Siberian Cat: Cat Breed Information, Characteristics and Facts
Pet parents who are looking for a semi-longhaired kitty that is affectionate and beautiful need not look any further than the Siberian cat. It has a well-muscled and solid body, a triple coat, and sturdy bones to help it stand up against the bitter environment of snowy Mother Russia. The Siberian is a feline sweetheart with a muscular, agile body and an adventurous spirit. This is a formula that can win even the most steadfast of dog people.
History of the Siberian Cat
The International Cat Association says that the Siberian cat has been in existence for at least 1,000 years. The cat’s name is an obvious allusion to its origins – the forests of Siberia. Its people call it the “Sibirskaja koschka”.
Russian fairy tales and children’s books contain references to a marvelous cat living in the woods. One of these traditional Russian folktales that Alexander Afanasyev was able to collect is the “The Cat Who Became Head Forester”.
Parents share stories of the cat’s superior loyalty and amazing personalities to their children. These stories get passed down across generations, making the Siberian cat a quintessential aspect of the Russian way of life.
The breed is well-known for its stunning looks. However, it is its personality and skills that Russians fell in love with. Like other cats, the Siberian is an excellent ratter and mouser. It helped households regain control of their food supplies.
In July 1871, there is mention of a Siberian cat gracing the first-ever cat show in the world that Harrison William Weir organized. The show was held at the Crystal Palace in England. The cat was also referenced in the New York Fanciers Club Show at the Madison Square Garden in 1884. Weir wrote about them in his 1889 book, “Our Cats and All About Them”. John Jennings also described the Siberian in his 1898 book titled, “Domestic & Fancy Cats”. Helen Winslow followed this up in 1900 with her “Concerning Cats”
The world began taking notice of the breed as it started appearing in cat shows. Russians were slow to catch up, unfortunately. While the Siberian cat is already gaining widespread recognition outside Mother Russia, there is yet to be a club in its native land. This changed in the 1970s, when the country began organizing and keeping formal breeding records of the Siberian.
Siberian fanciers credit the Kotofei Cat Club for creating the first breed standards of the Siberian. The Leningrad-based organization based the initial breed standards of the Siberian on the characteristics of Roman Mars and Roman. The former is a white-and-blue lynx point Siberian, while Roman is a brown-and-white tabby.
Almost at the same time, Russian breeders began crossbreeding the Siberian with the Siamese to produce a Siberian colorpoint named Neva Masquerade. Breeders gave the sub-breed its name in reference to Leningrad’s Neva River and the masquerade parties that affluent Russians are known to enjoy.
The Siberians reached American shores through the pioneering efforts of Elizabeth Terrell of the Starpoint Cattery. Terrell is a breeder of Himalayan cats. She learned of the need of a Russian cat fanciers’ association to import Himalayans. Terrell received three Siberians in exchange for two of her Himalayan cats in 1990. She named the three Naina, Ofelia, and Kaliostro. These three Siberians became the progenitors of modern-day Siberians bred in the US.
Seven years later, Dana Osborn imported two colorpoint Siberians. One was a seal tortie point female named Roksana Babyan and a seal lynx point male named Ustin El Magrib.
The International Cat Association accepted the Siberians into its New Breed Program in 1992. Russian cat fanciers associations worked to revise and finalize the Siberian’s breed standards. This was approved at the December 1994 conference of the World Cat Federation.
Four years after accepting into its New Breed Program, TICA elevated the Siberian’s status to Championship category in 1996. Today, the breed remains one of the most popular cats in the world.
Quick Facts about the Siberian Cat
Siberian cats are adorable creatures. Here are several other interesting facts that potential Siberian pet parents should know about.
- It is one of the world’s largest cat breeds
The Siberian can weigh as much as 20 lbs, although neutered cats are known to weigh up to 25 lbs. This puts them almost at par with the Maine Coon that often averages between 15 to 25 lbs for males. Female Siberians, like most mammals, are smaller. The lightest that a Siberian can get is around 12 lbs.
- Great for people with asthma and other allergies
A 1999 study revealed that the Siberian and the Abyssinian cats had lower concentrations of the fur and saliva allergen known as Fel d 1. A 5-year longitudinal study that started in 2005 corroborated the earlier findings. It showed that Siberians, in general, have a lower potential to cause an allergic reaction among susceptible individuals. More than 20 percent of Siberians have very low Fel d 1 allergens. About 50 percent of the breed showed lower allergenic potential than other breeds. The same study also revealed that silver-colored Siberians tend to have higher allergen levels than other types of Siberians. The good news is that it is still lower than other cat breeds.
These findings show that the Siberian is one of several felines that are safe for individuals with allergies like asthma. One has to understand that individual differences can still play a major role in triggering an asthmatic or allergic reaction. All cats have Fel d 1 allergens in their fur and saliva. The only thing that separates cats like the Siberian from the rest is that they have fewer levels of these allergens.
- A natural climber and acrobat
One has to remember that this cat grew and thrived in the forests of Siberia. Instead of prowling the land on the ground, it climbs trees and jumps from one branch to another. This is its way of keeping safe from the freezing ground. This skill is already ingrained in the gene of the cat. The Siberian has undergone a lot of breeding programs, yet it has retained its climbing abilities and acrobatic skills.
You will find the Siberian in the most unlikely of places in your house such as the top of the refrigerator, cupboard, or any other elevated furnishing. This also means that a cat tree will be a very important feline fixture to have in the house. You’ll be amazed at how agile this medium- to large-sized cat can be. It will jump from one platform to the next as if it doesn’t weigh 20 lbs.
- They make excellent therapy cats
Siberians have a very peculiar ability to sense if their human owners are feeling down and blue. They know if you’re sad, depressed, worried, or anxious. What is more incredible is the cat’s reaction to your mood. It will come close to you, nudge its head against your arms, and comfort you with its melodious chirp. The cat will stay by your side until it senses that you are already feeling much better. This makes the Siberian a worthy therapy cat, much like Golden and Labrador Retrievers.
- The Siberian has a unique look
People who do not know the breed will say that it is a Maine Coon. Others might think that it is the Norwegian Forest Cat. Siberians have a very beautiful and unique triple coat that protects them from the harsh weather of Russia. They can have white chests, legs, and bellies while their backs come in different colors and patterns. There are colorpoints, too. Siberians are loved for their rounded head and body. But it’s their green-yellow eyes, neck ruff, and tufted ears that make them very special.
- It is slow to mature
Siberians are not only one of the world’s largest cats; they are also one of the world’s longest-living breeds, capable of reaching up to 18 years. While they may live long, Siberians also take time to mature. On the average, it would take about 5 years before a juvenile Siberian will become an adult.
- Siberians mature sexually a lot earlier than other breeds
One of the most peculiar things about Siberian cats is the early onset of their reproductive readiness. Compared to other feline breeds, most Siberians are ready to mate at a very early age. The earliest that male Siberians can start mating and fathering kittens is 5 months. This has something to do with the harsh conditions of its native environment. Many feral cats die young because of the unforgiving conditions in Siberia. To compensate, Mother Nature designed the Siberian cat to be able to reproduce at a much earlier age.
- Siberians are Family-Oriented Cats
Another strange but very heartwarming fact about Siberian cats is that they somehow value the importance of kitty parenthood. Siberian parents form very strong bond with each other. Some Siberian mothers are also known for mating only with one partner throughout its life. That’s what you call feline fidelity. Fathers of Siberian kittens can also help in caring for the young cats, provided the mother cat allow the male to enter the nest. This is one of the most interesting and endearing characteristics of this breed.
Things You Should Know
There are many joys of becoming the parent of a Siberian cat. However, if one wants to ensure the happiness, health, and long life of this kitty, then one must know the following things.
Siberians are very hardy cats, owing to their resilience in the harsh environments of their native land. One should not be too complacent, however, since poor breeding practices can still predispose these sturdy cats to a host of health problems.
Like all felines, the Siberian is not immune to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a condition wherein the heart muscles grow very large, compromising the organ’s ability to pump blood. With a dysfunction in the heart’s pumping ability, other organs in the cat’s body will also suffer.
Another health problem that the breed can develop is obesity. This is more an issue for pet owners. If they fail to provide the right nutrition and correct feeding habits to the Siberian, then there is a chance that it can become obese. This condition is not a disease in itself but is a major risk factor in many diseases.
As mentioned, it is important to watch what the Siberian eats to help prevent feline obesity. Your best approach will be to work with your veterinarian so you can determine the best possible diet for the Siberian.
Kibbles are economical. The problem is that they are filled with carbohydrates that cats do not need. Moreover, they can make your cat gain weight a lot faster. Siberians deserve only the best feline food in the form of wet cat food. Choose one with high animal protein content plus healthy fats. This will aid in the cat’s normal development.
Do not forget its water. Regardless of the type of food that you give the Siberian, it still needs to drink. Consider pet drinking fountains as these gadgets have a better chance of enticing the cat to drink.
Keep the Siberian cat indoors. It is a large cat but this does not mean that stray cats and other animals will not attack it if it ventures outdoors. Other hazards can also bring harm to the cat. Vehicles, unruly individuals, construction work, and others can all threaten the safety of the Siberian. They are pretty expensive, too. Kittens can net a price of between $1,000 and $2,000. Colorpoints or the Neva Masquerade are more expensive than the usual Siberian. You do not want this cat to fall into the wrong hands.
Veterinary visits are a must. This determines the cat’s current state of health as well as the identification of risk factors that may contribute in the development of certain diseases. Wellness examinations and screening tests are critical. Vaccinations are important, too. There are required shots and optional vaccinations that can protect your kitty against certain diseases.
Flea, tick, and mite preventatives should always be part of a comprehensive care plan for Siberians. Other preventatives for heartworms and intestinal parasites are also important. These can help avert many health problems.
Clean the litter box every week, making sure to scoop out soiled litter every day. No cat, including the Siberian, will want to use a toilet that is very smelly. Moreover, soiled litter can become a breeding ground for bacteria and other microorganisms. The Siberian can get sick because of these germs.
This cat has a triple coat. And while it is one of the very few feline breeds that have a low potential for shedding, it doesn’t mean you can skip the brushing. This is a mandatory grooming activity that all Siberian pet parents should do every day or at least once a week. During certain times of the year when the Siberian undergoes “mini-molting”, the frequency of brushing its coat should also increase. Brushing also distributes natural skin oils while preventing tangles and mats.
Brushing the cat’s teeth is an important everyday ritual. If not, once every 3-4 days will suffice. Clean the cat’s ears and inspect it, too, for any foul discharge or discoloration. Clip its toenails, although the cat may already have a scratching post.
The Siberian has a delightful personality, making people believe that it acts more like a dog than a cat. It is affectionate, energetic, outgoing, and friendly. This is a cat that is perfect for individuals who are seeking a more “active” feline companion. It is one that will enjoy cuddle times with its owner as well as any other human-pet activities. They will greet their owners at the door and will act like their shadow. It is loyal and devoted to its owner, but is never clingy. It will wait for you to finish your tasks for a chance to get on your lap.
This breed does not meow very much. But when it does, the vocalizations are melodic and sweet, very uncharacteristic of felines. Siberians love to purr and chirp to their heart’s content whenever they’re resting in their owner’s lap. They enjoy the companionship that other cats and cat-friendly dogs provide. Siberians are also good pets for kids who know how to respect the boundaries of the cat.
If the dog world has gentle giants, the Siberian is the cat world’s answer. These cats are quiet and mellow. They prefer the lap of their owners than anything else in the house; although they will not mind waiting. They love learning a few tricks and showcasing them in front of a small crowd. This is a creative and an intelligent breed, capable of solving problems on its own. Hence, puzzle toys are perfect for the breed.
The Siberian is a large and nimble cat that belies its lovable and gentle nature. It is perfect for families with kids as well as single people who have other pets. Siberians are also great for households that lead an active lifestyle as well as newbie cat owners.