The Siberian Cat Breed
The Siberian Cat Breed
When people ask me what breed of cat we have they often look perplexed when I say "Siberian!" This is because the Siberian cat is still a relatively new breed in Australia, the first arriving here from the US in 2003.
While the standard varies slightly between the cat registries, the Siberian breed is fully accepted by TICA, FIFe, WCF, CFA and the GCCF.
The Siberian cat is a large, hefty cat with males being somewhat larger than the females. They are slow growing, taking up to 5 years to reach their full size. They are semi-long haired with a triple coat including a dense soft undercoat, and an outercoat of thick, shiny "guard hairs" which gives the coat a waterproof quality. Their first full adult coat usually comes in the winter after their first birthday including a beautiful ruff around their head, making them look like little lions! They also have tufts of fur between their paw pads and brushes of fur coming out from their ears equipping them for snowy weather and beautiful "lynx tips" on their ears which helps to give them their wild look.
The cat registries' Siberian breed standards go into more detail about exactly how a Siberian cat should look. As we show our cats in NSW CFA and previously in TICA these are the standards we aim for in our kittens. Click on the following links to see the standards:
- TICA Siberian Breed Standard
- NSW CFA Siberian Breed Standard
- WCF Siberian Breed Standard
- FIFe Siberian Breed Standard
The Siberian cat comes in a rainbow of colours including brown, red, blue, cream, gold, silver, smoke, tortie, white, and colour point. Here at Snowgum, our cats have the genes to produce brown, silver, golden, blue, blue-golden, blue-silver, red, cream and torbie kittens. Some will be with white (like Indiana and Astra) and others without. All of our kittens will have a beautiful mackerel tabby (striped), classic tabby (blotched), spotted or shaded tabby pattern and beautiful green or gold and green eyes. For details and images of cat colours please see our Siberian Cat Colours page.
Siberian cats are often described as having a "dog-like" personality. They are loyal, affectionate, playful and want to be your best friend. Our cats greet us at the door when we come home, follow us from room to room wanting to hang out where ever we are and help with what ever we are doing! Meadow even plays fetch like a dog!
They are very intelligent cats and will quickly work out how to open doors and how to get their favourite toy from its hiding spot! They mix easily with other animals including dogs and because they are a gentle, loving cat they are also a great breed for families with small children. Our kids have grown up with our cats around them; my daughter's first word was her favourite cat's name, "Dasha".
Some Siberians are lap cats and will loving nothing better than snuggling on your lap, others are sightly more independent and prefer to sit next to you on the sofa rather than right on your lap. Either way, they love to interact with you and will play with you for as long as you have the stamina! They will want to be involved with your every day activities and enjoy "helping" you with your chores or your reading or typing - a newspaper or keyboard is the best place for a Siberian to take a nap when you have some reading or writing to do!
An average lifespan for a Siberian cat is between 11 and 15 years. Some Siberians have however, been known to live 20+ years! Keep in mind that your kitten will be more likely to live a long live if it is fed a healthy low carbohydrate diet, given good vet care and kept away from the dangers of the roads.
When considering buying a kitten you should be prepared to give it a loving home for the next decade or two. Buying a kitten is not something to be done on a whim; it is a commitment for the lifetime of the animal and should only be done after much consideration.
The Siberian cat is one of the 3 breeds of "forest" cats, and is one of the oldest "natural" breeds of cats, meaning they are not a human developed breed created by crossing various other breeds. As a result, they are a robust healthy breed able to survive in harsh winters and with few known health problems.
In recent years two genetic diseases have appeared in the breed: Polycystic Kidney Disease(PKD) and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). Our cats have been DNA tested and are negative for the gene responsible for PKD. Unfortunately the genes responsible for HCM in Siberians has not yet been identified.
DNA tests for HCM exist for the Maine Coon and Ragdoll breeds however these tests are not valid for testing Siberians. Performing an echocardiogram (ultrasound) on Siberian cats, is the only way of truly testing for the disease. Ultrasounds are not infallible as they are a point in time test however, they are the best tool available at present and provide some reasurrance that the breeding cat is healthy and free from the disease.
Our cats' hearts are given echocardiograms by a specialist in veterinary cardiology, Niek Jozef Beijerink, DVM MS PhD Dipl ECVIM-CA (Cardiology). We have started an annual screening program to ensure our cats are free from this disease. We are also careful about choosing breeding cats from lines which have not had any reported HCM and we know the parents of our cats are all alive and healthy and are free from any symptoms of this condition.
It is important to note that blood tests are not a valid method of identifying HCM, these are in fact only useful for identifying a cat in the late stages of heart failure. These tests should not therefore be used as a testing tool for a breeding program.
Siberian is the name given to Russia's native semi-longhaired cat. There is a lack of historical information about Siberian cats so many stories have developed over time to explain the breed's origin. Siberian cats were apparently first documented in the year 1000 though they were not a pedigreed breed at this stage, but rather were the mouse catchers in the streets and homes throughout Russia.
The Siberian cat was considered to be a large, solid cat with a waterproof coat and thick undercoat. Due to their appearance these cats could survive in the cold, severe climate. The cats were seen in a wide variety of colours.
The modern Siberian as we know it, is the result of the development of a written "breed standard" for the cat and of the hard work and time of many breeders and judges. In the late 1980's the first imported cat breeds started to appear in Russia and the first cat shows were held there. It was decided that a breed standard should be developed to distinguish these large, fluffy Russian cats from the other long haired cat breeds. The President of the Kotofei club, Olga Mironva developed the first Siberian breed description. A brown tabby and white Siberian stud Roman, born in 1987 was used as the basis for this first written standard. He appears in many pedigrees (including our Indiana's) and was one of the foundation cats for the breed. The WCF was the first international cat registry to accept the Siberian Cat, including the colour point Siberian, nicknamed the "Neva Masquerade". A blue tabby point with white stud called Mars born in 1988 was the founding colour point of the breed. Mars and Roman can be seen at the beginning of many Siberian pedigrees even today.
In 1988 judges from abroad began to visit Russian shows and this sparked an international interest in the Siberian cat. The first Siberians entered Australia quite a bit later in 2003 from the US. There are now quite a number of Siberian cat breeders in Australia and the number is increasing every year as more people meet and fall in love with the wonderful Siberian breed.
For a more detailed account of the history of the Siberian Cat Breed please follow this link to a history written by Dr. Irina Sadovnikova, WCF judge and Russian breeder of Siberian Cats: Siberian Cat History
Why choose a Siberian?
Siberians are smart, loyal, agile, interactive, affectionate, playful and ever so entertaining! They are great with children and other pets, can be tolerated by many cat allergy sufferers and are real characters to live with. As well as being a fantastic pet I think you will also agree they are a gorgeous looking cat! They will quickly capture your heart and after adopting a Siberian you will wonder how you ever lived without one! If you adopted just one, I am sure that I will hear from you within 6 months to request a second- Siberian cats are addictive!