The Hermitage cats are official considered as highly-qualified specialists of cleaning the museum from rats. As the director of the state museum in Saint Petersburg says, the cats are even as popular as Rembrandt. Every cat has its own passport and a vet book.
Cats in the museum
The cats of the Hermitage live in a large cellar of almost 20 km long. It is well-equipped for comfortable living and hunting of the animals. Nothing limits the cats, they can free walk around, but not in the exposition halls. In the summertime, they prefer staying in the museum’s yard, enjoying the sun and not being bothered by the museum staff and guests.
The population of the Hermitage cats is limited by 50, extra animals are given away in good hands. Not everyone can get a pet. It is actually a series of events including an interview, as a result of which someone can get a cat. Interestingly, a happy owner does not just get a cat, but also a status of “The Hermitage cat owner” and a lifelong free entrance to the museum.
Keeping the furry animals in the museum is supported by some charity funds, both local and foreign. Every cat has its own dishes, sleeping basket and a toilet. There is a cat cafe close-by called “The Republic of Cats” and a club “Hermitage cats’ friends”.
History in brief
Annually there is a special holiday celebration in spring. The date is dedicated to the ancestors of animals that were brought to the Winter Palace by the order of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. In the 18th century there were many rodents that ruined the wall of the building by making halls in them. Thereby, it was ordered to bring the cats that definitely played their role well and rid the palace from rats and mice.
Another story suggests that the first cat Vasily was brought by Peter the Great himself from his trip to Holland.
Since then, the cats lived in the Winter palace. However, during the Great Patriotic War and the Siege almost all cats died. They appeared again there after the war, and even two railway cars full of cats were brought to Leningrad.
Nowadays, cats of the Hermitage operate mostly as a symbol of the city, rather than the actual rat hunters. Museum staff says that cats have become an integrate part of the Hermitage, and they have a special spirit of Saint Petersburg.
It’ll be my pleasure to tell you more about Petersburg during a guided tour. Learn more about the options and pick the one you like the most. Don’t forget to take advantage of a visa free shore excursion if you visit St Petersburg on a cruise line.