- By Thomas StackpoleThomas Stackpole is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. A native of Martha's Vineyard, MA, he received his bachelors degree in Political Theory from Bates College, and studied at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. Previously, he covered climate and energy for Mother Jones and politics for the New Republic and MSN News, and once sailed from Maine to the Panama Canal, where he spent at least one afternoon playing coconut bocce on a desert island.
Russia’s largest bank wants to lend you a cat. Isn’t that nice?
What did you do for the good folks of Sberbank, the Moscow-based lender, that would make them want to drive a van to your home and drop off one of their 10 cats — which they keep just for occasions like this — so you can hang out with it for not more than two hours? Well, they just lent you the money for the house and, as Russian superstition has it, it’s good luck for the first creature to cross the threshold of a new home to be a feline. And, yes, the cat has to be returned to the bank.
This neighborly campaign from the friendliest of all Russian banking behemoths is a ploy to cash in on Russia’s mortgage market boom. According to the Central Bank of Russia, demand for home mortgages is on the rise. People "watch[ing] their savings lose value amid a sliding ruble and rising interest rates" are the driving factor, according to the Moscow Times. Cats, apparently, are the key for Sberbank cashing in.
How excited can people be about cats that they don’t get to keep? Apparently very, if the bank’s marketing video is any indication. Once the superstitious home buyer gets his loan approved, he gets to pick (online even!) which charmed rattrap will be ferried in to consecrate his new abode. There’s a counter below each cat, in case you feel like keeping score. The furry talisman will then wander around your house until its handlers — two unshaven men in green overalls — whisk it away to its next engagement.
Relevant questions that go unanswered by a campaign designed to tug all the heartstrings of an Internet generation now brainwashed to love cats include: Does it count if you nudge the cat through the door? If an old lady gives Knop (the No. 1 most popular house-blessing mouse-hunter) a friendly push in the right direction, will that nix the grimalkin-voodoo hunting powers for which she paid good money? And if so, what horrors await the little girl who so unceremoniously hauled Timothy into her new living room? Do you think Caesar’s mustache is fake? Is the loan contract voided if hairless Kuzma refuses to cooperate?
Possible pitfalls aside, if you’re interested, you’d better act fast: The deal only lasts until mid-December, at which point if you want to buy into this kooky tradition, you may just have to adopt a cat.