Siberian cat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
White female siberian kitten.
Other namesSiberian Forest Cat[1]
Moscow Semi-longhair[2]
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]

The formal name of the breed is Siberian Forest Cat,[3][1][5] but it is typically referred to as the Siberian or Siberian cat.[3][4][5] Formerly, sometimes the names Moscow Semi-Longhair[2] and Russian Longhair[3][4] were also used. The colorpoint variant or sister breed,[6] called the Neva Masquerade, is categorised as a different cat breed by some registries,[7] including Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFé)[8] and World Cat Federation (WCF).[9]

The cat is an ancient breed that is now believed to be ancestral to all modern long-haired cats.[3] It is a medium to large sized, muscular breed with a bushy tail.[8][10] 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.[4][5] While it began as a landrace, it is selectively bred and pedigreed today in all major cat fancier and breeder organizations. This means that all Siberian cats are purebred cats with a formally registered ancestry.

The Siberian is often called hypoallergenic because it produces less Fel d 1 than other cat breeds.[11] 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 1 allergens produced in cat saliva, therefore, is deposited on their fur when they groom themselves) than non-Siberian cats.[12]


Drawing of the “Russian Long-haired Cat” in Weir’s book Our Cats and All About Them (1892)

Siberian cats are Russia’s native forest cats and are known to have existed for a long time in the dense forests of Siberia. The earliest known reference is from 1000 AD.[13][14]

Outside of Russia, the Siberian cat was first mentioned in the 1864 edition of the German book Brehms Tierleben, where Brehm describes a long-haired cat breed as “a red Tobolsk cat from Siberia” (“eine rote Tobolsker Katze aus Sibirien”).[15]

Later in 1889 and 1892 the Siberian cat was again mentioned in the two editions of a book by Harrison Weir, who organized and wrote about some of the earliest cat shows in England in 1871.[16] The Siberian cat is described in the book under its former name, the “Russian Long-haired Cat”.[4][16] However, in the preface of the 1892 edition Weir also mentions a cat he refers to as a “Siberian Cat”:

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, [17]
Russia’s national cat, the Siberian cat, on a 1996 and 2020 Russian stamp

During this first introduction of the Siberian to the West, the cat was often still known as the “Russian Longhair”.[3] These cats were crossed with other popular long-haired breeds, and the separate identity was soon lost.[3][16] Due to the fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of the Soviet Union, a second wave of Siberian cats were introduced to the rest of the world and an officially acknowledged cat breed was developed. In 1987 a young male and female were taken from St. Petersburg to Berlin by cat enthousiast, who started a serious breeding program with registration under the name “Siberian Forest Cat” or “Siberian cat”.[3] Since that succes there has been an increase in interest for the Siberian breed within Russia itself.[3]

In the Russian cat fancy, each cat club devises its own cat standards. This fact led to much confusion in 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 breed standards was publicized by the Kotofei Cat Club in St. Petersburg in 1987 under the name Sibirskaja Koschka (Siberian cat).[18]

Officially registered Siberians first arrived in the United States in 1990[5] and in the United Kingdom in 2002.[14] Although gaining in popularity, the expense of importing the cats from Russia and the common breeder’s practice of early neutering pedigree kittens keeps the breed still relatively rare outside of Europe.[4][5]

Breed registration[edit]

Nowadays, all Siberian and Neva Masquerade cats are selectively bred and pedigreed in all major cat registries under the category Siberian (code [SIB]),[8] or in certain registries under Neva Masquerade (code [NEV])[8] for the colorpoint sisterbreed. Similar to other officially recognized cat breeds, the term “Siberian” is only meant to be used for cats from this specific breed, which are by definition all purebred cats with a known and formally registered ancestry, also known as the cat’s “paperwork”.[19][20] The purpose of the registry of Siberian cats is to develop and maintain a healthy cat breed by controlling inbreeding and the spread of hereditary diseases, and regulating the well-being of the cats.[21][22][23] Unregistered cats with a similar appearance as the Siberian cat are referred to as domestic long-haired cats.[19][20]

Each of the (inter)national cat registries apply breed standards, which cover a description of the ideal characteristics specific to the Siberian breed.[19] In general, Siberian kittens will grow up to be a representative of this ideal breed standard in both looks and character.[19] These standards represent the phenotype of the Siberian breed and may include criteria of physical and morphological appearance,[24] genetics, and of athletic or productive performance. In cat shows, the Siberian cats will be compared with and judged after these breed standards based on a point system.[22] Faults or disqualifications are given to show cats with medical disorders, uncharacteristic traits, or cats that lack in well-being and proper care from their owners.[23]


One-year-old Siberian cat


The energetic Siberians are famous for their playful and adventurous personality, while at the same time being very friendly and easy-going.[4] The breed is known for their dog-like behaviour,[14] due to its affectionate and highly loyal personality.[4] This intelligent breed learns easily and is even known for their ability to learn the "dog game” fetch.[14] They are very social and prefer to be involved in all activities of a household.[14] Siberians are very fascinated by water,[14] and do not mind getting a little wet, as their guard hairs are water-repellent.[8]

The Siberian is a vocal cat and produces various different sounds. It has a melodious chirping voice and a deep, resonant purr.[4][14]


Known to be an exceptionally agile jumper, the Siberian is a strong and powerfully-built cat, with strong hindquarters and large, well-rounded paws.[25] Their bushy tail is medium in length and slightly shorter then the torso length.[13][25] Their body lengths varies in size from medium to large.[8] Siberians have firm, barrel-shaped torsos,[10] and stockier builds than other cats.[2] The general impression of the body is one of circles and roundness.[8][10]

Siberians have a slight arch to their back, because their hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs.[10] This shape and the power in their hind legs contribute to their incredible agility and enables them to jump exceptionally high.[14]

Siberians develop rather slow, reaching their fully matured body at about five years of age.[4][10][14] Female Siberians are considerably smaller than males.[10][26]


Siberian face profile

The characteristic round shapes are also clearly visible in the facial features of the Siberian. Their round face consists of a broad forehead at the top of its skull and narrows slightly to a full-rounded nozzle.[10][25][27] The eyes are large and round, and give an overall sweet expression to their face.[10][25] The outer corners are slightly angled towards the base of their ears.[10] Their medium sized ears are broad at the base and rounded at the tip.[27] They are slightly tilted forwards[25][27] and should be set as much on the sides of the head as on top,[25] preferably one to one and one half ear width apart.[10] Lynx ear tipping is allowed.[25]


Siberians express the three natural types of feline fur: guard hair, awn hair, and down hair. These three layers form a semi-long to long, well developed, very dense triple-coat,[10][13] from which the guard hairs are water-repellent.[8][14] This dense triple-coat protects the cat from the Russian weather extremes. The thick fur is textured but glossy, and needs frequent grooming to prevent matting.[14] The summer coat is distinctly shorter than the winter coat.[8] Because the Siberians are a slow-maturing breed, it can take several years for the coat of young Siberians to fully develop.[10][14]

Two adult cats with a very dense triple-coat walking in snow during winter

Siberian cats moult twice a year.[5] They will shed their heavy winter coat during spring.[14] This 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 to prepare for their thick winter coat,[14] unlike other cats, which will experience a "heavy moult" more than twice a year.

Golden or “sunshine” colored Siberian cat

Fur color[edit]

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. Even a rare golden coat color caused by the CORIN-gene, called “sunshine”, and the bimetallic variety, called “silver sunshine”, are found in Siberians.[28][29] However, the most common color in the Siberian cat breed is brown mackerel tabby.[5][30] Several cat registries do not permit the color varieties chocolate, lilac, cinnamon, and fawn in the Siberian breed.[8][27]

Neva Masquerade[edit]

Colorpoint Neva Masquerade variant

The Neva Masquerade is the sister breed or colorpoint variety of the Siberian cat. The gene pool of the Siberian and the Neva Masquerade share a big overlap, as the two have been crossbred for many years. Nowadays, there exist a test for point mutations,[31] which allows breeders to specifically target carriers of the popular point gene.

The Siberian breed was generally recognized in the late 1990s by the cat fancy, however some registries chose to not accept colorpoint varieties in the Siberian breed.[32] In these (inter)national cat registries the Siberian cat breed has the code [SIB], and [NEM] is used for the Neva Masquerade variant.[8]

Recent studies[edit]

Although the Neva Masquerade shares many characteristics with the Siberian in terms of character and appearance, recent studies have shown distinctions between the two in terms of body language,[6] vocalizatons,[33] and feline hereditary diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD).[34] The prevalence of PKD in the Neva Masquerade gene pool is of concern as crossbreeding the two sister breeds could potentially spread PKD into the Siberian breed.[34]

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 d 1, 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.[35] Many people believe that the breed produces less Fel d 1, the primary allergen present on cats. [36]

In 1999, Indoor Biotechnologies tested the fur of four cats for Fel d 1; a mixed breed, two Siberians, and an Abyssinian.[37] The results showed the Siberian and Abyssinian cat fur as having lower Fel d 1 levels than the mixed breed cat.[37] Indoor Biotechnologies cautions that the Siberian levels were still high, and that the mixed breed sample was "exceptionally high".[37] Indoor Biotechnologies warns against using these results to make decisions of pet ownership.[37]

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).[38]

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 d 1, with the highest levels being found in Siberians that have silver colored fur. About half of Siberians were found to have Fel d 1 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.[39][self-published source]


The Siberian is an ancient naturally developed landrace, which makes it a relatively healthy cat breed.

In a study with almost 550 000 cats of 18 breeds, the disease risks of the different cat breeds were evaluated based on 24 diagnostic categories.[40] It may not come as a surprise that injury is the main cause of morbidity in the athletic, energetic and adventurous Siberian breed. The Siberian even has the highest score in injury risk of all purebreds. While it scores lowest, together with the Ragdoll, in the overall morbidity risk, making the Siberian a relatively healthy cat breed. Siberians had a significantly lower risk in 11 of the 24 diagnostic categories compared to other breeds, including endocrine, ear, neurological and neoplasia. Apart from injury, the Siberian had a higher incidence rate of locomotor and female reproduction-related conditions compared to other cat breeds.[40]


Red and brown tabby Siberian kittens

Siberian cats tend to come into reproductive readiness earlier than other breeds, sometimes as young as five months.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 longterm 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 from Eastern Europe.[18] Therefore, inbreeding in registered purebred Siberians became common in certain regions after the breed’s introduction. 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.[5][18]

In popular culture[edit]

The ancient Siberian cat breed is a naturally developed landrace,[3] which can be found in Russian paintings and writings dating back a thousand years.[13][14] This sets them apart from modern cat breeds that are the result of fairly recent selective breeding.

Examples of Siberian cats in popular culture and art:



  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 e f g h i j k Morris, Desmond (1999). Cat Breeds of the World; A Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-88639-5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
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  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Bell, Jerold; Cavanagh, Kathleen; Tilley, Larry; Smith, Francis W. K. (2012-02-01). Veterinary Medical Guide to Dog and Cat Breeds. Jackson, WY, USA: CRC Press. p. 578. ISBN 978-1-4822-4141-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  6. ^ a b Magiera, Angelika; Penar, Weronika; Klocek, Czeslaw (2020). "Occurrence of nonlinear phenomena in Siberian and Neva Masquerade cats' vocalisation": 2767–2770. doi:10.48465/FA.2020.0201. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Canadian Cat Association (2022-05-12). "Siberian Pointed Breed Standards" (PDF).
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Siberian / Neva Masquerade - Breed Standards" (PDF). Fédération Internationale Féline. 2023-01-01. Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  9. ^ World Cat Federation. "Recognized and admitted breeds in the WCF". Retrieved 2023-03-27.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The International Cat Association (2005-05-01). "Siberian Breed Standard" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  11. ^ Schmitt, Kristen A. "There's No Such Thing as a Hypoallergenic Cat". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2019-09-04.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ a b c d Canadian Cat Association - Association féline canadienne (2009-05-01). "Siberian - Breed Standards" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. "Siberian cat breed". Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  15. ^ Brehm, Alfred Edmund (1864). Illustrirtes Thierleben: eine allgemeine Kunde des Thierreichs. Erster Band. Erste Abtheilung: Die Säugethiere. Erste Hälfte: Affen und Halbaffen, Flatterthiere und Raubthiere (in German). Vol. 1. Hildburghausen: Bibliographisches Institut. p. 293.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  16. ^ a b c Weir, Harrison (1892). Our cats and all about them. London: Fanciers' Gazette. p. 30-38. ISBN 978-1-84664-096-4.
  17. ^ Weir, Harrison (1892). Our Cats and All about Them. London: Fanciers' Gazette. p. xiii. ISBN 978-1-84664-096-4.
  18. ^ a b c Sadovnikova, Irina (2008). "The Siberian Cat - The history of love and public recognition". Archived from the original on 2022-09-27. Retrieved 2023-03-19.
  19. ^ a b c d The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc (CFA). "Finding the Purr-fect Pedigreed Kitten". Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  20. ^ a b "What are Papers and Do I Need Them For My Pedigree Kitten?". Registered Pets. Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  21. ^ World Cat Federation (WCF). "WCF Breeding and Registration rules for all member clubs". Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  22. ^ a b Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). "GCCF Registers affect showing and breeding".
  23. ^ a b World Cat Congress (WCC). "Disqualifiers and General Faults". Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  24. ^ World Cat Federation (WCF). "Definitions in the Standard". Retrieved 2023-03-30.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g "Breed Profile: The Siberian". Cat Fanciers' Association. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  26. ^ Australian Cat Federation (2021). "Neva Masquerade Breed Standard". Retrieved 2023-02-08.
  27. ^ a b c d World Cat Federation (2022-02-24). "Siberian Breed Standard" (PDF).
  28. ^ Beauvois, H.; Dufaure de Citres, C.; Gache, V.; Abitbol, M. (2021-05-10). "Siberian cats help in solving part of the mystery surrounding golden cats". Animal Genetics. 52 (4): 482–491. doi:10.1111/age.13076. ISSN 0268-9146.
  29. ^ Abitbol, Marie; Dargar, Tanushri; Gache, Vincent (2022-05-16). "Golden cats: The story goes on". Animal Genetics. 53 (4): 543–545. doi:10.1111/age.13215. ISSN 0268-9146.
  30. ^ Cat Fanciers' Association. "Siberian cat".
  31. ^ Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. "Colorpoint Restriction". UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  32. ^ World Cat Congress (2017). The Royal Canin Cat Encyclopedia. France: Royal Canin.
  33. ^ Penar, Weronika; Magiera, Angelika; Klocek, Czeslaw (2020). "The influence of individual features on the vocalisation of cats of different breeds": 2041–2045. doi:10.48465/FA.2020.0199. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  34. ^ a b Jasik, Agnieszka; Kulesza, Marek (2014). "Polycystic kidney disease in a Neva Masquerade cat". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 55 (7): 387–387. doi:10.1111/jsap.12240.
  35. ^ "Siberian cat". The Show Cat Magazine. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  36. ^ "Siberian – Cat Breed Information & Breed Facts". Petside. Archived from the original on April 29, 2011. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  37. ^ a b c d "The Siberian cat ... hypoallergenic?". Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ "Siberian Allergen Levels". Siberian Research Inc. 2013. Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  40. ^ a b Hadar, Barr N.; Bonnett, Brenda N.; Poljak, Zvonimir; Bernardo, Theresa M. (2023-03-13). "Morbidity of insured Swedish cats between 2011 and 2016: Comparing disease risk in domestic crosses and purebreds". Veterinary Record. doi:10.1002/vetr.2778. ISSN 0042-4900.
  41. ^ "The Cat Who Became Head Forester, in Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome".
  42. ^ Sudakov, Dmitry (2008-03-18). "Dmitry Medvedev's castrated tomcat comes to the Kremlin". PravdaReport. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  43. ^ "The Max Report". Radio Free Steve. 2014-08-16. Retrieved 2023-03-22.

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