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Cats are sacred animals in many cultures; from being worshipped as deities, living the high life in upmarket apartments to keeping the farmyard free of rodents and small snakes, cats are popular in most countries. Cats are popular as pets without a doubt in your neighborhood, perhaps even in your own house, but have you considered what popularity cats might have in countries and, more specifically, are cats popular in Russia?
Cats are highly popular in Russia. Cats outnumber dogs as pets by far in Russia, and the Russian population is the most enthusiastic cat owners of any country. There is a definable cat-culture in Russia that is inseparable from their personal beliefs.
Cat popularity in Russia is without a doubt due to particular cultural views and beliefs. Russian cat owners place a high value on their feline companions. When moving into a new house, Russians will allow their feline to walk into the house first before any of them set foot inside. They believe this brings them good fortune. Let’s explore other reasons why cats are so popular.
History Of Russian Cats
During the 18th century, Russian Empress Elizabeth noticed an increase in rats throughout the palace. A courtier mentioned that there are cats from Kazan, the ancient Tartar capital, and suggested they might offer some relief in exterminating the rats, who have gotten into the royal house’s extensive art collection and private living quarters.
Empress Elizabeth ordered that the best Kazan cats be brought to the palace and had a caretaker appointed. They were fed and looked after like courtesans. The cats had an immediate effect on the rat invasion, and only during WW2 when all the palace cats of what is now the Hermitage Museum disappeared. The starving citizens consumed them along with all other animals during the famine.
The Empress favored one breed of the cat above all, keeping them away from the public eye. They were said to be of a steely, bluish color, strong and hardy. The muggles lived in the public areas and today have a yearly festival dedicated to them. The Hermitage cats are looked after by caretakers, and it is considered an honor to adopt one.
Cat Popularity and Russian Culture
Given the history of cats in Russia and the importance the Empress placed on the palace felines, it is not difficult to see why they rank high in cultural popularity. They can safeguard national treasures; they are also revered in the spiritual culture of Russians. Below we list a few interesting facts.
- Veles. Hairy cats symbolize Veles, the patron of animals, and considered to be a link to the next world. The ancient Slavs revered hairy cats for this spiritual reason and is still celebrated as such today.
- Feline Wisdom. Russians believe that cats come endowed with wisdom and the ability to see spirits. Russians will often connect negativity to dogs and relay that to people of the same energy.
- Kuklachev Cat Theatre. As the only theatre of its kind globally, the owner Yury Kuklachev performs with his acrobatic cats to delighted audiences.
- The Hermitage Cats. Since the seventeenth century, the Hermitage cats have looked after the palace and now the museum; they are as much a national treasure as the Hermitage contents. They have their own caretakers and quarters below.
It is easy to see why cats are so ingrained into Russian culture, and they are not shy to express their love for felines.
Popular Cat Breeds In Russia
Since the first Kazan cats came to Russia, several cat breeds became established throughout the country. Russia has subzero temperatures in winter, and the cats have adapted to these extreme conditions. Let’s explore the cat breeds most popular in Russia.
As a favorite of Empress Elizabeth, the Russian Blue is a breed that naturally occurred in the region for centuries. They have a steely blue coat with beautiful dense fur. They are known as Archangel Blues.
We talk more about Russian Blue cats and if it is wise to let them go outside in our article: Click Here.
Created in 1994 as a pure Russian breed, the hairless Peterbald is very popular in Russia; they come in various colors and are sweet-natured cats.
Siberian Forest Cat
These magnificent long-haired cats are considered to be a landrace breed in Russia and only became formally recognized in the late 1980s. They are possibly the forefathers to most known long-haired breeds.
We explore if Siberian cats scratch furniture and what your options are as a cat owner in our article on the subject: Click Here.
The hairless Donskoy is the father of the Peterbald in Russia. They were created by chance in the early 1980s and are easy-going, loving cats. Donskoy cats are also called the Don Sphynx.
Given as a royal gift to Emperor Nicholas by the king of Siam, these primary 200 cats were considered royal and sacred temple guardians. These glossy short-haired cats come in various colors and, most importantly, a short kinked tail. They are actively bred in Russia today.
Originating from the Lake Ladoga area in the Karelian region, these long-haired cats have a distinctive feature. The hair on their short tails is longer than the hair on the body. The Karelian Bobtail has a beautiful thick coat of fur. This cat is recognized by the World Cat Federation.
Not to be confused with the Karelian Bobtail above, the Kurilian Bobtail cat lives in some interesting geography. This cat can be found on the Japanese Kuril islands as well as on the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula. This cat is semi-long-haired and has a short, fluffy tail.
We also mention the interesting Kurilian Bobtail in our article on if cats are popular in Japan: Click Here.
How Many Cats Are In Russia?
Two fascinating tourist attractions center around the Russians’ love for cats. They are the famous Hermitage Museum, formerly the palace.
The second is the only one of its kind in Russia, called The Republic of Cats Café, a cat-themed café with 25 resident cats. A worthwhile visit for any cat lover.
Cats And Russian Folklore?
In human history, the cultural depictions of cats are well documented. They are certainly an integral part of Russian culture and highly celebrated.
Apart from the cultural influence cats have, they are also deeply ingrained into Russian folklore. Several cats enjoy legendary status either due to superstition or near deification. Let’s look at some of the most prominent legendary cats or mentions of cats;
- Matroskin the cat. Matroskin is a famous cartoon character cat fromThree from Potrokvashino. He can use a sewing machine, play the guitar and embroider.
- Pushkin Cat Poem. The cat in this poem is depicted as a signing and storytelling cat. He is tied to a big oak tree with a long golden chain and a distant Baun relative. Due to Alexander Pushkin’s popularity, every Russian child knows about this cat.
- Behemoth the cat. Known as a trickster and very charismatic, this cat is a part of Woland’s entourage in Master and Margarita, a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. Russians love to quote Behemoth when telling stories.
- A kitten named Woof. “A kitten named Gav” in Russian took on the English translation of “A Kitten Named Woof.” Being one of the most adored cartoon characters in the Soviet, Gav is an adorable courageous but naïve kitten that loves to find new adventures. Gav loosely translates to the word woof.
- The St. Petersburg Cats. Having an almost fanatical relationship with cats, the St. Petersburg residents sell more cat novelties and trinkets than any other city in the world. These range from T-shirts, fridge magnets, and caps, depicting the St. Petersburg cats engaged in various activities against the city backdrop.
The overwhelming popularity of cats in Russia is evident through the long history since the timeous arrival of the first Kazan cats at the royal palace. They gained stature in society as vital helpers in a crisis and as loyal companions to millions of Russian cat lovers.
The spiritual and folklore presence of cats in Russia is deeply engrained in society and will likely continue for generations to come.
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