ST. PETERSBURG, February 20. /TASS/. Achilles, a white-furred Hermitage male cat that was an official oracle of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, will have to lose some weight to be able to go on predicting the outcomes of FIFA World Cup matches in 2018, Anna Kondratyeva, the Hermitage’s veterinarian, told TASS on Tuesday.
"Next week, Achilles begins a fat loss workout program ahead of the world tournament. He has to lose some weight," she said.
Along with his fellow furry guardians of the Hermitage museum, one of the most popular tourist attractions of Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg, Achilles has recently had a medical checkup to find out he has put on some weight. Veterinarians say he has to shed some 850 grams.
So, he will be moved to a cat caf· nearby to be able to do daily exercises in a special cat wheel. Moreover, he will have to go on a diet.
Along with the diet and workout routines, the would-be fortuneteller will have to train his psychological skills not to be chary of people’s attention. As part of the program, he will join other Hermitage cats on a visit to a children’s hospital. "Almost every week, our cats go to children’s hospices. Achilles will try as a therapist cat too," Kondratyeva said.
In the summer of 2017, the Hermitage rejected all adoption requests for Achilles the cat as after his brilliant predictions at the 2017 Confederations Cup, when he was right about the outcomes of three out of four matches played in St. Petersburg. The museumt decided that the feline would continue ‘working’ as an animal oracle at the World Cup in 2018.
Maria Khaltunen, a press secretary for Hermitage cats, said back in 2017 Achilles had been selected as the animal oracle as "he had displayed capabilities for choice, analysis and unusual behavior."
Moreover, Achilles is deaf as many white cats are, yet this impairment does not sidetrack the feline and lets him better concentrate on his predictions.
The cats have been living in the Hermitage, originally a tsar’s palace, since the 18th century after Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, the founder of the city, issued an order to bring mice-catching cats from the city of Kazan, famous for its rat hunters at that time.
Now, from 50 to 70 rat-catching cats roam the Hermitage’s basement and they also appear on the neighboring embankment and square. Their population is regulated to avoid territorial disputes. In the recent years, the cats of the Hermitage have become a popular tourist brand in the city.
The city has even established a special holiday - Day of the Hermitage Cat. Apart from that, it offers a tourist trail, Cats of St. Petersburg. In 2015, the British press put the Hermitage Museum cats on the list of the world’s most unusual tourist attractions.