While some cats enjoy their lazy lives on a couch, others are busy working as museum "staff" for The State Hermitage. There are about 50 cats living in the basement of the Hermitage. The working day of the feline keepers of art is really busy: they often walk around the yard or sunbathe on the benches near the museum; however, they are kept out of the actual exhibition areas.
"They are spoiled and gentle animals, who live in small families," Maria Haltunen, a senior staff member at the museum, who has been looking after the furry inhabitants for 20 years so far, said RIA Novosti.
The Hermitage cats live for their pleasure. The animals have already learned the exact time for their meal and take their places next to bowls in advance. The museum staff members are raising money for their fluffy friends' food; a large firm producing food for domestic animals is sponsoring them as well.
The cats main duty is to scare away rodents, said Maria. While the cats keep watch over the surroundings during the ‘working' day, they leave their special odor noticeable to mice. That is why cats have become such an important part of the Hermitage.
Some cats have even become local celebrities of the museum. One of the most touching stories told by the staff is about Van Dyck cat, which got lost in the heating ducts of the building. The poor kitty climbed into one of the channels of a heating system and managed to reach the second floor of the museum, stuck behind the wall.
"She climbed to the hall of Van Dyck, where she began to cry. The stuff members tried to lure her to the door for a whole week!" Maria said. Luckily, the furry wall climber found her way out and was taken out of the museum by her new owners.
When the Hermitage visitors decide to take one of the cats home, the museum officials never give one of their felines friends away immediately. First the future owners are questioned in a special interview. The kitties leave the Hermitage family and start their new life with new owners only if those people can find a common language with the cats and take care of them.