There are more than 50 cats in the Hermitage. They have been guarding the museum since its foundation and they protect Russian cultural heritage from mice. This is the favorite Saint Petersburg legend.
The history of their service started in the 18th century when Peter the Great, the founder of our city, brought a huge cat from Netherlands and settled it in his winter palace. Later Elizabeth, his daughter, who was afraid of rats ordered to bring a few cats to catch mice from the Russian city Kazan.
At the time of Catherine the Great cats were divided into the ones who stayed outside and the ones that lived at home. However, the empress preferred dogs so they made cats leave the palace and settle in the cellars.
Hermitage cats survived the revolution of 1917, continued to serve but they perished during the siege of Leningrad (1941-1944). The city was starving, so they were eaten. The city was attacked by rats. After the siege, two carriages of cats were brought to the city.
Nowadays cats mostly live in the big cat cellar. Three museum workers come there every day to feed them. They know all the cats personally. They choose names for them according to their characters. Cats are named after artists, ancient gods and even American states.
The problem is that the museum does not need so many four paw warriors. A lot of people leave their cats near the museum. However, they have a chance to find their way back home.
The first cat café in Europe was opened in 2011. A new branch of it was opened in the city center January, 11. There are 40 cats there. Some of them are from the Hermitage museum. There is an exhibition of the Hermitage cats’ photos in the gateway that leads to the café. The photographer managed to take pictures of the cats on Monday, the day-off of the museum. Each model took one day to shoot.
They also have animals from an orphanage with a very symbolical name “The second chance”. You can relax with a cup of coffee and enjoy the company of cats there. The café works on donation system. Their goal is to help cats find a family. They wear collars with their names. Any of them can be taken home. However, it is not just grab a cat and go. Each cat has a file with detailed information about its health and habits. You must bring a cat carrier to take the animal. The person responsible for the animal will call you and check on it regularly. This is to make sure they do not find their way back to the street in a week or two.
So if you are fond of cats and would like to meet Hermitage ones, welcome to the cat café in the city center.