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A generous man has left his inheritance to a bunch of cats who live in a Russian museum

The cats have called Russia's Hermitage Museum home ever since the reign of Empress Elizabeth. Recently, they received a gift from a wealthy Frenchman.

A generous man has left his inheritance to a bunch of cats who live in a Russian museum
Image Source: hermitagecatsRU / Facebook

The basement of a several decades-old museum may seem like the perfect storage space for works of art, but the one in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is actually home to dozens of cats. The museum itself houses three million works of art, artifacts, and sculptures across numerous buildings, including the Winter Palace, while its basement is where 50 or so cats snuggle up. In an act of extreme generosity, a French philanthropist has donated his inheritance to the cats. Yes, specifically the cats, not the museum. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the museum's general director, said the Frenchman "did a very good thing," CNN reports.


He said that the man was so taken with the cute animals that he left a "small sum" to them in his will. "This is brilliant PR for both the cats and charity," he stated. "The sum is not very big but it's very important when the person writes a will, when the French lawyers contact [us] and it's all not a simple [process] but this is all very interesting, isn't it? Such a nice gesture that came from France." At present, the cats are looked after by volunteers and museum staff. The cats even have their own washing machine and the services of a local veterinarian. They are mostly supported by donations from kind donors like the French philanthropist.


His donation will most likely be used for repairs in the museum's basement, where the cats reside. Piotrovsky shared, "I think the cats will express their will. Our colleagues are well-versed in communicating with them and understanding their language." The cats have called the site of the museum home ever since the reign of Empress Elizabeth, from the year 1741 to 1761. However, legend has it that the first cat was brought to the site by Peter I himself. They were given the status of guardians of the art galleries by Catherine the Great, the founder of the Hermitage. They were tasked with keeping rodents off of the premises. The Hermitage cats' official website reads, "They are the invisible guardian guarding our cultural heritage. Non-regular employees of the State Hermitage, vigilantly making sure that the Winter Palace is not occupied by hordes of rats." Now, they mostly just laze around and look adorable as most cats do.


The French philanthropist is not the only person to have taken such a liking to the cats. Others, such as the former president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Fortov, was a "constant friend" of the Hermitage cats, Piotrovsky explained. Though Fortov passed away last month, he had made many visits to the museum during his life in order to, like the Frenchman, leave money for the animals. The Hermitage cats are evidently, loved by one and all. In fact, over 800 people submitted pictures of the cats for the museum's annual Day of the Hermitage Cat this year. If you would like to see more of these precious little furballs, you can check out their Instagram here.


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