Most visitors don’t realize that the basement of the Hermitage is home to some 70 cats who eat, sleep, and are paid regular wages. Yes indeed, the Hermitage cats have been around since 1745 when Empress Elizabeth summoned the most experienced warriors in the nation to the to help with the rodent problem. The 5 original cats, legendary for their proficiency, came from Kazan. The Hermitage has had cats ever since.
Unfortunately, none of the original line of hunter-kitties survived the Seige of Leningrad (the same fate can be said for the unfortunate inhabitants of the Leningrad Zoo, and the city’s populations of pigeons, which has since replenished itself) however, the Hermitage likes to take a day each year to recognize this quirky bit of living history.