Nick Pisa, in Rome
An Italian cat has become the third richest animal in the world after inheriting almost £10m after his wealthy owner died and left him the entire family fortune.
Maria Assunta died last month aged 94 and, according to lawyers entrusted with her estate, left the fortune in property to Tommasino, a stray cat she had found and looked after because of her love for animals.
Ms Assunta had a large property portfolio of homes and villas across the country, as well as several bulging bank accounts and share portfolios but no living relatives.
Lawyers Anna Orecchioni and Giacinto Canzona say that she left the fortune to Tommasino in a will she wrote and deposited with them in their office in Rome in October 2009.
Mrs Orecchioni explained that under Italian law Tommassino is not entitled to inherit the money directly and the will also asked for the money to be given to a “worthy animal association, if one could be found”.
She added: “We had requests from several organisations but in the end we did not find any that we thought were suitable.
“Then earlier this year Maria told us about her nurse called Stefania who looked after her and who, like her, had a love of animals and in particular cats. We also could find no living relatives of her at all anywhere.
“In the end we decided that Stefania was the most suitable person to administer the money that Maria had left in her will.
“To be honest he doesn’t need all that money he is happy with a saucer of milk and some biscuits.”
Stefania said: “I had no idea that she was worth so much money.”
The world’s richest animal is thought to be a dog called Gunter IV, a German shepherd who received more than £90m after his wealthy and slightly barking heiress owner Karlotta Liebenstien died and left him her fortune.
In 1988 British recluse Ben Rea left his fortune of £9m to his cat Blackie.