Hermitage cats

One of the Hermitage cats

The Hermitage cats (Russian: Эрмитажные коты) are a group of cats residing in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The museum has a press secretary dedicated to the cats,[1] and three people act as caretakers.[2] The cats live in the museum's basement, and they also appear on the embankment and on the square during the summer. In previous eras they roamed throughout the museum galleries.[3]

In 2010, Maria Khaltunen (also "Khaltunin" or "Haltunen"), who directs the museum's cat programme, stated that there were 60 cats on the museum grounds, even though the staff has a joke that officially the museum is only supposed to have 50 cats.[4] Irina Popovets, who became the head of the cat department, stated that the cats were "as well-known as our collections".[5]

In May 2013, the count had grown to 74 cats, of both sexes (but neutered), according to Haltunen.[2] There are kitchens for preparing their food ("they all have different preferences"), and even a small hospital.[2]

As of 2013, donations (a €400-per-month payment from the charity Pro Animale, and the sponsorship of Royal Canin) fund the presence of the cats.[2]


The cats were present in the museum, originally a palace, since the 18th century;[1] in 1745, Elizabeth of Russia ordered cats to be placed in the palace in order to control the mice.[6] James Rodgers of the BBC stated that the belief is that the cats originated from Kazan, a city known for having cats good at catching mice. The cats remained in St. Petersburg except during World War II,[1] when the existing cat population was killed. A new group of cats replaced the previous cats since the rat population had increased.[4]

In the late 1990s, Khaltunen began a programme to care for the cats, which previously lived in poor conditions.[6] As of 2007, the museum began adopting cats needing homes.[1]

In 2011, the museum began a "Catfest", a celebration of its cat population. "Catfest" has included cat painting contests and scavenger hunts for children.[6]

Beginning in 2015, because of the number of visiting tourists, a website has been set up by the museum for people who may be interested in adopting a cat. "It is an honor to adopt a Hermitage cat", one potential cat owner was told.[7]

See alsoEdit

Other cats kept to deter mice in public buildings include:


  1. ^ a b c d Rodgers, James. "Hermitage palace is cat's whiskers" (Archive). BBC. Friday 5 October 2007. Retrieved on 2 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Cole, Teresa Levonian. "St Petersburg: the cats of the Hermitage" (Archive). The Telegraph. 23 May 2013. Retrieved on 2 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Cat "Army" Guards Treasures" (Archive). National Geographic. June 12, 2009. Retrieved on July 2, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Marquardt, Alexander. "St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum Home to Masters...and Cats" (Archive). ABC News. July 30, 2010. Retrieved on July 2, 2015.
  5. ^ "The nine lives of Russia’s Hermitage Museum cats." Agence France-Presse at Hurriyet Daily News. November 18, 2015. Retrieved on July 18, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c McGrane, Sally. "Russia’s Museum Cats" (Archive). The New Yorker. September 25, 2012. Retrieved on July 2, 2015.
  7. ^ "Russia's Hermitage Museum Is Filled With Cats". The Daily Observer. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2016.

Further readingEdit

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