Sculpture of Kazan Cat

Ilnar Tukhbatov/ТАSS
The cat is Kazan's totem animal. According to one of the many legends associated with the taking of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible, a cat had warned the Khan of an underground tunnel being dug underneath the fortress. While this legend beggars belief, it is an attested fact that Empress Elizabeth ordered 30 cats from Kazan to Saint Petersburg in 1745. Their job would be to hunt mice in the Winter Palace.

Cats were steady characters of Tatar lubok – folk kitsch – from the 17th century on. "Kazan cats with Astrakhan smarts and Siberian intelligence, sitting by the door, singing songs, spinning tall tales," goes the inscription under some of the Tatar folk cat motifs. One popular motif was "a cat's burial by the mice."

A stone cat statue was erected in 2009 on the bank of Raif Lake. Another, aluminium one stands at the intersection of Ulitsa Baumana (Baumana Street) and Ulitsa Musy Dzhalila (Musy Dzhalila Street). There is also a bronze cat sculpture outside the entrance of the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan at Ulitsa Kremlyovskaya (Kremlyovskaya Street), 2.