ST. PETERSBURG, December 6. /TASS/. Workers of St. Petersburg’s famous Hermitage Museum, with the assistance of the Koshkispas animal rescue service, have finally managed to catch a museum cat, which was hiding in ventilation pipes in daytime and roaming museum grounds at night for two months.
The story of the cat’s rescue was published on the official website of the museum, which is known to keep several dozens of rat-catching cats in its basement.
"Pasha, a Hermitage cat, has accidentally found its way to the museum proper, sneaking to the area of upper coatrooms. Startled by a crowd of people (the coatrooms are always a busy place!), the animal rushed into an available opening and secreted itself in a ventilation duct. The cat left its hiding place only at night, and this led to even more problems," the museum said on its website.
The personnel of the Hermitage Museum was worried about the cat's life. They feared that it might get stuck somewhere inside the museum walls: the building’s ventilation system has lots of branches and offshoots and measures around 50 meters from top to bottom.
"For two months, Pasha refused to go out in daytime, although sometimes, at night, it took a nap in the administrator’s armchair near the entrance. We tried to call it, tried to lure it out with cat goodies, we even set up a cat trap. However, Pasha kept staring blankly at us from a dark opening, motionless. Sometimes, it even ran away from rescuers, going deeper into dark tunnels," museum officials said.
Animal rescuers were called in to save the cat, but, despite their best efforts, night duties inside the museum produced no result until the trespasser finally gave up.
"The animal eventually decided to run out, heading to an empty section of the coatroom, and laid there, frozen in place by the stress it had endured. This is where we finally managed to catch it with a hand net, put it in a box and take it to the cat house in the basement with an escort of museum security guards," Hermitage said, assuring that the cat is feeling well and is now in the company of other museum rat catchers.
The cats have been living in the Hermitage, originally a tsar’s palace, since the 18th century. They were taken there after Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of the city's founder Peter the Great, 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 - the 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. One of the Hermitage cats, white-furred Achilles, was an official oracle of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, and will go on predicting the outcomes of FIFA World Cup matches in 2018.