Cats are an integral part of the Hermitage, they appeared here from the moment of its foundation, and they live to the present day. Moreover, they not only live, but also do responsible work - they rid the museum of mice and rats.
There is information that Peter the Great brought the first cat here from Holland. And his daughter Elizaveta Petrovna took up the protection of the Hermitage from the invasion of rodents already seriously: she issued the "Decree on the expulsion of cats to the yard", according to which cats "convenient for catching mice" were supposed to be sent to the Imperial court.
The cats lived happily in the Hermitage in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They were even proudly called "art gallery guards." Only during the years of the blockade, there were almost no animals left in Leningrad, but already in 1944 two carriages of cats from Yaroslavl were brought to the city, some of which were sent to serve in the Hermitage.
In the sixties, another problem even arose: there were too many cats. Some townspeople even threw kittens here, trying to put them in "good hands". Moreover, the cats have become so accustomed to the Hermitage that they even began to spoil documents and exhibits. It was decided to rid the Hermitage of the "watchmen", but in a short time there were so many rodents that the cats had to be urgently returned.
All the guards of the Hermitage are divided into four groups, each of which must control a certain territory. Elita lives on the second floor in the economic department. The doors in the Hermitage are equipped with special openings so that cats can move freely.
Each cat has its own document - a passport with a photo; it is regularly examined by a veterinarian. It is not easy to become one of the Hermitage guards against rodents - the number of cats here does not exceed 50-60. This is the optimal number, in this case everyone has enough territory and work. If extra individuals appear, they are distributed to the residents of St. Petersburg. True, potential owners are carefully selected, the cats are given only into safe hands.
There are no special funds for keeping cats. The money comes from volunteers - museum staff and visitors. And some contribute with cat litter food and litters.
There is a legend that a special breed of cats was bred to guard the Hermitage. But these rumors are absolutely groundless: all tailed guards are subject to mandatory sterilization, therefore, they are simply not capable of reproduction.