Siberian cat

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White-coated male Siberian cat. Note the cat's long hair and elongated form.
Other namesSiberian Forest Cat[1]
Moscow Semi-longhair[2] Neva Masquerade (colourpoint variant)
OriginRussia Russia
Breed standards
Domestic cat (Felis catus)

The Siberian is a centuries-old landrace (natural variety) of domestic cat in Russia[3] and recently developed as a formal breed with standards promulgated the world over since the late 1980s.[4]

Siberians vary from medium to medium-large in size.[5] The formal name of the breed is Siberian Forest Cat,[1] but usually it's simply called the Siberian or Siberian cat.[3] Another formal breed name is the Moscow Semi-Longhair.[2] The cat is an ancient breed that is now believed to be ancestral to all modern long-haired cats.[3] The cat has similarities with the Norwegian forest cat, to which it is likely closely related.[3] It is a natural breed from Siberia and the national cat of Russia.[6][7] While it began as a landrace, it is selectively bred and pedigreed today in at least seven major cat fancier and breeder organizations. The colorpoint variant of the breed is called the Neva Masquerade by some registries, including Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFé).

The Siberian produces less Fel d 1 than other cat breeds and, while it is certainly not completely so, is often called hypoallergenic.[8] A research study of Siberian cats native to the area of Russia from which the breed stock originated confirmed the subjects produced less Fel d 1 (the strongest among the eight known Fel d allergens produced in cat saliva, therefore, is deposited on their fur when they groom themselves) than non-Siberian cats.[9]


One-year-old Siberian cat

The Siberian cat was first mentioned in an 1892 book by Harrison Weir, who organized and wrote about some of the earliest cat shows in England.[10]

I have been shown a Siberian Cat, by Mr. Castang, of Leadenhall Market; the breed is entirely new to me. It is a small female Cat of a slaty-blue colour, rather short in body and legs; the head is small and much rounded, while the ears are of medium size. The iris of the eyes is a deep golden colour, which, in contrast to the bluish colour of the fur, makes them to appear still more brilliant; the tail is short and thick, very much so at the base, and suddenly pointed at the tip. It is particularly timid and wild in its nature, and is difficult to approach; but, as Mr. Castang observed, this timidity may be "because it does not understand our language and does not know when it is called or spoken to." I think it would make a valuable Cat to cross with some English varieties.

— Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All About Them, 1892 edition[11]

Siberians first arrived in the United States in 1990. Although gaining in popularity, the expense of importing the cats from Russia keeps the breed relatively rare outside of Europe.

In the Russian cat fancy, each cat club devises its own cat standards. This fact led to much confusion in the US and other countries when the first Siberians were arriving and many appeared quite different from each other, depending on what area of Russia they originated from. One of the earliest written Siberian standards was publicized by the Kotofei Cat Club in St. Petersburg in 1987.[4]


Known to be an exceptionally agile jumper, the Siberian is a strong and powerfully built cat, with strong hindquarters and large, well-rounded paws and an equally large full tail. They have barrelled chests and medium or large sized ears, large eyes, broad foreheads, and stockier builds than other cats.[2] Their large round eyes give an overall sweet expression to their face.[12] Siberians have a slight arch to their back, because their hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs. This shape contributes to their incredible agility and athleticism.[13]


Siberians express the three natural types of feline fur: guard hair, awn hair, and down hair. These three layers protect the cat from the Russian weather extremes, and provide a hardy, easy to care for coat. The fur is textured but glossy, which decreases the occurrence of matting.

As with most other cat breeds, color varieties of the Siberian vary and all colors, such as tabby, solid, tortoiseshell and colorpoint, are genetically possible. The Siberian cat breed does not have any unusual, distinct, or unique fur colorations or patterns.

Most breeders, enthusiasts, organizations, international registries such as TICA and WCF, and national registries accept point colouration as being natural. However, colour-point Siberians are classified as a separate breed, the Neva Masquerade, by some registries such as Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFé): Neva for the river where they are said to have originated, and masquerade, for the mask-like coloration.[14][unreliable source?]

Siberian cats moult once or twice a year. The first moult is at the end of winter. The winter moult is instigated not by a change in temperature but by a change in day length. Many Siberians will experience a less intense "mini-moult" at the end of the summer season, unlike other cats, which will experience a "heavy moult" more than twice a year.

Fur allergen levels[edit]

While there is no hypoallergenic cat or dog breed, the decreased dander qualities of the Siberian coat have been noted and commented on for almost ten years. While there is no scientific evidence, breeders and pet owners claim that Siberians can be safe for many allergy sufferers. Since females of all feline breeds produce lower levels of Fel d1, breeders often suggest that allergic families adopt female cats. Allergy sufferers are advised to check their reactivity directly with the parent cats from whom they plan to adopt a kitten.[15] Many people believe that the breed produces less Fel d1, the primary allergen present on cats.[10]

In 1999, Indoor Biotechnologies tested the fur of four cats for Fel d1; a mixed breed, two Siberians, and an Abyssinian.[16] The results showed the Siberian and Abyssinian cat fur as having lower Fel d 1 levels than the mixed breed cat.[16] Indoor Biotechnologies cautions that the Siberian levels were still high, and that the mixed breed sample was "exceptionally high".[16] Indoor Biotechnologies warns against using these results to make decisions of pet ownership.[16]

This test of fur allergen levels is cited by many Siberian breeder websites as evidence the breed is hypoallergenic. Critiques include that the sample size (only 4 cats) is below statistical significance, was submitted by a Siberian breeder, and as mentioned, one cat was found to have Fel d1 allergen levels of 62,813 micrograms (roughly 60× higher than any published professional study).[17]

A not-for-profit association of breeders (Siberian Research Inc) was founded in 2005 to study allergen levels and genetic diseases in the Siberian breed. As of March 2010, fur and saliva samples from over 300 Siberians have been submitted for analysis, many directly from a veterinarian. Salivary Fel d1 allergen levels in Siberians ranged from 0.08 to 27 µg per ml of saliva, while fur levels ranged from 5 to 1300 µg. The high end of these ranges is consistent with results from prior studies, though the low end is below expected results.

All Siberians tested were found to produce some Fel d1, with the highest levels being found in Siberians that have silver coloured fur. About half of Siberians were found to have Fel d1 levels lower than other breeds, while under twenty percent would be considered very low. Within the low group, males and females had comparable allergen levels.[18][self-published source]


Siberian cats tend to come into reproductive readiness earlier than other breeds, sometimes as young as five months. It is thought that this is related to the breed's closeness to its natural wild state; feral cats often die young due to harsher natural conditions. Achieving reproductive ability early and having large litters provides a biological balance to this. On average, a Siberian litter consists of five to six kittens, as compared to the average litter of three to four kittens in breeds who have been registered as pedigreed cats. However, Siberian litters may consist of as few as one and as many as nine kittens.

Siberian cats are excellent parents, with the fathers helping to care for kittens if they are allowed access to the nest. Parents are often strongly bonded and some mothers will only mate with one male. Atypical for cats, juvenile male Siberians have been seen cuddling and grooming their cousins and siblings. Siberians, due to their communal nature, often do better in pairs in captivity.

Females that have not been spayed have been noted to have litters as late as nine or ten years. However, kitten mortality is generally lower when a dam (breeding female) is between 18 months and six years of age. This difference is due to several factors: physical and emotional maturation of the dam, health and vitality of the dam, and a natural predisposition to healthier offspring from younger mothers.

Males can father kittens from as young as five months to over ten years. In regions where the breed is rare and expensive a long term breeding career for a pedigreed male can create a risk of popular sire effect, in which one male has an overly large genetic influence on the breed. In Eastern Europe, where the breed is common and less expensive, this issue is less likely to arise than elsewhere.

During the early 1990s, it was expensive and difficult to locate and import Siberians.[19] Therefore, inbreeding became common. Because the breed is relatively new to registration and breed books are open, breeders are able to add foundation stock to the breed. This reduces the level of relatedness within the breed, and increases vigor in the breed.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

The variety can be seen in Russian paintings and writings dating back hundreds of years. This sets them apart from breeds that are the result of fairly recent selective breeding.[citation needed]

Vonda N. McIntyre introduces a Siberian Forest Cat as the pet of Spock's cousin Stephen in Enterprise the First Adventure (Pocket Books, 1986).

At least one traditional Russian folktale, collected by Alexander Afanasyev, features a Siberian cat called Kotofej Ivanovich. One version of this is known as "The Cat Who Became Head Forester".[21]

A Siberian cat, Dorofei, was owned by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and another by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.[22] WBZ-AM talk radio host Steve LeVeille mentions his Siberian, Max, on his Boston-based program.[22]

The 2016 film Nine Lives features a Siberian.

In the webcomic Hetalia: Axis Powers, the character Ivan "Russia" Braginski owns a Siberian cat, as shown in the strip titled "Cat Conference".



  1. ^ a b Somerville, Louisa (2007). The Ultimate Guide to Cat Breeds. Edison, New Jersey, US: Chartwell Books. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-7858-2264-6. According to legend, the Siberian Forest Cats traditionally lived in Russian monasteries, where they patrolled the rafters on the lookout for intruders. Although fierce, the monks treated them as loving and loyal companions.
  2. ^ a b c "Siberian Cat Breed Info". Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Morris, Desmond (1999). Cat Breeds of the World; A Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-88639-5.
  4. ^ a b "Siberian cat – History". Siberian Cat World. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  5. ^ Buck, Ginger S. (2006). I Just Got a Kitten: What do I do. Fireside/Mordecai Siegal/Simon & Schuster. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7432-4509-8.
  6. ^ Kate Conley (August 2015). Siberian Cats. ABDO. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-62969-817-5.
  7. ^ Jerold Bell; Kathleen Cavanagh; Larry Tilley; Francis W. K. Smith (1 February 2012). Veterinary Medical Guide to Dog and Cat Breeds. CRC Press. pp. 578–. ISBN 978-1-4822-4141-9.
  8. ^ Schmitt, Kristen A. "There's No Such Thing as a Hypoallergenic Cat". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2019-09-04.
  9. ^ Sartore, Stefano; Landoni, Eleonora; Maione, Sandra; Tarducci, Alberto; Borrelli, Antonio; Soglia, Dominga; Rasero, Roberto; Sacchi, Paola (2017-12-01). "Polymorphism Analysis of Ch1 and Ch2 Genes in the Siberian Cat". Veterinary Sciences. 4 (4): 63. doi:10.3390/vetsci4040063. PMC 5753643. PMID 29194349.
  10. ^ a b "Siberian – Cat Breed Information & Breed Facts". Petside. Archived from the original on April 29, 2011. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  11. ^ Harrison Weir (1 January 2006). Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varie. Read Books. p. xiii. ISBN 978-1-84664-096-4.
  12. ^ "Breed Profile: The Siberian". Cat Fanciers' Association. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  13. ^ Cats 101 – Siberian. 22 July 2011 – via YouTube.[dead YouTube link]
  14. ^ "Siberian". Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Siberian cat". The Show Cat Magazine. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  16. ^ a b c d "The Siberian cat ... hypoallergenic?". Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  17. ^ Carayol, N.; Birnbaum, J.; Magnan, A.; Ramadour, M.; Lanteaume, A.; Vervloet, D.; Tessier, Y.; Pageat, P. (June 2000). "Fel d1 production in cat skin varies according to anatomical sites". Allergy. 55 (6): 570–573. doi:10.1034/j.1398-9995.2000.00588.x. PMID 10858990. S2CID 40468260.
  18. ^ "Siberian Allergen Levels". Siberian Research Inc. 2013. Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  19. ^ Conley, Kate (2015-08-15). Siberian Cats. ABDO. ISBN 978-1-62969-817-5.
  20. ^ Bell, Jerold; Cavanagh, Kathleen; Tilley, Larry; Smith, Francis W. K. (2012-02-01). Veterinary Medical Guide to Dog and Cat Breeds. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4822-4141-9.
  21. ^ "The Cat Who Became Head Forester, in Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome".
  22. ^ a b "Siberian". Cats 101. Season 2. Episode 2. November 14, 2009.

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