Siberian cats are the national cats of Russia. They’re also known as Siberian forest cats and Moscow longhairs.
These cats are a large and lovely breed. They're friendly, outgoing, and curious. This makes them ideal for a wide variety of households.
Characteristics of a Siberian Cat
Body size. The typical Siberian cat size is large and stocky compared to many other breeds. Healthy males weigh anywhere from 15 to 20 pounds. Females tend to be slightly smaller. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your cat is too far under- or overweight.
Body shape. Siberians have large, barrel-shaped bodies. They’re heavy and rounded. Their skeletons have large bones. Sturdy legs that end in big round feet support the cats. Toe tufts are ideal.
Siberian cat characteristics also include medium to large heads that are vaguely wedge-shaped. They have short, rounded muzzles.
Siberian heads are topped by moderately large ears that are rounded at the tips. The ears tend to tilt forward slightly and are close together. They should be about one ear width apart.
These cats have moderate tails that taper slightly to blunt ends.
Coat. Siberian cats have a thick, semi-long coat. It’s technically a triple coat, which means that the cats grow three distinct layers of fur. This evolved to help them adapt to harsh Siberian winters.
The thickness of the coat will differ depending on the time of year. The coats become shorter and less dense in the summer than in winter. There’s usually a thicker fluff around their necks, particularly on the males.
The Siberian coat texture depends on its color. Coats can range from coarse to soft. All traditional cat colors are found in the breed. Many also have white coloration mixed in. Examples of traditional coat colors include:
Eyes. Your Siberian cat’s eyes should be farther than one eye width apart. They come in a variety of colors. Unlike some breeds, their eye color isn’t related to their coat color. Colors can range from golden to green, with many color options in between.
Lifespan. The Siberian cat's lifespan is not well documented. The typical cat lifespan is at least a decade, so prepare for a reasonably long life with your pet before adopting one.
Personality. The Siberian cat's personality is that of an intelligent, independent pet. They love exploring the world around them. They’re great at getting into things and can figure out how to open all kinds of doors — especially if their cat food is hidden nearby. Kittens have even been known to climb brick walls.
These cats are very energetic and playful. Their antics will likely amuse your entire family. They’re not challenging pets and will happily go with the flow of your household.
Caring for a Siberian Cat
Grooming. Siberian cats have moderate grooming needs. Their thick coats should be brushed once or twice a week for most of the year. This will help prevent tangles.
They shed about twice a year, once in the spring and a lighter molting later in the summer. You should brush your cat at least once a day during these times to remove dead hairs. Otherwise, they’ll end up all over your clothes and furniture.
Unlike most breeds, Siberians tend to like water. If they’re raised with baths as kittens, they’ll likely enjoy getting a bath every once in a while. These cats can groom themselves quite well, so they rarely need baths. But you and your cat may find the water enjoyable every so often.
To complete your cat's grooming routine, you should also check on their ears, teeth, and nails. Brush their teeth weekly to prevent dental disease. Check their ears regularly for any signs of infection. Signs can include redness and bad smells. Trim your cat's claws whenever they get too long.
Feeding. You should talk to your veterinarian about your cat's nutritional requirements. Not all cats should have identical diets. For example, less active cats don’t need as much food as energetic ones.
Hydration is just as important as food. Historically, cats are used to living in deserts and don't always get enough to drink. Try tricks like leaving out multiple water dishes and keeping the dishes full to the brim to encourage your cat to drink more water.
Exercise and mental stimulation. Siberian cats need mental and physical stimulation to keep them at their best. They’re fantastic at jumping and can leap across great distances and reach elevated surfaces. This means they’d love a high-up place to play in your house, like a ceiling-height cat tree.
They love to play with toys on their own and with their loved ones. Make sure they have access to some toys and that you take the time to engage them regularly.
Many owners claim that their jumping and other physical efforts are entertaining to watch. Both you and your cat will likely be amused when they engage in stimulating activities.
Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to care for your cat. One of the first steps is to make sure that your cat has all the vaccinations they need. This includes vaccinations for:
- Feline distemper
- Feline herpes virus
Like dogs, cats can also get heartworm. Unlike in dogs, there's no way to treat heartworm in cats. Focus, instead, on the prevention of heartworms. Your veterinarian should observe your cat for indications of heartworms annually. Your vet will also recommend a preventative medication to dispense to your cat to help avoid heartworms.
Cats are susceptible to flea infestations. Many different brands of treatments and preventatives exist. Your vet can help you choose the safest one for your pet.
Health Problems to Watch for With a Siberian Cat
As a breed, Siberian cats are quite healthy. The breed existed in the wild for hundreds of years with minimal veterinary intervention. This does an excellent job of weeding out problematic genetic conditions. But there are some health problems that your Siberian could get.
The most common Siberian cat health issues are hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and pyruvate kinase deficiency.
Cardiomyopathy is the most common form of heart disease in felines. A thickening of the heart muscles causes it. Symptoms include trouble breathing, vomiting, decreased appetites, and weakness — particularly in their rear limbs. The treatment depends on how severe your cat’s condition is. It commonly involves prescription medications.
Pyruvate kinase is an enzyme found in red blood cells. When it’s deficient, these cells don’t live as long. This leads to anemia. There may be few signs of this condition, but symptoms include lethargy and decreased appetite. In some cases, the anemia can be life-threatening. Luckily, your veterinarian can detect this problem with a genetic test.
Generally, it’s best to get your cat to the veterinarian at least once a year for an annual checkup. This is the best way to detect problems early and ensure that your pet has the most extended, healthiest life possible.
Special Considerations for a Siberian Cat
There are a few things to remember before making a Siberian cat a member of your family. They’re friendly with a wide variety of people. These cats are suitable for households with small children. And, though they prefer the company of their families, they warm up to strangers with relative ease.
Siberians are even good with dogs and other pets. Just make sure that the dog is cat-friendly before you introduce the animals. These personality traits can differ depending on the individual. Like most pets, they do best with early socialization.
There are sometimes rumors that these cats are hypoallergenic, but this isn’t true. The breed does have a lower amount of a specific protein called FelD1 in their saliva. Many people have allergic responses to this particular protein. But Siberians still produce this protein, and even small amounts can trigger a reaction.
They also still produce dander, another source of cat allergies. If you have cat allergies and want to see if a Siberian is better for you than some other breeds, it’s best to test your reaction to an individual cat. Each one will produce slightly different amounts of these various allergens.
History of Siberian Cats
Siberian cat history began over a thousand years ago. The breed was first documented in 1000 A.D. The cats are mentioned throughout Russian fairy tales and other stories. They spent centuries evolving in the Russian countryside and adapting to harsh Siberian weather.
Siberians were one of the breeds featured in the first ever cat show, which took place in the 1870s. They were also participants in the first Madison Square Garden Show in 1884. A photograph was even taken of the breed in the early days of photography — in 1900.
Even though Siberians were a well-known breed, no one kept good track of them until the 1980s. This was when the Kotofei cat club in Moscow developed the first breed standard. Cats named Mars and Roman were used as the basis for the standard. Mars had a blue lynx coat with points and white markings. Roman was a brown tabby.
Thanks to the Cold War and other difficulties, getting this breed anywhere outside of Russia was challenging. After the cold war, they were exported worldwide. The first Siberian cats arrived in the U.S. in 1990. They were expensive to import, but the breeder got them in exchange for some of her Persians.
These cats are still relatively rare in the U.S. The International Cat Association accepted them for new breed registration in 1992. They’ve been qualified for championship competitions since 1996.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) was slower to acknowledge the breed. Siberians weren’t registered with this organization until 2000. They’ve been allowed to compete in CFA championships since 2006.