French man leaves money to Russia’s Hermitage cats

It’s not uncommon for people to leave bequests in their wills to art galleries or museums, to see something they loved continue after they die.

It’s also not uncommon for people to leave money or provisions for pets and animals.

But it’s not every day you see a wealthy philanthropist leave a tidy sum of money to a bunch of cats that live in the basement of a museum.

Or maybe it is, if you live in Russia.

About 50 cats live in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

They’re not new – they’ve been there since the mid-1700s.

(They’re probably not the same cats from 250-odd years ago, but the museum basement has been occupied by cats for quite a while.)

The Hermitage’s founder, Catherine the Great, actually named the cats the guardians of art galleries – their greatest task is to protect the artefacts and art from rodents.

Today, they’re famous.

They even have a day named after them – the Day of the Hermitage Cat – and are cared for by a host of volunteers and museum staff.

Museum general director Mikhail Piotrovsky held a press conference after the bequest was discovered, saying the funds would go towards repairing the basement.

“Our French friend did a very good thing; this is brilliant PR for both the cats and charity,” Piotrovsky said.

“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?

“I think the cats will express their will – our colleagues are well versed in communicating with them and understanding their language,” he said, indicating exactly what upgrades will take place.