Siberian cats, also known as Siberian Forest Cats and Moscow Longhairs, originate from the sub-zero climate of Siberia, Russia. With a triple coat and stocky build, this medium to large cat can withstand the harshest winters.
Over the years, we have welcomed this sweet-natured cat into our homes. This article looks at the history of the Siberian Cat, its appearance, characteristics, health, care, and nutrition.
The History of Siberian Cats
The history of the Siberian is a little hazy but clues of its existence date back to the 13th century. Evidence from fairy tales, paintings, and books leads us to believe that this breed is over 1,000 years old.
The Fairy Tale Feline
Tales of a cat named Bayun resemble a Siberian with his thick coat and large build. He sits deep in the Siberian forest and charms unsuspecting travelers, lulling them to sleep with his mesmerizing voice. After his prey falls to sleep, Bayun feeds mercilessly on their bodies. The hero of this story tames Bayun, and he becomes a loyal companion. Bayun can heal wounds and disease with his purr and relieve children of their nightmares.
Russian fairy tales like this often refer to Siberians as protectors of children. They’re also said to have the power to open gateways to new realms. As well as fairy tales, there are also many Russian paintings depicting Siberian cats that are hundreds of years old.
Cat Shows and Beyond
Long-haired Russian cats first appeared at a London cat show in the 1700s. After this, more shows followed including a cat show in Madison Square Gardens in 1884. More recently, Books began to feature this beautiful breed. In 1892, Harrison Weir described the Siberian cat’s appearance in his book “Our Cats and All About Them”. In 1900 the first photograph of a Siberian was featured in Helen Winslow’s book “Concerning Cats: My Own and Some Others”.
The National Cat of Russia
Siberians are avid mousers and were often used to protect agricultural land from pests throughout the years. During the war in 1941, St Petersburg became infested with rats and mice. This pest invasion put thousands of valuable artworks and exhibits at risk of being destroyed. To stop this from happening, The Hermitage Museum employed Siberian cats to protect the artworks from pests.
The Siberians successfully protected The Hermitage. To commemorate their victory, the people erected monuments in Tyumen and St Petersburg. The descendants of these cats still serve in The Hermitage today. Siberians are well deserving of their title, Russia’s national cat.
Coming to America
Kotofey cat club in St Petersburg produced the first documented breeding standards of the Siberian cat in 1987. As the Cold war ended, the Berlin Wall came down, and borders began to open. Finally, allowing the exportation of the Siberian cat from Russia to the United States.
In 1990, Elizabeth Terrell, a cat breeder from the United States, exchanged two Himalayans for three of this majestic breed. She became the first Siberian breeder in the United States.
When Terrels three Siberians landed on American soil in 1990, The American Cat Fanciers Association accepted them for registration. Shortly after, in 1992, this beautiful cat breed was accepted onto The International Cat Association’s (TICA) New Breed program. TICA granted them championship status in 1996. It wasn’t until 2000 that The Cat Fanciers’ Association accepted the breed, advancing them to championship status in 2006.
The Siberian belongs to the forest cats classification. A classification that includes other cat breeds; the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coons. Siberian cats are often confused with the Norwegian forest cats, but Siberians are notably larger.
The Siberian cat is a medium to large breed with an athletic build and barrel-shaped body. Its hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs, causing an arch in its back. It has large, round feet with long hair between the toes. Its bushy fox-like tail has a broad base that tapers to a rounded tip.
The Siberian has a modified wedge-shaped head with rounded contours. Ears are rounded but often display tufts of fur like a Lynx giving the illusion that they’re pointed.
They have medium to large round eyes that are usually colored shades gold, green, or copper. Siberian kittens are always born with blue eyes; the only type guaranteed to retain blue eyes is the Neva Masquerade. White Siberians or cats with white may have blue eyes but can also be affected with heterochromia. Heterochromia occurs due to a lack of pigment in the iris resulting in odd eye color. Typically they may have blue in one eye while the other varies between shades of amber and green.
Siberians have a medium to long-haired coat with a thick fur ruff around their neck that acts as a scarf. It’s triple-layered, consisting of guard hair, awn hair, and down hair. This coat is also water-resistant, which prepares them for the harsh cold Siberian winters.
This stunning glossy coat comes in several colors and patterns, although some are more prevalent than others. The most common colors include orange, blue, black, and grey; colors can come with or without white. A Siberian cat’s coat can take on many patterns, such as the classic tabby, tortoiseshell, solid, bi-color, Neva Masquerade, and calico.
On average, a female Siberian can weigh between 10 and 15-pounds; male cats are slightly bigger at 15 to 20-pounds. However, it’s not unusual for a muscular male to reach 25-pounds. A healthy 6-month-old Siberian kitten will weigh between six and 10-pounds, growing steadily until the age of five.
Height and Length
A typical Siberian cat is ten to 12 inches in height from floor to shoulders. The length of this magnificent breed is between 15 to 18 inches from head to the base of the tail.
Although this cat comes from a sub-zero climate, its personality is anything but cold. These cats are warm, affectionate, and make great family pets. They get along well with children, dogs, and other cats, making great playmates.
It can take a Siberian cat up to five years to reach maturity hence its kitten-like attitude towards life. These cats are playful, highly energetic, and exceptional jumpers, don’t be surprised if you find them in hard-to-reach places. Despite their kitten-like tendencies, they aren’t overly mischievous cats. They’re a relatively quiet breed, when they make noise, it’s usually more of a gentle chirp, mew, or purr.
The Siberian is an intelligent breed known to be able to learn tricks and commands. They can also sense their owner’s mood, offering a deep sense of empathy when your down. People often call them the dogs of the cat world because of these characteristics.
The Siberian cat breed is a landrace that has adapted to withstand harsh weather conditions, disease, and pests. Due to genetic diversity within this breed, these cats are generally hardy and suffer few breed-related health problems. However, there are a couple of conditions more prevalent in Siberians. The most common is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a hereditary disease that causes the heart muscles to thicken. The thickening of the heart muscle puts pressure on the heart, which causes it to weaken. This can result in blood clots. Breeders should have their queens and studs screened, and all breeding cats should be clear of HCM. Avoid purchasing kittens from breeders who haven’t screened their breeding cats for HCM.
Symptoms of HCM include lethargy, rapid breathing or labored breathing, and open-mouthed breathing. However, some cats don’t present with symptoms at all. HCM can be fatal diagnosis and treatment are vital as they may decrease the chances of a blood clot. HCM is detected using an echocardiogram; it has no known cure but, treatment may help control your cat’s heart rate.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) can occur in Siberian cats, although it’s uncommon. Kittens with PKD are born with small cysts inside the kidneys, which progress and grow slowly over time. Symptoms include excessive thirst, weight loss, and vomiting. Because this disease is slow to progress, symptoms may not be apparent until your cat is older. PKD can be caught early with regular blood and urine testing. Although there is no cure for PKD, medication and a special diet can slow down progression.
A breeder will usually screen for HCM and PKD in breeding cats. However, this doesn’t mean your kitten won’t develop these conditions. It’s a good idea to take kittens for regular checkups to catch any health problems early. Avoid buying kittens from breeders who do not have proof of the parent’s screening.
Care for the Siberian Cat Breed
Despite the length and thickness of the Siberian cat’s triple coat, it doesn’t matt easily, and grooming is simple. A good brush once a week should do the trick. Grooming should be increased during spring and fall as these are shedding seasons for the Siberian. Removing loose hair from your pet’s coat helps reduce the likelihood of your cat suffering from hairballs.
Bathing your cat isn’t essential, but Siberians are one of the few cat breeds that enjoy getting wet. You may find your furry friend comes to join you and your rubber duck for a soak. This cat breeds water-resistant, triple coat can be difficult to soak and shampoo due to how thick it is.
Check claws weekly, and trim them if needed, some people prefer a professional to do this, it can be tricky. Wipe away any dirt found in the eyes or ears gently with a damp cotton ball. Regular checks of the ears will help catch infections early, call your vet if you notice any bad smells from your cat’s ears. Brush your cat’s teeth regularly with a vet-recommended toothpaste to stop the build-up of plaque and tarter.
Like all other cat breeds, Siberians need regular health checks with their vet. Wellness examinations can help catch health issues early.
Diet and Nutrition
Whenever we begin to talk about cat food, we should always remember the fact that cats are obligate carnivores. Therefore, their main source of nutrition should always come from meat. Choose a food with a good source of real meat protein, and make sure it’s labeled complete and balanced.
Feeding your cat dry food or wet food is another decision you’ll have to make, both have benefits. Cats aren’t big drinkers and wet food provides the extra moisture cats need, but dry food helps with dental hygiene. Wet food also tends to contain more protein and less plant-based carbohydrates, which cats find difficult to digest. If you do opt for dry kibble add water or mix with wet food to provide the extra moisture.
Is The Siberian Cat Hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat, although, the Siberian does come close. The issue for cat allergy sufferers is Fel d1, a protein in cat saliva. Siberians produce less Fel d1, and occasionally allergies in humans aren’t triggered because levels are too low. However, all cats are different, and some Siberians produce more allergens than others.
How Much Does a Siberian Cat Cost?
On average, Siberian cats can cost anything between 1200 dollars and 4000 dollars. The cost depends on several things, such as coat color, markings, pedigree, and age.
What Is The Life Expectancy Of a Siberian Cat?
The average life expectancy of a Siberian cat is between 10 and 18 years.
Overall, a Purr-fect Family Pet!
Although the Siberian cats have been around for 1,000 years, breeding programs have only recently accepted them. Beginning as a natural breed, it is now successfully pedigreed within several breeding organizations.
This affectionate cat has become increasingly popular among pet owners in the United States since 1990. They make excellent family pets and get along well with dogs, children, and other cats. There are endless amounts of fun to be had with a Siberian cat. Every day is guaranteed to be different.