Monday, May 27, 2013

Cats in Russian Culture: Revered and Reviled

Cats are recognized for their importance in rodent control in Russia, as they are in much of the world. This April, in St. Petersburg, Russia, the art museum called the State Hermitage Museum, held an exhibit to honor the 60 cats that are kept there to protect the paintings against potential destruction by mice and rats. April 8 was designated "Cat's Day."

The "guard cats" date back to the Hermitage Museum’s founding in 1764, when Catherine the Great created the famous establishment. The Queen provided the mousers with a formal rank and salary. The cats were not celebrated by the museum officials, though, until 1998.

The art of Alexandre Steinlen, an Art Nouveau painter who often painted cats, was featured. Nouveau is renowned for his love of cats.

The Museum also held a children’s contest, of cat drawings. A “Book of Records of Hermitage Cats” was also featured, chronicling the lives of the felines that have continuously resided at the museum.

From the museum's brochure:  "In many countries cats are looked at as a rodent themselves. They are ignored, eaten, and abused. Yet in Russia, the leaders of the country knew the value and wealth of having cats; cats that were in a place of honor – trusted with valuables that are irreplaceable.

"Perhaps the leaders of old realized back then what we should all know today – that cats have their place in the cycle of life and even do their thing in order to help their human companions. Let’s all take a stand with our Russian comrades and say ‘thank you’ to the cats then and now."

But not every Russian comrade is so compassionate.

Just when you think you've heard everything:

tattooing a cat

The cat in the photo is a hairless Sphinx cat. Apparently, it has become a worldwide trend--not just Russia-- to tattoo hairless cats and dogs and even pigs. I think it's disgusting to disfigure an animal like that, even if it weren't so cruel.