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum announced Thursday it reached an agreement with the federal government that lets the 50 or so cats continue roaming the grounds, ending a five-year battle that could have resulted in them being removed or caged.

The cats descend from a cat named "Snowball" given to the novelist in 1935 and freely wander the grounds of the Spanish colonial house. All the cats carry the gene for six toes, but not all show the trait.

The home is where the Nobel prize-winning author wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "To Have and Have Not" and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Florida Keys.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the agreement. It had threatened to fine the museum $200 per day per cat — about $10,000 — saying it didn't have the proper animal exhibition license and couldn't qualify for one, primarily because the animals weren't enclosed. The museum has installed a fence to keep the animals on the one-acre property.

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