Siberian: The National Cat of Russia

August 23, 2019

By Melissa Lapierre

One of the highlights of the year for me comes in January when the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) holds a cat show in my home town. It seems like each year there’s one particular breed that completely captivates me, and this year it was the Siberian, which I had the privilege of seeing in person for the very first time.

I was so impressed by these magnificent cats that I became eager to learn all I could about them. After reading this article you might be interested in adding one to your own family, and while you’re unlikely to find a Siberian available for adoption at your local shelter, a quick online search provides contact information for several Siberian rescue groups.

Siberian Cat History

Siberians (also known as Siberian Forest cats and Moscow Semi-Longhairs) have been in existence for over 1,000 years and serve as the national cat of Russia. They were first mentioned in Harrison Wier’s book Our Cats and all About Them, which included information about one of the earliest cat shows held in England in 1871. The breed first arrived in the United States in 1990 following the end of the Cold War. They are still fairly rare in the US and most breeders have waiting lists for their kittens.

The International Cat Association (TICA) accepted Siberians into the New Breed program in 1992 and in 1996 granted them championship status. They were accepted for registration by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in February 2000 and advanced to championship status in February 2006.

Personality

Known for their agile jumping skills, Siberians are athletic and energetic, highly intelligent and devoted to their humans. Their easygoing nature makes them the perfect addition to any household, including busy families with young children and other pets. They are also very serious when it comes to their parenting – many Siberian mother cats will have only one mate for life, and Siberian fathers are very nurturing and play a huge part in caring for their kittens. Siberian cats reach reproductive maturity earlier than most breeds – some as young as five months – and produce larger litters.

Appearance

As a result of the harsh Siberian climate they originate from, these cats have a luxurious triple coat to protect against the cold, which grows thicker during the winter months even in indoor cats. Their densely muscled body is also suited to their native environment. As with many other cat breeds, Siberians come in just about all colors and patterns although brown tabbies are most common.

Their coat tends to resist matting and tangling (making them much easier to groom than you might think), but they do go through a “molting” period in both the spring and fall. Interestingly, this molting is not triggered by a change in temperature but rather by the change in daylight hours. Their coat is also water-repellent, making them more likely to play with water than other cat breeds.

There are claims that the Siberian is hypoallergenic and produces less Fel d1 (the primary allergen present on cats and kittens) than other cat breeds, making them safe for allergy sufferers. This has not been scientifically proven though. If you have an allergy, always plan to spend extra time with any cat you plan to adopt before bringing them home to make sure you don’t have a reaction to them.

Considered one of the largest cat breeds, the Siberian matures slowly, sometimes not reaching their full stature until the age of 5!

Health Issues

All pedigreed cats have some sort of health problem, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. The main congenital disease to be on the lookout for with Siberians is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The most common of all heart diseases in cats, HCM is a thickening of the heart muscle that could lead to heart failure.

Russian Culture

Siberians play an important role in Russian folklore, with one of the most beloved being the folk tale The Cat and the Fox featuring a Siberian named Catafay Ivanovich. They can also be seen in Russian paintings and writings dating back hundreds of years. In Russian fairy tales, magical cats protect children and open gateways to unseen realms.

Famous Owners

Siberians have been owned by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Silver Screen

A rotating group of five Siberians portrayed “Mr. Fuzzypants” in the 2016 Kevin Spacey movie Nine Lives. Barry Sonnenfeld, the director of the movie, was highly allergic to cats, but didn’t have any issues working with the Siberians.

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting (or being owned by) a Siberian cat? Tell us about it!

Read more articles by Melissa Lapierre

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