French Man Leaves Money to 50 Cats Who are Living in a Museum

Writing a will so that your money and assets are distributed in the way you wish following your death is common practice. A will is a legally-binding contract, and it is the legal responsibility of the named executor of your will to make sure that your wishes are fulfilled to the best of their ability. In most cases, people will leave their money and assets to their next of kin, such as their spouse or their children. However, it is not compulsory to do so, and people can choose to leave their worldly possessions to whoever they wish. It is not even a necessity to leave your money to a person, as you can leave your money to the organization of your choice, such as to a charity. It is even possible to leave your money to animals, which was the dying wish of one Frenchman who left his money to 50 cats living in a Russian museum, says CNN.

The Cats at the State Hermitage Museum

In what many people may consider an unusual move, a French philanthropist decided to leave all his money to the 50 or so cats living at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The cats currently live in the basement of the famous museum. The museum is one of the top tourist attractions in St. Petersburg, as it houses more than three million pieces of artwork, sculptures, and artifacts. The exhibits are spread across several buildings that are all part of the museum, including the Winter Palace. According to officials from the State Hermitage Museum, there have been cats living at the museum since the reign of Empress Elizabeth between 1741 to 1761. Following Empress Elizabeth’s reign, Catherine the Great became the Empress of Russia and reigned from 1762 to 1796. She gave the cats the status of the guardians of the art galleries, and they were housed to rid the museum of rodents. Now, the cats are cared for by museum officials and volunteers.

Frenchman Leaves Money in His Will

Early in December 2020, it was revealed that an unnamed French philanthropist had left a small sum to the museum’s cats in his will. The announcement was made by the museum’s general director Mikhail Piotrovsky in a press conference. He explained that the unnamed man was so taken with the cats that he had decided to include them as beneficiaries in his will. He went on to say that the Frenchman had done something fantastic not only for the cats but also for the PR of the museum’s charity. Although it is only a small sum of money, it was exciting news for the museum. Piotrovsky described how excited they were when the French lawyers contacted them. He went on to explain that receiving the money from the will was not a simple process but that he found the whole situation very interesting. Piotrovsky also described it as an incredibly nice gesture from France.

How Will the Cats Spend the Money?

Animal lovers may wonder how the cats will use the money they have inherited from the Frenchman’s will. Speaking on their behalf, Piotrovsky said that the museum intends to use the money to fix the museum’s basement, which is where the cats live. According to Piotrovsky, the museum officials and volunteers who care for the cats believe that this is the best use of the money, and what the cats would want if they could speak or understand the situation.

The Cats Other Benefactor

While it may seem unusual to some people that someone has left their money to the cats living at a Russian museum, the unnamed Frenchman was not the only person to donate money to the cats. Vladimir Fortov was the former president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He fell in love with the cats and would often stop off at the museum to see them and donate some money. Piotrovsky describes Fortov as a constant friend to the cats. Sadly, Fortov died in November 2020. Members of the public are also huge fans of the cats. Each year, the museum has a day called the Day of the Hermitage Cat to celebrate the museum’s resident felines. More than 800 photographs featuring the cats were submitted to the museum by members of the public as part of the annual celebration.

Famous Cat Beneficiaries

Leaving money to cats is less unusual than you may initially think, and there are even famous people who have left money to cats in their will. Freddie Mercury is possibly one of the most famous people to have ensured his cats were taken care of financially in his will. The lead singer of Queen’s love of cats was legendary, and he had as many as ten cats living in his home at any one time. His favorite cat was called Delilah, and he even dedicated a song he wrote to her and included it on ‘Innuendo,’ Queen’s final album. Furthermore, he appears on the cover of ‘Innuendo with a cat on each shoulder.

During the final stages of Mercury’s illness leading up to his death, he said he was leaving all his money to Mary Austin and his cats in an interview. Mary Austin was a former girlfriend of Mercury’s with whom he had remained close, despite Mercury being in a relationship with a man. Freddie Mercury died at the age of 45 on November 24, 1991. At the time, his estate was estimated at £8 million (approximately $10.5 million). Following his death, most of Mercury’s estate went to Austin, and she was also left his remains, which she buried in a secret location. An undisclosed figure was left to ensure Mercury’s cats were well cared for when he was no longer there. He also left money to his family, his boyfriend, and some of his staff and close friends.

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