Russia has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time now. As a former ballet dancer and someone who has seen the Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet company of St. Petersburg several times on their U.S. tours, Russia is a place I’ve always wanted to go. Now my reasons for wanting to go extend beyond ballet: there’s a cat café.
Cats Republic is the country’s first. It consists of not only the café and a cat room, but also an exhibition hall, Wi-Fi and library (plus a gift shop, of course). Like other cat cafés, visitors are charged an entrance fee for their time with the cats. The difference? Here at the “republic” you apply for a “visa” to see the cats. The cost of your visa depends on when you go, according to their website, and reservations are strongly recommended. Weekdays are a little less than weekends and run from about $4 to $6 for an hour of cat time. Additional hours are at half that price. Children under 3 years old are free. The option to purchase a “Multivisa” is available for about $30 and allows cat lovers 12 hours of cat time.
Each visitor’s visa must be approved and stamped before entering the cat room. According to MIR Corporation, there is one more step before entry is allowed: visitors must meow three times. (Don’t be embarrassed; everyone does it.) The cats you’ll meet are of different ages and breeds, with Dyushes (a Sphynx) being one of the most popular. To prevent over-stimulation, each cat is limited to two to three visits per day. When your hour is nearly up, an announcement is made that your visa is about to expire. At the end of your visit you wash your hands and are led to the gift shop where you can pick up a souvenir or two.
After your cat café visa expires, check out the Hermitage Museum, the basement of which is home to a collection cats. The museum has been home to cats since 1745, according to MIR Corporation, when the museum was still a palace. The empress requested cats be sent in to get rid of the mice, and she soon received a large number of Russian Blues. To this day, the Hermitage basement has housed cats (except during the Siege of Leningrad). There are currently five to seven dozen cats who live there, MIR Corporation reports. They are taken care of through private donations, Purina, the German Pro Animale Society and a staff of volunteers. The Cats Republic café is where you will find some of the retired Hermitage cats.
A cat café, an art museum protected from vermin by cats and the ballet – what more could you ask for in a vacation?
Cats Republic is located at 10 Yakubovicha Street and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information or to make reservations at Cats Republic, visit their website.