Pedigree Cat Breeds - Siberian

© Catreba Siberians
The Siberian is a semi-longhaired cat aboriginal to Russia, having evolved through years of natural selection. The modern day Siberian has a wonderful temperament. They are very intelligent and dog like in their devotion, making loyal and loving pets. Although they look rugged and come from 100’s of years of feral living, they have adapted readily to domesticity and indoor living. As kittens they are lively, affectionate, and full of fun. You will never find yourself bored or lonely with a Siberian for a companion. Both kittens and adults love the company of their owners and readily mix with other pets in the household. 


© Catreba Siberians
A Siberian has similar care requirements to other semi-longhair breeds, during the summer an occasional brush is enough to keep the coat in condition. However, during a moult, the cat should be groomed daily to prevent the coat knotting and/or the cat swallowing too much hair which can cause fur-balls.

History: There are many theories about the history of the Siberian Cat. What is known is that there have been large semi-longhaired cats widely spread throughout Russia from the West (Baltic Sea) to the Far East and from the North to the South. However, there is very little historical documentary evidence where cats are mentioned.

© Catreba Siberians
Before planned breeding, if asked to describe these feral cats, people described three features, big, fluffy and not white (all white fluffy cats were called Angoras.) It is unlikely that Siberian cats came from the wild forests of Siberia (the so-called Taiga.) Several hundred years ago the Taiga was covered in snow for most of the year & was uninhabited by man and even today large areas of the Taiga are uninhabited. It is unlikely that a domestic cat would have survived in this region. Historically Siberia is a kingdom situated to the east of the Volga river over the Ural to modern western Siberia (which starts to the east of the Ural.) There is indirect evidence that cats were named after the geographical regions they lived in, such as Astrakhan & Kazan, both on the Volga River & Siberia. It is probable that it is from here, the domestic cat spread throughout Russia. While such names fell out of use, ‘Siberian cats’ remained constant. This name was associated with a large, hefty, fluffy cat because of its weatherproof coat and ability to survive without human interference. It is also possible Siberians share the same ancestors of the Persian Cat and Turkish Angora. It is known that these cats came from Asia Minor to Europe on Merchant routes. Those arriving in Britain more than 200 years ago became what we now recognise as the modern Persian. The cats that stayed in Asia, notably Turkey and Iran have probably preserved their original look while those arriving into European Russia along the Volga river (only arriving later to East Russia) became the large heavy cat we now call the Siberian Cat which developed through natural selection to enable survival in harsh conditions.

The Modern Siberian The first Russian Federation, SFF (Soviet Felinological Federation, now Selection Felinological Federation), carried out the original registration of the Siberian breed. On September 16, 1989, a group of breeders from St. Petersburg and Moscow applied for recognition. On August 6, 1990, SFF issued its certificate Nr. 1 – recognition of the Siberian breed and Nr. 2 – recognition of the colourpointed variety of the Siberian cat under two alternative names – Colourpointed Siberian or Neva Masquerade. The latter has never become an official name, but is mentioned in the WCF, SFF and TICA standards as a nickname.

The original gene pool of the Siberians included colour genes found in the urban and suburban populations. The first population under study was that of St. Petersburg. The original idea for the breed was based on three main facts:

1. A large, massive semi-longhair cat has existed in Russia for centuries; the popular folk name for it was “Siberian.”

2. The majority of Russian aboriginal semi-longhaired cats looked different in type from the breeds established abroad.

3. Urban populations in the 1980’s were varied in colour due to many years of free mixing of feral and semi-feral cats and the absence of any planned breeding. While colourpointed cats were found all over Russia, the percentage of this colour group in St. Petersburg was higher than anywhere else. The cats brought to clubs for breed determination were sorted for type, which was then stated in the first standards. The main features were massive boning, rectangular format, medium long legs and tail; broad head with massive jaws, ears well apart and a general impression of rounded contours. The type was to be stressed, colour was considered to be less important. The idea for colours was to keep those characteristics of Russian aboriginal cats (i.e. all basic colours including colourpoints). Chocolate/lilac, cinnamon/fawn were excluded as not ever present in the aboriginal cat population of Russia. Any amount of white was allowed. The first foundation studs from St. Petersburg, found in a vast number of Siberian pedigrees all over the world, were “Roman”, a black mackerel tabby with white, carrying dilute and classic, and “Mars”, a blue tabby point with white. An important factor for the standard was the wish to keep the Siberian cat as distinct as possible from other semi-longhair breeds. During the early development of the breed (1991), low set cheekbones were stressed in the standard as a very distinct feature. Coat type has always been described as in the modern standard and is unique to the Siberian.

How the Siberian differs to the other Natural Breeds. Siberians are quite different to NFC's & MC's. When you see all three breeds side by side you can see that there is no mistaking one for another. The MC being longer in the legs and body, and altogether of a more rangy appearance. The head is longer and more angular the muzzle boxy. The coat has a totally different texture, being much softer. The ears are set closer together and are larger with pointed tips. The tail is long, reaching over the shoulder.

The NFC is more slender than a Siberian. (Perhaps elegant is a good description.) And of course the head is very triangular and longer in shape. Again the ears are quite different. Larger, closer set and pointed at the tips. While the NFC's topcoat is similar to Siberians in that it has a long waterproof topcoat covering the back, sides and tail, the Siberians topcoat feels hard. The undercoat is very different. It is soft and very dense, almost like thick padding during the winter months. When you put your hand on it you feel the springiness and resistance in the coat. The NFC also has a much longer tail.

Though the Siberian's body is slightly longer than it is tall, it is a medium to large cat of stocky appearance. A word that gives the correct impression of the cat when lifted is hefty. The neck is short and strong, the chest very broad. The legs are solid with large, strong round feet and tufts coming from the pads. The tail is much shorter than the other two breeds, the tip only coming to the point of the shoulder blade. The head is shorter than both breeds. The forehead viewed from the front should be wide, giving width between the ears. The lower forehead in profile is slightly domed, rounding over the top of the head. The cheekbones are the defining feature of the Siberian. They are low set, very full and broad. The Siberian chin is less prominent than the other two breeds, in profile forming a gentle curve from the nose, (though not receding.) The eyes are more oval than round, (only the lower rim being rounded) and set wide apart. The ears are medium sized, set wide with a slight tilt forwards and rounded at the tip. Geometrically, a Siberian can be thought of in terms of circles, where as a NFC is triangles and an MC oblongs.

There are breeders who feel that colourpointed Siberians are not ‘pure’ Siberians and should be registered as a separate breed. The belief is that colourpoints originated from outcrosses to pedigree colourpoint breeds and therefor taint the true genetic make up of Siberians. Other breeders feel that the colourpointed variety is no different to any other coloured/patterned Siberian, as there have been colourpoint feral cats in the Russian cat population for a few hundred years. Most notably in the region of Leningrad now St Petersburg (most commonly seen along the River Neva,) which is why the colourpoint variety of the Siberian is sometimes known as Neva Masquerade. Hypoallergenic Cat? It has become evident to many breeders that Siberians appear to produce less of the allergens likely to cause allergic reactions in some humans. There are many allergy sufferers who are now the very proud owners of a Siberian, fulfilling their desire to own a cat when previously it was deemed impossible. Most breeders will be more than happy to arrange for allergy sufferers to visit their cats. Reactions to Siberians can vary. Some people find they have no reaction, some a mild reaction that can be managed and some have as much of a reaction to a Siberian as they would to any other cat. Therefor it is important that allergy sufferers wishing to purchase a Siberian arrange to test their allergy before purchasing a kitten.

Could Siberians have lived in the UK 100 years ago? The first official cat show in the UK was held at Crystal Palace in London in 1871. There were three Russian Longhaired cats entered at this show. Russian Longhaired cats (Siberians) were often shown alongside Persians and Angora’s in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The show manager was the famous cat breeder and author Harrison Weir. The above is a portrait of a Russian Longhaired (possibly early Siberian Cat) owned by Mr Harrison Weir. In his book, “The Book of the Cat” published in 1889, writing about this cat he wrote—“It differed from the Angora and the Persian in many respects. It was larger in body with shorter legs. The mane or frill was very large, long, and dense, and more of a woolly texture, with coarse hairs among it; the colour was of dark tabby, though the markings were not a decided black, nor clear and distinct; the ground colour was wanting in that depth and richness possessed by the Persian, having a somewhat dull appearance. The eyes were large and prominent, of a bright orange, slightly tinted with green, the ears large by comparison, with small tufts, full of long, woolly hair, the limbs stout and short, the tail being very dissimilar, as it was short, very woolly, and thickly covered with hair the same length from the base to the tip, and much resembled in form that of the English wild cat. Its motion was not so agile as other cats, nor did it apparently care for warmth, as it liked being outdoors in the coldest weather. Another peculiarity being that it seemed to care little in the way of watching birds for the purpose of food, neither were its habits like those of the short-haired cats that were its companions……This, like his father, seemed also to be fonder of animals for food than birds, and…………….would without any hesitation attack and kill a full-grown rat.” From the above description, it would appear that the Russian cats were not as glamorous or people friendly as the Persian and Turkish and were too independent and feral in their nature to become popular as they apparently disappeared from the UK until re-introduced in 2002.

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