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Russian museum honors cat guards

April 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, April 6 (UPI) -- Russia's most popular art museum is hosting an exhibit in honor of the 60 cats it employs to protect paintings against mice and rats.

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has employed the cats dating back to its founding in 1764, when Catherine the Great created the institution. She even gave the felines a formal rank and stipend.

Museum officials began celebrating the cats in 1998.

This is the first year a separate gallery offering has been put together, RIA Novosti said Saturday. The exhibit is comprised of paintings by Alexandre Steinlen, an Art Nouveau painter noted for his love of cats.

The museum hosted a children's contest for cat drawings and compiled a "Book of Records of Hermitage Cats" chronicling the felines at the museum.

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