Meowing Division, the army of cats that saved Leningrad from mice

by time news

2023-06-08 02:00:00

The winter of 1941-1942 was especially difficult for the inhabitants of the besieged city. The funeral teams did not have time to remove the corpses of people who died of hunger, cold and disease from the streets. That winter, the inhabitants of Leningrad ate everything, even domestic animals, including dogs and cats. They caught and ate all the ducks in the parks and the pigeons in the streets. He ate rats and mice. Boys with slingshots hunted birds and fished for small, spiny fish on the Neva. Only a few pets (carefully hidden by their owners) were able to survive that terrible moment. And then a new misfortune fell on the exhausted city – rats began to flood Leningrad. These dangerous rodents do not have a single natural enemy in urban environments, with the exception of cats. Only cats can control the number of rats, one pair of which is capable of reproducing more than 2,000 in just one year. Rats thrived in the starving city: they simply fed on corpses in the streets. This macabre description takes us back to the times of the Second War and the siege that the German army had on the city. The siege began on September 8, 1941 after the Wehermacht cut off the last access roads. Although a corridor was opened in January 1943, the Germans held the encirclement until January 27, 1944, or a total of 872 days. Inside the city, as we mentioned before, the situation was very complicated. The rats began to devour everything that could still be found edible; sick and malnourished children and the elderly were attacked while they slept, the threat of epidemics (including the plague) hung over the city. Given these circumstances, the authorities sought a solution and it was to ask for cats that arrived in today’s Saint Petersburg from Siberia because the animals from there were considered the best for hunting mice. The cats were transported in four wagons with strong surveillance. They came to a city in ruins. Some cats have already been released at the station and the rest have been delivered to the population. Tradition calls these little animals “the meowing division” and in a short time they managed to keep rodents away from the warehouses. However, it was not enough since many of them died from the bites of sick rats. The “armies of cats” defended the city until the end of the blockade in fierce fights with the mice that on many occasions pounced in groups biting the feline. After the blockade, cats continued to be sent from Siberia to the city to replace the dead and continue the fight against the rodents. Even the inhabitants of Moscow sent food and animals. Another story related to this epic war is the cats of the Hermitage, the most important museum in Russia, which protected and protect works of art from rodents; but that will be told another time.

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