Russian Cats on Rat Duty


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By Nicky Westbrook

St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum has a long history of cat employment.

Due to the development of rodent poisons, the need to keep cats around to control rodent populations is not as great as it once was. However at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg Russia, cats remain the the sole method of keeping rats and mice under control.  It has been the tradition here for nearly 200 years, started during the reign of Empress Elizabeth who requested cats for rodent control.   Sadly during WWII in the siege of Leningrad, all of the cats died.  But more were brought in in 1945 when the war ended.  Then in the 60’s overpopulation threatened the health and future of the cats and many were rounded up and released in the country.  Today at the Hermitage there are nearly 70 cats on patrol.  Visitors to the museum rarely see them as the cats “work” the gardens and basement labyrinth of the museum.  Irina Popovets is one of the caretakers hired to care for the cats.  There is a cattery in the basement that serves as a kitchen, clinic and rest area for the cats.  Every morning buckwheat and rice is boiled into a porridge to which fish or other meat like chicken or pork is added and served to the cats for breakfast.

Irina Popovets is one of the women hired to care for the feline staff.  Here she is settling a scuffle between two kitties.

Cat doors located in various places allow the cats access to as many rodents as possible.

Tisha is eight years old.  Many cats don’t stay as long as Tisha.  People drop unwanted cats off at the museum so they started an adoption program.  The Museum adopts  10-15 cats out to nice families each year.  They come complete with a certificate of adoption and something you don’t usually get with your adopted cat…a pedigree.

(photos courtesy of ABC News)

In this video you can get a glimpse of life “underground” at the Hermitage Museum.

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2 thoughts on “Russian Cats on Rat Duty”

  1. What a wonderful thing on the part of the Museum! Not only do that cats have a place to stay, they are taken care of & feed — and they have a couple of people (employed by the Museum) to take care of them.

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