The Hermitage Cats – Past and Precent

Hermitage cat
Hermitage Cat – Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Hermitage cats are one of the symbols of St. Peterburg. They are also the guardians of the art and history of the Hermitage Museum.


Images: Hermitage cat, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Carl Kahler, My Wife’s Lovers, 1881, courtesy Sotheby’s. Image via

The story of the Hermitage cats began during the mid 18th century. In 1745 Empress Elizabeth of Russia issued a decree to populate the Winter Palace with a special breed of Kazan Cats. The Kazan breed, who no longer exists were known for their efficiency. The Palace had a big problem with rodents. But there is a legend that the first cat brought to the palace was by Peter The Great Himself – the father of Empress Elizabeth.

“to find in Kazan…the best and biggest cats capable of catching mice, and send them to… the Court of her Imperial Majesty, along with someone to look after and feed them, and send them by cart and with sufficient food immediately” – part of the Decree.

The Winter Palace, which is now known as The Hermitage Museum, lacked mousers only on two occasions – during the WWII and 1960. During the WWII during the siege of Leningrad, there was no food around. The second occasion was when the employees of the museum removed them because they were too many. Far too many people got rid of their unwanted cats by disposing them on the territory of the museum.

Later on, they had to be reintroduced again, because the mouse problem came back. Since then the official numbers are 50. In order to keep it that way – some of the cats can be retired and adopted. According to an owner of one of one of the retired cats, it is an honour to adopt one of the Hermitage cats.


Fluffy Hermitage
Fluffy Hermitage Kitty – Image via Pinterest

During the 1990 a programme for the care of the cats was launched because they used to live in very bad conditions. In 2007 the museum began adopting cats in need of a roof over their heads. The cats now have Catfest and their website for people who want to adopt one of the famous cats.

The cats have their own staff, who takes care of them, vets and there is a cat bed for every cat thanks to their sponsors. One of their main sponsors is Royal Canine, but there are other numerous good people and organisations who supports them.

Currently, there are around 70 cats, who are residents of the museum. The most famous right now is Achilles The Psychic Cat, who is the Animal oracle of the FIFA 2017 Confederates Cup. You can read more about him here.

Winter Palace
The Winter Palace – Image Courtesy of Wikipedia



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