The Hermitage is full of cats - but you don't easily see them in Saint Petersburg


The Hermitage cat in the main staircase, photo by the Hermitage.
In Saint Petersburg you can quite easily meet wild cats who live in courtyards of big buildings. Some friendly grannies feed them or they get their meals from wastebaskets or they hunt mice.
Those cats I’ve seen very many when I’ve visited Saint Petersburg. What I would like to see are the Hermitage cats with their special reputation. But it’s not easy. You hear about them but you don’t see them if you don’t take into account books published from the Hermitage cats. Those you can buy in the museum.
Now I don’t tell the whole truth, because I really have seen the Hermitage cats, but not in the museum. I have seen them in the Cat’s Republic in Saint Petersburg. It’s a special cat coffee shop where nearly 20 Hermitage cats have moved after they have retired from their work at the Hermitage art museum.
So they work at the museum. They live in the basement of the museum and catch mice and rats and so they protect pieces of art.
Nowadays there might be about 70-80 cats in the Hermitage. The numbers of the cats varies. In the Cat’s Republic they told that there would have been even 100 cats and that’s why cats had to move to the coffee shop.
A cat at the Cat's Republic Saint Petersburg. Photos: Sirpa Pääkkönen
The cats were present in the museum, originally a palace, since the 18th century in 1745. The Empress, Elizabeth ordered cats to be placed in the palace in order to control the mice. She received five rat hunters from the town of Kazan in Tatarstan. The Hermitage cats were looked after by special servants and they good food from the empire’s treasury.
The cats remained in St. Petersburg except during World War II, when the existing cat population was killed. Saint Petersburg was suffering from hunger when the city was sieged by Germans. After the war a new group of cats replaced the previous cats since the rat population had increased.
Nowadays there is a special The Day of the Hermitage Cat in the spring devoted to the felines that live in the museum. Then the cellars of the Winter Palace are open for the visitors.Perhaps you could meet the Hermitage cats on that special day.
Street cats in Saint Petersburg.

Cat's Republic.

Cat's Republic.

Cat's Republic.

Street cats get food in Saint Petersburg.

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