Cat Craze in St. Petersburg
Cat Craze in St. Petersburg
With the “International Day of St. Petersburg’s Cats” (Всемирный день петербургских котов) coming up this weekend, I decided to let my inner crazy-cat-lady go wild for a week. Without further ado, here are my findings of the lengthy investigation about pretty much everything feline-related in this cat-crazed city.
Why is it impossible to walk a single block in Petersburg without spotting scarves, umbrellas, backpacks, and entire souvenir shops dedicated to cats, you may ask? Well, let me enlighten you with some (p)awesome history about St. Pete’s favorite pet:
Empress Elizabeth was the first to introduce the domestic animals to the city, with a very specific purpose in mind: The cats would guard the large winter palace of rodents — a job, that no amount of human servants could do as well as their four-legged counterparts. Both Elizabeth, and later Catherine the Great, enjoyed the presence of the cats. Furthermore, their extensive art collections in the palace depended on the protection against mice. Elizabeth’s 1745 decree stated the order “to find in Kazan […] the best and biggest cats capable of catching mice, and send them to […] the Court of her Imperial Majesty, along with someone to look after and feed them, and send them by cart and with sufficient food immediately”. Katherine the Great later kept only the glamorous Russian Blues in the palace, while mixed and common raced cats roamed around in the basement.
Today, the 70 cats remaining in the Hermitage are taken care of by the “Hermitage Cat Department”. Since the public can only visit the famous museum pets on rare occasions, I decided to pay the local cat cafe “Cat Republic” (Республика кошек) a visit, instead. Upon paying an entry fee of 300 Rubles, my friend (a cat enthusiast) and I (only mildly allergic) received our cat-passports from a lovely, charmingly crazy employee. She guided us through filling out our information (such as age in cat years) and sent us off to wash our hands. After swapping our shoes for slippers, we entered into a magical closet and were advised to “meow” three times, in order to open the portal to Cat-topia (seriously).
Thus, there we were — in the midst of around 25 cats, each of them sitting on their self-proclaimed thrones. Our one hour appointment with the felines went by in no time, and I’m still completely taken aback by how much I ended up enjoying the visit. Our lovely guide spoke English perfectly and had witty stories to tell about each inhabitant of the cafe.
Whether you are a cat enthusiast or not, checking out Cat Republic is a great idea if you have kids, enjoy a good cup of coffee, or are in desperate need of a mood lift. There is no way you’ll step out of the small, magical building without a giggly attitude and a ton of cat hair on your shirt. You can visit the cafe at 10 Yakubovicha Street (Якубовича 10), close to the St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Cat Republic is also the host of “International Day of St. Petersburg’s Cats”, so check out the celebration on June, 10th from 11am-5pm.
Cynthia, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg