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    Place of origin



    The Siberian Forest Cat has been present in Russia for centuries and was first recorded around 1000 AD. It is believed to have originated in the Siberian Taiga, where domestic cats mated with wild cats; this naturally occurring breed is Bibledescribed in one of the USSR's Red Books. "Russian Longhairs" or "Russian Angoras" were documented in nineteenth-century cat fancy literature and used to develop the Persian breed. Although sometimes claimed as equivalents to the modern Nebelung, those Russian Longhairs were large, tabby cats with shorter and heavier boned legs than the (Turkish or French) Angora and with a massive coat and ruff that is consistent with the modern Siberian breed.

    According to Harrison Weir (1889), the Russian Longhair differed from the Angora/Persian in having a larger body, shorter legs, a short thickly furred tail, and a thicker, woollier, and longer mane with coarse hairs in it. The Russian Longhairs seen by Weir were mostly dark brown tabbies with indistinct markings or solid black. Weir described a "Siberian cat" separately based on a slate blue female who also had a rather short body, legs, and tail.

    The modern Siberian breed began after the Second World War using free-ranging cats from Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Moscow. By the 1960s, breeding was still small-scale, and the cats were unknown outside of Russia until borders with Western Europe opened up. During the 1980s, Russia developed its own cat fancy, and the Siberian standard was recognized by the Kotofei Cat Club in Moscow in 1987. The colorpointed variety is believed to have originated during the 1960s through matings with colorpointed feral cats in the Neva River region near Leningrad.

    Siberians reached the United States in 1990. The separately recognized Neva Masquerade arrived in the United States in 1997. Siberians were recognized by the FIFe in Europe in 1997. They were exported from Russia to South Africa in 2000, Australia in 2001, and the United Kingdom in 2002.

    There are claims that the Siberian breed is hypoallergenic due to producing less of the Fel d1 allergen in its saliva. Scientific studies between 1999 and 2010 found that only around half of the Siberians surveyed produced less Fel d1 allergen than other breeds, whereas other Siberian cats produced high levels of the allergen. There is great variation between individual cats, and they are not allergen-free.

    Physical description

    Siberians are strong, stocky, powerfully built cats and agile jumpers. They are large, heavy-boned, and imposing. The dense, triple coat is not shaggy, like that of the Maine Coon, but the same length all over the body. The coat varies with the season, being thicker and coarser with an abundant ruff in the winter, but less dense in the summer. The tail is medium-long, rather thick, and tapers to a blunt tip. The large head is a modified wedge with rounded contours. The body is shorter than the Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat, but less cobby than the Persian. With its protective coat and no extremes of conformation, this is a cat who evolved to survive in a harsh climate. They can take up to five years to reach their full magnificence, and females may be considerably smaller than males.

    Colors and varieties

    Almost all colors and patterns are found, including naturally occurring colorpointed varieties. Some registries recognize the colorpointed cats separately as Neva Masquerade (alluding to masked cats from near the Neva River). The brown and silver tabbies are the most popular colors. The shade of brown tabby can be unique in some individuals, and they often referred to by their breeders as "golden." Chocolate, cinnamon, caramel, lilac (lavender), fawn apricot, and the Burmese or Tonkinese patterns are not accepted.


    The Siberian is friendly, intelligent, loyal, and affectionate toward her owners. They are playful and adaptable cats and sometimes described as doglike in character. They get along well with children and other pets and, being sociable, are better kept in pairs. They can be talkative, using soft mews to comment on anything they find interesting and when asking their people to open doors and the like. True to their origins, Siberians often like being in sheltered places outdoors, even in cold snowy weather. They also seem to have a fascination with water. In Russia, these easily trained cats sometimes perform in circuses and on stage.

    Although they may take four to five years to mature physically, Siberians reach sexual maturity relatively early. Siberian females often bond closely to only a single mate. Siberian males, unusually in cats, may take an interest in rearing the kittens.

    Activity level


    Vocal level


    Special needs

    The profuse, glossy coat needs regular combing to keep it in good condition and ensure that mats do not form. This is generally a very healthy breed, but lines of "golden" Siberians may be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy due to inbreeding of the limited foundation stock during the 1990s.


    The pointed colors are called Neva Masquerade and recognized as a separate breed in some associations, with a slightly different standard from the Siberian.


    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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