Achilles the cat is pictured outside the Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg, where he is one of many full-time mouse-hunters. (AFP Photo)
SAINT PETERSBURG: A deaf, white cat named Achilles is ready to begin work as Russia’s “official” soothsayer for the World Cup, following in the tentacle-prints of Paul the Octopus who became a star in 2010.
Paul predicted winners for that year’s World Cup by choosing one out of two boxes containing food, while Achilles will be presented with bowls marked with teams’ flags.
“We went for Achilles because he is beautiful, first of all, but also because — like all white cats with blue eyes — he is deaf, so he has a great deal of intuition, he sees with his heart,” said Anna Kasatkina, a vet who oversees the guard-cats at the Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg.
For the World Cup, Achilles will move out of his lifelong home in the basements of the Hermitage, where he works with a team of dozens of other cats to keep the world-famous site free of rodents.
Instead he will live at the “Cat Republic” cafe nearby.
“He’s going to live here for the duration of the tournament to keep him ‘on form’, since he has more opportunity to move and also meet guests,” Kasatkina told AFP.
The cat is not the first animal to be positioned as successor to the celebrated Paul, who became the world’s most famous mollusc when he correctly predicted all the matches of the German team during the South African World Cup. He went on to predict the victory of Spain in the final.
The Swiss guinea pig Madame Shiva made a play for the crown in 2014, as did the British piranha Pele, but neither quite had Paul’s foresight.