What is a Siberian Cat?

Sheri Cyprus

The Siberian cat is a medium to long-haired breed of cat native to Russia. It's also called the Russian Siberian Cat or the Russian Forest Cat, and is Russia's national cat. The Siberian breed is at least 100 years old, but it wasn't imported to the United States until 1990 and is still fairly rare in America.

Siberian cats are native to Russia.
Siberian cats are native to Russia.

The Siberian cat developed naturally in Russia and was not developed as a domestic breed for many years. Keeping pets in Russia was not something that was commonly done due to a lack of enough food and housing available for people. There are records of Siberian cats participating in the first cat show held in the 1700s in England.

The Siberian cat is unique in that it has a triple coat, probably due to a response to the weather conditions in Siberia.
The Siberian cat is unique in that it has a triple coat, probably due to a response to the weather conditions in Siberia.

The overall shape of the Siberian cat is rounder than either the Norwegian Forest Cat or the Maine Coon Cat. The Siberian's eyes and head are also more rounded and its tail is also shorter than that of the other two breeds. Many Siberian cats have yellow-green eyes although many other eye colors are possible.

The coloring of the Siberian cat varies widely from cream to black and everything in between. Points, stripes and tortoiseshell markings are all common to this breed as well. The Siberian cat is unique in that it has a triple coat, probably due to a response to the weather conditions in Siberia. An extra portion of fur grows around the cat's neck in winter. The Siberian cat's coat is also thicker in the winter and less dense in the summer.

The Siberian cat is considered hypoallergenic, but those with more severe allergies may still be allergic and should get an allergy test and spend time with Siberians before getting one as a pet. However, Siberian cats lack dander. They also have no Fel d 1 allergen in their saliva, so when they clean their coats they don't cover their coat with the allergen as most cats do.

The Siberian cat is considered a very healthy breed and they have no genetic health problems as many cat breeds have. Siberian cats are known to be very agile and many like to jump and leap. They are indoor cats and often like to follow their human companions through every room in the house. Siberian cats are often compared to dogs in their loyalty and may be quite content as lap cats.

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Up until the 1980’s, the number of Siberian cats that were owned was very low. Prior to then, the former Soviet Union discouraged people from keeping any kind of pet due to shortages of food and housing. Owning a pet became a status symbol that only the wealthy were allowed. In 1987, the restriction on house pets was lifted. Then, organizations and clubs were developed to promote standards for this beautiful cat and give him his own breed.

After the Cold War, the Siberians made their way to the United States. In the beginning, they were traded for Himalayan cats. A woman named Elizabeth Terrell was said to be the first proud owner of Siberian kittens in the United States. She went to great lengths to promote the breed.


It has been said that the Siberian cat came to be when the Russian people who were exiled to Siberia, brought their cats with them. The cats then bred with the cats in Siberia where the temperature was bitter and very unforgiving. After a while, this breed mixture started getting bigger and had long, dense coats on them. Eventually, these traits led to the new breed and, through natural selection, the Siberian Cat came to be.

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