Caturday felid: mousers at St. Petersburg museums

Since I’ll be in St. Petersburg on Sunday, I had to check out the kitteh situation.  I’ve learned that are more than 70 cats living in the Hermitage (one of the great art museums of the world), seventeen others in the Russian National Library, and one on the museum aboard the icebreaker Krasin.  All but the last serve as mousers, protecting Russia’s national treasures.  Although I’ll be in the Hermitage next week, I doubt that I’ll see any cats, for they all live in the basement.

Here’s a video from Russian television showing the official cats:

Another short video of the Hermitage cats:

Once a year the Hermitage celebrates “The Day of the March Cat,” when locals come and fete the felids, while children compete for the best cat drawing.  The cats even have a Twitter page!

ABC News has a detailed article about the cats, which turn over as they are adopted.  You can get one—complete with a Hermitage Certificate!

Just outside the cattery, Popovets runs into Tisha who has lived at the museum for eight years. The plump gray and white male is not in the mood for a petting, swiping at Popovets. She laughs off his attack, letting him gnaw on her arm.

There’s another cat at every turn of the basement’s green and white halls. Likely because plastic food and water bowls are stationed throughout the belly of the museum. The warm pipes that line the tunnels are particularly popular during St. Petersburg’s fiercely cold winters.

Most of the cats don’t stay as long as Tisha, the turnover is about 10 to 15 every year. Word of the program has spread and cats are abandoned at the museum because people know they’ll be taken in. Khaltunin welcomes requests to adopt Hermitage cats. They come complete with a Hermitage certificate, adding a certain pedigree usually not associated with stray cats.

10 Comments

  1. Steve
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    You might enjoy this:
    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2005/08/hitchens200508

  2. daveau
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Not being so global, for me the Hermitage has always been Andrew Jackson’s home in Tennessee. I don’t remember seeing any kittehs there, though. Have a great trip!

  3. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    I doubt that I’ll see any cats, for they all live in the basement.

    That probably then means that all the mice live in the attic.

  4. Posted July 23, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Baihu isn’t a mouser…but only because we have no mice.

    He is a lizarder — and, I’m quite thrilled to state, a cricketer. Night before last, as I was getting ready for bed, there was a cricket in a particularly resonant spot in the living room. Sounded like a jackhammer. I couldn’t see it, but I could tell the general area where it must have been.

    I told Baihu, who was in the kitchen, that he’d get extra bonus points for catching it…and, all of a couple minutes later, there he was in that same spot in the living room, chewing vigorously in the blessed silence.

    Damn, but he’s an awesome cat!

    Cheers,

    b&

  5. Posted July 23, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Poor birds, lizards, and small mammals!!
    Signed, a bird and lizard and small mammal lover, Lou

    • Dominic
      Posted July 23, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      😦 plus one!

  6. nankay
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    As someone who is used to seeing everyday lean, mean working farm cats, those cats are..well…rather porky. Good for them!

  7. Posted July 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m jealous. I’d love to see St. Petersburg with all its history and the literature surrounding it.

  8. Bacopa
    Posted July 23, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Even porky cats can be good killers. There is some evidence that a population of well fed indoor/outdoor cats have a bigger impact on wildlife because they still hunt and live at higher population densities than ferals.

    Here are my cat’s favorite prey. Roaches, the big palmetto bug/water bug variety. Lots of play value. Gray tree frogs, they don’t last long but their jumping ability gives them good play value. House geckos, none are native to my area, I think they are imports from Asia and Africa. Must be tasty as they are always eaten. Katydids, best prey ever as they take a long time to kill. Norway rats, mother of all battles. My cat eats the lungs and livers only. Roof/rice rats, more common that the Norways, and easier to catch.

    Except for the insects and frogs, none of these critters are native species, so I don’t see a problem.

    If I loved in the country she might catch Hispid Cotton Rats, just about the cutest animal in the world. They are the hamsters of the US south. A friend of mine has been domesticating them. That’s illegal, but hispids are so cute and easily tamed. MY friend tried to get a license to export them to the UK as pets. UK folks notified Texas Parks and Wildlife and she got lots of nasty letters from Wildlife Management

  9. Posted July 25, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Have you ever seen the film Russkiy kovcheg (Russian Ark). It shows off the Hermitage brilliantly. It has a cast of 1000’s but, was done in one camera take. There are no cuts in the film at all.

    It travels through the museum, following a guy called The European who takes the viewer through the museum but also through Russian History.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318034/


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] unlike the Louvre, the Hermitage has a basement loaded with working cats, whose job is to keep the museum rodent-free.  Sadly, I didn’t see any of them, and, given […]

  2. […] previously posted on the basement cats of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, whose job is to keep the palace and art collection free of […]

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