In Russia being a cat is a job. Several of them guard the Winter Palace, today the Hermitage Museum. The ‘contract’ began with the Empress Elizabeth, who received as a gift from the city of Kazan five cats to put the invasion of mice at bay for once.
Since then they have received a monthly salary on food that came out of the real budget. And they had servants until the Bolshevik Revolution came. During the Nazi siege of Leningrad they all died, but with the end of the war a train arrived with two wagons full of felines.
Today there are so many that they give them up for adoption, although you have to pass an interview to take one of these guardians of art. One of this cats had such an interest in Van Dyck’s painting that firefighters had to remove him from that room after two weeks snooping from the ventilation shaft. In the basement they have cooks who prepare dishes with liver, or with carrots and fermented milk.
At least 50 cats currently reside in the basements of the Hermitage. French citizen Christoff Botar chose to bequeath a part of his fortune to them in his will, the St. Petersburg-based Fontanka.ru news website reported Wednesday
There is a job market outside the art world: cats are also used as tightrope walkers in circuses and even to traffic drugs. The problem is when they want to take a few days off and the travel rules are too strict for the fattest. The cat Viktor was the star of the news after his owner ‘sneaked’ him aboard the plane despite exceeding the admitted weight by two kilos. The trick: weigh another cat — Phoebe — at the boarding area control.
By boasting of the ‘change’ on social networks, the owner was sanctioned by the Aeroflot company, which took away the accumulated miles on his frequent flyer card. Russians took pictures these days with signs that say: “I am a fat cat too.” The image of the company was scratched… because of two kilos of cat.