ST. PETERBSURG, RUSSIA – A recently deceased French doctor by the name of Christophe Batard left €3,000 to some 70 cats living in the basement of world-famous art haven, the Hermitage Museum.
Officials of the art gallery have suggested that the money be put toward improving the basement where the cats live and fulfill their official “duty” as rat hunters.
“Our French friend has done a remarkable thing,” said the gallery’s director, Mikhail Piotrovsky. “It is such a beautiful gesture.”
Cats in the Hermitage date all the way back to the mid-18th century when Empress Elizabeth I, daughter of St. Petersburg’s founder, Emperor Peter the Great, ordered that felines be brought to the museum—then called the Winter Palace—to address a rat infestation.
Today, the Hermitage is home to around 70 cats which hunt rodents underneath the age-old structure. They have since gained popularity equal to that of the museum’s collection, according to the staff. The museum also hosts yearly parties for the cats and has a website where people can adopt one of them.