Photo: copyright Helmi Flick.

Introduction

The Siberian is the national cat3 of Russia, a “stately cat”1 and my kind of cat.

Helmi Flick, a renown, professional cat photographer who knows cats well, calls this breed one of the “natural breeds”. This means evolving in nature perhaps as a semi-feral cat (household and farm cats2) without interference by breeders until discovered and refined by the cat fancy fairly recently. Until then it was a long haired moggie living in the harsh regions of northern Russia. But it is said that of all cat breeds the Siberian is “more reminiscent”2 of a wild cat. And this could well be true when we see the Scottish wildcat (a wildcat species of the European wildcat).

The supporters of the Siberian cat in Russia like to preserve the wild look2. Although in the USA (TICA for instance), the standard encourages a less wild appearance. However, being a natural cat it developed a tabby coat, the predominant coat type for this breed encouraging breeders to breed for self and shaded colors2.

Apparently, both the Russian president Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev keep Siberian cats (as at 2010)7.

This cat is a thick coated, distinguished and stately cat that comes from Russia, a country of harsh winters. This is a large, strong cat with a triple coat refined by nature not by humans. It is one of the heavier cats (see domestic cat size comparison). Its body type gives the impression of power and strength1. The size is nicely offset by the sweet face. The Siberian reflects the environment in which it evolved over a very long time with an oily top coat to two further coats (awn and down hairs) to keep out the wind.

Siberian cat Darius. Photo copyright Helmi Flick. Please click on the image to see a large version and some words by the breeder, Sue.

The Siberian cat is an accomplished jumper through its agility and power. Its hind legs are longer than the forelegs. Another good jumper, the Manx has a similar leg conformation. Another excellent jumper is the similar Norwegian Forest Cat. The strong back is arched when the cat is not moving. The head is a modified wedge1.

The Siberian is also called the “Siberian Forest Cat”2. This is not a lapcat.

Dani’s Photos:

Neva Masquerade (pointed Siberian cat) photos, copyright Dani Rozeboom- click on the thumbnails to see some great large format pictures – you’ll love these. The Neva Masquerade is the pointed Siberian cat. The cat’s name is Hime Amélie du Palais d’Hiver

Note: “Neva” is a reference to the river where the Siberian is said to have originated and “Masquerade” for the mask on the face4.

Origin + History + comparison NFC – Siberian – MC

Hime Amélie du Palais d’Hiver – “Amélie” – Siberian cat – photo copyright Dani Rozeboom – click for large photo.

As mentioned, the breed originates in Russia, where it is or was as ordinary and ubiquitous as the “moggie” random bred cat, found around the world. But this cat has a very long history indeed, going back perhaps 1000 years (the Japanese Bobtail has a 1000 year history too). The story goes that they lived in monasteries and acted as guards. The monks in return treated them as pets. This mirrors, somewhat, the Birman cat.

This cat breed was exported to the the United States on June 28th 19901 to be owned by Elizabeth Terrell of Starpoint Cattery of Baton Rouge, LA. According to Kathy Wade (a breeder based in America, Croshka Siberians) there was an exchange of breeds between the Russians and the Americans arranged by Elizabeth Terrell who was an Himalayan cat (pointed Persian) breeder. The Russians got the Himalayan and the Yanks got a Siberian. I can see why there was a formal exchange of breeds. In 1990 the communist party was still (just, it seems) in charge in the USSR (as it was then). The break-up of the communist party took place in about 1991. There were heavy restrictions and bureaucracy in those days on anything leaving the country. Also, at this time a certain David Boehm also imported Siberian cats from the USSR to the US.

The breed was registered by the CFA in 2000 (very recently in cat history terms). The Siberian looks a little like the Maine Coon, medium/long hair (for protection against the Siberian weather) and a “distinguished” and classic cat face. There is a third cat, the Norwegian Forest cat that has a similar appearance. The Siberian may the ancestor of all three1.

Here is a table that sets out some of the differences and similarities between these popular cat breeds1:
1

Siberian CatMaine CoonNorwegian Forest Cat
CoatTriple coat (guard, awn and down), full ruff, water repellant (see cat hair)All weather uneven coatFull ruff, double coat and water repellent.
BodyHeavy and moderately long. Arched back. Legs moderately long.Long rectangular and substantial. Legs medium longMedium in length. Square appearance. Legs medium long. Forelegs shorter than hind.
HeadLarge and broad. A modified wedge. Rounded muzzle. Straight slope from forehead to nose (profile)1. Great breadth, Asiatic appearance2. TICA: “cheek bones neither high set nor prominent”.Broad and a modified wedge. High cheekbones. Square muzzle and straight slope on profileClassic equilateral triangle (see Jap Bob breed standard to see what this means). Straight lines from forehead to nose tip in profile.
Popularity per this site’s poll (visitors’ votes)Ranked: 24th out of 66 cat breeds in poll.Ranked 1stRanked 12th

Two Siberian cats in their element. They are selectively bred without interference by people.

Siberian cat – brief time line
Early-at least 13th centuryEarly recognition of this cat breed. Pets to monks in Russia
post Communist eraPeople started to arrange and attend cat shows
1980sBreeding in Russia to standardise the appearance (type)2.
1987Registered by the Kotofei cat club in St. Petersburg6.
1989The Soviet Felinological Federation began
1990sThis cat breed exported to USA and Europe
2000Accepted for registration by CFA
Early 2002This breed exported to UK
2006Championship status CFA
CurrentTICA and GCCF and All-Russian Club2 recognized

In and around the year 1829 it is recorded that the upper classes in Russia wore a cap made of the fur of the Siberian cat when riding in an open sledge. [link]

It would seem that the skin of this cat was used frequently for trimmings on coats etc. during the early 1800s in Russia. See below from this book.


Color and Pattern of coat: Shown in the traditional category and in all colors of all divisions in the USA. In Russia the Siberian is allowed in only black and red based colours2. Some breeders and cat fancy members consider the pointed cat unnatural however3.

Character + Health

The Siberian is an independent cat that likes some space and is not a lap cat1. It is a “sensible and resourceful”2 cat breed.

I like the naturalness of this cat and the appearance of the cat indicates that it is well suited to the Russian climate. In short, she looks like a Siberian cat. The Maine Coon has that natural outdoor cat look as well.

The Siberian is another one of those cats that is “dog like”. Bengals can be dog like for example as they like to play “fetch”. So, if your wife likes cats and you like dogs, compromise and adopt a Siberian.

Siberian cat. Photo: Helmi Flick.

This cat breed is larger than the average domestic cat (see a weight comparison chart), friendly, good with pets and children, and has no outstanding propensities to ill health.


Siberian cat health
A short discussion on the health issues affecting this cat breed. There aren’t many but nearly all domestic cats have some health issues.


This is a balanced and healthy cat by all accounts; fairly playful and active. This breed of cat is still relatively rare in the west, which probably accounts for its relatively low popularity compared to the NFC and Maine Coon. Dani and Rick of Cattery Yeri Shaes live with a Siberian (amongst other lovely cats) and Dani as you probably know by now is a great cat photographer so you’ve got some fine pictures of this cat breed accompanying this article

Gemma: Torbie Siberian Cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

Hypoallergenic?

The Siberian may be good with people with an allergy to cats. This is claimed by Kathy Wade. Kathy runs a very good and informative website. I don’t know her, but I would expect her to run her cattery well too. Visit her site and make some enquiries www.siberiancat.net . It would seem that in tests carried out in the USA fur samples had less Fel D1 flakes (cat dander, the allergen that produces the allergic reaction in some people). This would seem to be confirmed by others3or is this a circuitous argument (one person quoting from another etc.)? It isn’t just Kathy who says that this cat breed is at least to a degree hypoallergenic. There have been comments and quotes on this for about a decade3(as at 2009).

There is however no scientific evidence to support the claims of breeders and keepers of this cat who claim this (except for the above as far as I am aware).Update: in Dec 1999, an independent lab in Virginia Indoor Biotechnologies, 1216 Harris St, Charlottesville, VA 22903 performed some tests on hair samples from Siberian cats, an Abyssinian and random bred cat(s). The results indicated that the allergen Fel D1 was present to a high level on an neutered random bred male cat but less so for a Siberian cat. Here are the results5.

Breed or type of catFel d 1 (µg/g)
A male neutered, random bred cat
62,813
A male neutered, Siberian cat
2001
A female, Abyssianian, neutered cat
385
A female neutered, Siberian cat
206

But please note that Kate Stryker says that this breed is hypoallergenic – see this post: Cats without undercoats are not hypoallergenic.

Associated pages:

Hypoallergenic cat breeds

Allergy Free Cats?

Cat Allergy Symptoms

Fel d1

Pictures

Genuine Siberian cat in Siberia. Photo by Alla Lebedeva

Siberian cat. Photo: Helmi Flick.

Comparing Maine Coon, Norwgian Forest and Siberian Cats



Sources other than as stated elsewhere:

1. Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephens and Tetsu

2. Encyclopedia of the Cat by Dr Bruce Fogle

3. Wikipedia authors

4. http://www.catsofaustralia.com/siberian.htm

5. http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.
siestadream.com%2Faler.htm&date=2008-11-30

6.

7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cats_101

8. St. Petersburgh: A journal of travels to and from that capital …, Volume 1‎ – Page 489

Sources:

  • http://www.siberiancat.net/
  • Wikipedia (communism)
  • CFA
  • Helmi Flick of course
  • http://www.siberian-cat-club.co.uk
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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