The Siberian Cat
by Pamela A. Martin
From 2008 CFA Yearbook
Siberian cats first appeared in recorded history around the year 1,000. They are Russia's native cats and come from the unforgiving climate of the Siberian forest. This is a cat that nature designed to survive, with no extremes in type. Russian farmers and trades people were the primary people who cared for the Siberians. Siberian cats were needed to protect grain and other products from small varmints, as Russia was an agricultural country. Shopkeepers in Moscow were known to compete with each other over whose cat was the biggest and thickest. Russian people like cats and most children in Russia grew up with a kitten, and the favorite cats were the Siberian cats. They are prized housecats and many Russian families relay fond tales of their Siberian cats and their amazing loyalty and personalities. Siberian cats even existed in Russian fairytales as protectors of children and magical beings who opened gateways to realms beyond our ordinary senses. We have images of them roaming the Siberian Taiga (forestland) even today, and they are reported to be in large numbers in the wild Siberian outlying territories.
The Siberian cat was one of the three longhairs represented at the first cat shows held in England in the 1700s. The first cat show in the city of Leningrad, Russia was in 1987; two cat clubs, Kotofei and Kis, organized the show. This is the actual date of the beginning of breeding of Siberians in St. Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad. The Soviet Felinological Association registered the Siberian breed, including both the traditional colors and the Siberian colorpoint (often referred to as Neva Masquerade in Europe and Russia).
An entry about Siberian cats was found in a book that was originally published in 1900 by Helen M. Winslow entitled Concerning Cats: "Mrs. Frederick Monroe of Riverside, Illinois owns a remarkable specimen of a genuine Russian cat, a perfect blue of extraordinary size. The Russian longhaired pet is much less common even than the Persian and Angora."
In 1990, when Communism fell and free trade opened up, Soviet/American cooperation took on new dimensions and the Siberian cat was allowed to be exported from the Soviet Union. On June 28, 1990, three young new immigrants arrived at the Port of New York, just as most of our own ancestors did throughout U.S. history. The first three Siberian kittens had finally arrived! After 18 months of correspondence by Elizabeth Terrell with various Siberian breeders in Russia, Kaliostro Vasenjkovich of Starpoint, a brown classic tabby and white male, and Naina Romanova of Starpoint, a brown mackerel tabby female, and Ofelia Romanova of Starpoint, a brown mackerel tabby and white female, arrived at Starpoint Cattery in Louisiana from St. Petersburg, Russia. Their arrival from Kotofei Cat Club along with their individual metrikas (certificates of birth), seals, signatures and proper health documents heralded just the beginning of a new breed of longhair, hearty, natural, survival cats in the United States. The trio adapted with ease, relishing the abundant premium cat foods, superb medical care and gracious living - things we all take for granted in this country but which are scarce or nonexistent elsewhere. By September of 1991 other Siberians had arrived in Louisiana, all carrying proper documentation, and a breeding program was underway in the United States. The first litter of Siberian kittens born in the United States arrived on July 13, 1991.
The next steps for recognition brought the new Siberian breeders into showhalls. In 2005, after a great deal of work, the Siberians were fully accepted for championship in all registries. It was in this venue that the many similarities and differences were noticed with the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat. These three natural survival breeds have many qualities in common, but to the trained eye there are many differences, too. The Maine Coon Cat is a large cat with rectangular features, longer legs and body, and higher pointed ears. The Norwegian Forest Cat has a more angular face, a very straight profile and is smaller than the Maine Coon and Siberian. When we think of the Siberian, we think of circles, rounder ears, eyes and faces. The body of a Siberian is like a barrel and has surprising heft for its size. All three breeds have the same type of coat; it is very difficult to wet as this coat is used to protect the cat from the elements as they roamed the land.
There are several distinguishing characteristics that separate the Siberian cat from other breeds. The Siberian is a medium-large cat with the overall appearance of excellent physical condition, massive strength, power and alertness, modified by a sweet facial expression. The general impression of the body is one of circles and roundness rather than the rectangles and triangles indicative of the other forest cat breeds. Females are considerably smaller than males. Eye color varies from gold to green and all shades in-between. Since Siberians are a natural breed, they come in all colors, including colorpoints that have blue eyes. The rainbow of colors includes, but is not limited to, brown, red, blue, silver, white, black and any combination of these colors. They come in solid, spotted, ticked, mackerel and classic patterns. A mackerel patterned cat will have stripes going up and down on the sides of the cat, and a classic pattern has circles on the sides of the cat. The most common color is a brown mackerel tabby with or without white. Colorpoint Siberians have markings similar to other pointed cats.
Siberians should have a very dense, water-resistant triple coat, which is medium to long in length. They have a full dense coat in the winter while the summer coat is somewhat shorter and less dense. The hair is shorter on the shoulders, with a ruff at the neck, full fluffy britches and a bushy tail that is carried up with pride. Some Siberians take as long as three years to get the correct coat. Siberian owners often email pictures to each other bragging about "the fluff on that tail!" Ear tipping is desired and full ear furnishings are required. This means that the tops of the ears can have hair which makes the ears look pointed, when in fact they are rounded, and that the inside of the ear has hair that protects it from the elements.
One reason why it may take some time to get the correct coat is because Siberians are slow to mature and take up to five years to fully develop. Males, in particular, continue to put on muscle and begin to look quite hefty as they age past five years. Some owners have even noticed their cats gaining muscle as they approach 10 years of age. Reports of altered males weighing 25 pounds have been verified. How would you like that teddy bear on your bed?
Siberians tend to be self-grooming, meaning that they remain relatively tangle-free, though males can and do get knotty in the springtime if not combed daily; pet Siberians do not require extensive grooming. For the most part, Siberians do not shed a lot (there are always exceptions to this and you may find some that shed constantly and profusely); instead, they molt twice a year. The molting period lasts for about 10 days. Daily brushing at this time is required to expedite the molting process and to prevent the fur from matting. Otherwise, occasional grooming is acceptable unless your cat insists on more. Show grooming is more extensive. You need to bathe the cat to remove any buildup of dirt and oil in the fur. Ensure that you rinse your Siberian completely to remove all traces of soap; then you must completely dry the fur. At the show you need to fluff before each ring. Most Siberians tolerate their baths, especially if they are bathed as kittens, and some even like playing in the water and will try to take showers or baths with you. Some Persian breeders that show both breeds say that the Siberian is harder to groom than the Persian because of the very dense, water-resistant triple coat. It is very hard to get the fur wet and then very hard to get the fur dry.
Owning a cat can be very pleasurable, but owning a Siberian cat is a very rewarding, life changing experience. The Siberian will become your best friend, confidante, problem-solver and house clown. Siberians are one of the most ancient breeds. Siberian cats are very personable and want to be near their owners. They will meet you at the door when you come home and explain their day to you. They are a quiet breed that will express melodically, using sweet mews, thrills, chirps and lots of purring, and they love to sit in your lap and be groomed. A favorite pastime of one of mine is to find something and bring it to me so that I can throw it and they can play fetch. All types of toys intrigue them and they will play with just about anything. Another thing that mine are intrigued with is the moving cursor on the computer screen. You will need to shut the door of your computer room if you want to get any typing done. Some Siberians learn to stay off the keyboard at an early age but others will insist on adding indecipherable letters to your most crucial correspondence. Others will sit in the cubbyholes of your computer desk and entrancingly watch as you type, periodically extending a paw of support.
If you own a Siberian you will never be alone. They will watch TV with you, accompany you to the restroom and then go to bed with you. And if you are trying to do something, they will insist on helping - reading a newspaper, book or magazine is next to impossible. In some ways they are like the Gypsies of fairytales: if they like something, they will take it, play with it and in the process lose it. I am still missing some jewelry that one of the cats decided was pretty. You can find toys and stolen items under every piece of furniture in my home.
Siberians also enjoy the company of dogs, other animals and children. They are fearless and easygoing; not much disturbs the natural calm and equanimity of a Siberian. Many parents affirm that their Siberian will always sleep with the children as a sentinel at the foot of their bed. Other Siberians are the nurses in the family, always spending time with the sick person who needs the support. They seem to have a high level of intuition: they know when they are needed for psychological and moral support, and they get out of your way when you are too tense and busy to deal with them (there are those who are underfoot no matter what). The Siberian will give support in all the hard times in life, even if only for a headache.
The acrobatic nature of the Siberian is well known among owners. They will play hard, often executing amazing somersaults in pursuit of a feather toy. Some balance on clothing racks and seem to be executing or attempting an uneven parallel bar routine, rivaled only by Olympic athletes. Others balance carefully on lamp shades as they watch their owners read. Many times I have rescued an overly enthusiastic kitten attempting to climb the bricks on the fireplace or jump to the top of a bookshelf they can't quite reach. The Siberian is always happy to be helped though. They must be high on a shelf somewhere. Siberians stay playful throughout their lives and rarely could be mistaken for the couch potato. Siberians appear to be very healthy with few if any health issues or genetic problems.
The Siberian cat is also known by many allergy sufferers for being hypoallergenic. Many people that are allergic to cats have found that they can tolerate the Siberian and have little or no reaction to them. Although it has not been proven medically or scientifically, many people adamantly believe that the Siberian is hypoallergenic. They believe this because they are living proof. After they lived for decades with allergic reactions to cats, I have seen adults cry because these loving cats have climbed all over them and they had no allergic reactions. Most Siberians have a low occurrence of the FelD1 enzyme in their salvia. When a cat licks its fur, the saliva dries and falls off as dander, and most allergy sufferers have sensitivity to this enzyme. This concept is cat-by-cat and person-by-person dependent. If you are allergic to cats and want to test your response to Siberians, it is best to find someone near you with a Siberian or two. Spend a few hours with one and find out how you react. Personally, I have had very good luck with placing Siberians in allergy homes. On average, about 75 percent of the people that come out to test have little or no reaction. Of those that have gotten a kitten from me, no one has had a problem having a Siberian or two in their home. There are no guarantees, but there is hope for allergy sufferers.
If you are considering a cat as a lifelong companion, the Siberian cat will give you years of happiness with its loving personality. Some consider its personality dog-like in its loyalty. Others purchase them for the hypoallergenic qualities it has with the owners. So for whatever reason you want one of these cats, the Siberian is a worthy first choice, and you will be forever pleased.
This was our first year in championship competition. We had a total of 71 Siberians that were shown this year. There were 15 alters shown: 11 gained premier status, with two gaining grand premier status and regional wins in their respective regions. In championship, there were 40 shown in the open class with 33 of them gaining championship status and one achieving grand championship status. The grand champion received a regional award as well as the breed award. We are very proud of our accomplishments and hope to have many more winners next year.