As her health began to fail two years ago, Assunta, who had no children, began to seek out a way to see that Tommaso was properly cared for after she died. In November 2009, she bequeathed her entire estate to the alley cat that she'd rescued.
Initially, Assunta had instructed her attorneys to "identify an animal welfare association or group to which to leave the estate and the commitment of looking after Tommaso," according to the Daily Telegraph.
Unable to find a satisfactory association to see to it that Tommaso was loved and cared for, Assunta decided to leave all her money to the cat via her nurse, Stefania, who cared for her until her dying day. Her last name has not been disclosed.
"She had become very fond towards the nurse who assisted her," Anna Orecchioni, one of the lawyers, told Il Messaggero newspaper.
"We're convinced that Stefania is the right person to carry out the old lady's wishes. She loves animals just like the woman she devoted herself to right up until the end."
Stefania told the Telegraph that she had no idea the woman that she was caring for was so incredibly wealthy.
"The old lady suffered from loneliness," the nurse said. "She looked after that cat more than you'd look after a son.
"I promised her that I would look after the cat when she was no longer around. She wanted to be sure that Tommaso would be loved and cuddled. But I never imagined that she had this sort of wealth," she said. "She was very discreet and quite. I knew very little of her private life. She only told me that she had suffered from loneliness a lot."
Tommaso and Stefania, along with another cat, are living outside Rome at an address that is undisclosed, so to avoid con artists and potential kidnappers.
"We have gotten lots of email messages from candidates who wanted to adopt the little Tommasino," the cat's lawyer told ABC News.
The windfall for Tommaso places him No.3 on the list of wealthy pets, behind Kalu the chimp, whose owner left him $80 million dollars, and top dog Gunther IV, a German shepherd who inherited $372 million dollars from his father, Gunther III, the beloved companion of an eccentric German countess.
Real estate magnate Leona Helmsley famously left $12 million to her little dog Trouble, although her human descendents contested, and Trouble's pot was cut to $2 million.
- Maria Assunta