Siberian cat – a complete guide to the breed

The Siberian cat is a fairly young breed that was first identified in Russia in the 1980s. It is also called Siberian Forest Cat, but normally referred to simply as Siberian Cat. In just a little over forty years, this breed has become extremely popular not only in Russia but all over the world.

And it won’t surprise anyone who knows Siberian cats. They really are a wonderful breed! If you are in love with Siberian cats, or just want to find out more about these beautiful animals – this breed overview is for you.

There are a lot of myths and stories about Siberian cat history, and no one really knows the truth about their origins. The general opinion is that Siberian cats originated in Siberia – a vast Russian region spreading over most of Northern Asia. It’s a rugged area boasting extremely long and cold winters and very short (and also cold!) summers.

The Siberian cat’s distinct interior – large, sturdy, muscular body and dense, thick coat protecting them from the cold –  is a great reflection of their native land. It really is a native cat of Russia and the pride of the country. In Russia, the Siberian cat is a character of many fairy tales. For example, a Russian fairy tale witch, Baba Yaga, had a Siberian cat.

You can also see Siberian cats in classical Russian paintings that are hundreds of years old.

Siberian cats used to live in monasteries where they not only helped fight rodents but also acted as guard dogs, warning dwellers of approaching strangers, thieves or enemies. Vendors and shop owners would have at least one Siberian cat to protect their shop from rodents and would often do competitions and “cat shows”, to show off their beautiful Siberians.

Siberians have all the best characteristics in one cat: they are wild but friendly and they look majestic but don’t need much grooming. If you want an intelligent and affectionate friend Siberian is the breed for you! As said before, I wouldn’t recommend a Siberian to a person who isn’t able to spend much time and play with his cat. But I guess it’s the same thing with any cat.” Read more

In our days, one of the biggest Siberian cat fans is the former Russian prime-minister and president Dmitry Medvedev. His cat Dorofei is known to have taken part in an unofficial meeting between Medvedev and the former American president Barack Obama.

From Russia, the Siberian cat breed spread all over Europe and was mentioned in Harrison Weir’s book “Our cats and all about them” at the end of the 19th century as one of the long-haired cats at the cat show in England in 1871. Today, there are more than 300 officially registered Siberian cat breeders all over the world.

Morpheus the Siberian cat from Italy
Morpheus the Siberian cat from Italy

So what is so special about this breed that earned it such popularity? It’s the Siberian cat beauty, power, and strength. It’s their dense, long coat of various colors and patterns that doesn’t require that much grooming. It’s the way the Siberian cat expresses the character of a real wildcat with it’s strong, calm temperament and excellent survival and hunting skills.

Siberian cats are born hunters – quick, strong and smart. When it comes to hunting and surviving, Siberians are so well-equipped and capable that they will always be able to make it, even on their own in the wild. They are very strong cats, and also very intelligent.

Arthas the Siberian cat from Finland
Arthas the Siberian cat from Finland

A Siberian cat will easily catch a mouse, a rat, or even a rabbit if they are hungry enough! Because of their strong hunter instinct, they often remind dogs. They can even bring you the trophies of their successful hunting. If you ever let your cat wander outdoors, don’t be surprised if they bring you a mouse or a rat.

If you live on a farm, or have a rodent problem in your house, your Siberian will help you solve that. The downside is – don’t own any hamsters or parrots or rats as pets if you have a Siberian cat at home. It would be too much of a temptation for the Siberian.

Siberian cats are very brave. They will go into an attack mode if they feel threatened by another animal, or to protect their territory. They can take on an enemy much bigger then them, even large dogs like German Shepherds. In normal circumstances, however, Siberians are virtually non-aggressive and are great with people and children.

Although they are excellent hunters and protectors, Siberian cats also possess soft and loving nature and great intelligence. Many of the Siberian cats’ owners mention that this breed is like no other cat they have ever encountered. These cats are often called dog-like for their intelligence, loyalty, and ability to learn tricks.

Siberian cat really does have a lovely, almost dog-like personality. They love their people with all their heart and are far less independent than other breeds. Siberians are not aloof cats! Although they are brave and independent by nature, they still tend to spend most of their time close to their owner. They will happily follow you around the house and participate in everything you do, whether you are cooking dinner, reading a book or enjoying a shower.

(They likely won’t get in the shower with you, but they do like to watch, just to make sure you are OK! 🙂 Siberian cat personality is one of the biggest advantages of this breed.

Because they are very agile and strong, Siberian cats love heights. You will often find your kitty at the tallest spot in the house – on your counters, on the fridge, on the mantelpiece or on top of the bookshelf. Cats generally love heights: being high above gives them a great view and makes them feel safe. It also gives them a chance to practice their superior climbing skills!

Your Siberian cat will be very grateful if you get them a cat ladder or build some kind of contraption that would allow them to climb up! If you don’t, they might resort to using existing furniture.

Bianca the Italian Siberian kitty
Bianca the Italian Siberian kitty

Siberian cats tend to be very confident. They are hardly ever afraid of loud sounds, or cars, or people. These cats will take part in guarding your home, taking that responsibility very seriously. They will protect you from other animals and sometimes people if they don’t trust them!

However, generally Siberian cats are not aggressive, and rarely hold grudges against people. They are not the kind of cats that will poop in your slippers out of revenge (Like some cats we know ;)) They are too sincere and noble for that.

The Siberian cat is one of the smartest breeds out there. They learn very quickly and are able to stay safe and sound in dangerous circumstances. They are also capable of understanding what you want from them and will be happy to follow your lead and your rules around the house. (Most of the time anyway!)

Siberian cats can be easily taught to use the litter-box or even go on a toilet! They will definitely not be keen on making a mess in your house. They can be easily taught games and tricks, just like dogs. Some will sit and roll on command, some will play fetch with you. Whatever it is, your cat will be happy to spend time with you.

Would you recommend other people to have a Siberian cat?
Definitely. As long as you want more of a house cat as I only let her out on her harness – they are not the type of cats that you would just let out on their own so you need to have time for them compared to other cats that come and go when they please. They give you so much joy, laughter, and love. Go and get a Siberian – they are the best!Read more…

Brianna, also known as Briebrie the Siberian kitty
Brianna, also known as Briebrie the Siberian kitty

According to breed specifications, the Siberian cat is a large cat boasting an excellent physical form, sturdy, muscular body, and dense, thick coat. It’s a slowly maturing cat, with kittens achieving adulthood by around five years of age (much slower than most breeds of cats).

Because they are such a slowly-maturing breed, color deviations and other “shortcomings” are allowed until a certain age (for show cats). Female Siberian cats are much smaller than male cats. An average Siberian female cat can weight anywhere from 7lb to 14lb, whereas an average male could weight 12lb to 18lb. 

Siberian cats have a trapezoidal-shaped head with soft contours, well in harmony with the rest of the body. The cats have large eyes that are almost circular in shape. The color of their eyes may vary and is not correlated to the color of their coat.

Siberian cats have a medium to large-sized barrel-shaped body, usually very sturdy and muscular, with long and fairly massive paws. Unlike other cats, the Siberian cat has patches of fur between their toes to keep them warm. Siberian cats have longer hind paws then their front paws, which makes their body look slightly bent down at the front and makes them such effective jumpers.  They have strong bones and a well-developed muscle mass. They often have a hard rounded tummy that adds to their sturdy looks.

Breed defects for the Siberian cat breed are: narrow face, tail too long, thin build, low muscle weight, a longer body (as opposed to barrel-shaped), almond-shaped eyes, front or hind paws too long.

Those, of course, are only important when it comes to show and breed cats. If you just want a pet animal, you will likely not even notice any differences and those “defects” really won’t matter.

What are the good sides of having a Siberian cat?
Kahlua is the best purring machine and when she is in cuddle mode – I take it and don’t move! She is the best greeter when we come home from work. And most of all, she is VERY social. We love to entertain and she was quick to adapt to having lots of people around the house and not being frightened.Read more

Despina the Swedish Siberian Kitty
Despina the Swedish Siberian Kitty

Siberians normally have strong health and great immune system, unlike a lot of purebred cats. They are really outstandingly healthy! They live up to 18 years or more and usually stay very healthy until they die.

They can have a few genetic conditions, such as Hereditary Heart Disease ( HCM), kidney disease and feline leukemia. You can avoid having those issues by making sure you get your kitten from a reputable breeder.

A good breeder will thoroughly screen their cats for any conditions and will never allow a cat that has a genetic abnormality or a potential for disease to participate in breeding. At least in the USA, Canada, and Australia. (Some Russian breeders are not always as diligent as they should be.)

Buying a cat from a good Siberian cat breeder will guarantee that you will not encounter any grave issues with your cat’s health. You can read more about finding a good breeder here.

Although Siberian cats are a slow maturing breed, they can start their reproductive stage of life quite early – sometimes as early as five months of age. That is because the breed is very close to its natural state and in nature, the ability to start reproductive period early is always a competitive edge. In nature, a lot of cats die very young so having offspring early in life gives these cats more chances to survive as a breed.

Siberian females can bare kittens up until age twelve, although younger mothers tend to have healthier kittens. Siberian cats tend to have large litters (5 to 6 kittens, sometimes up to 9 kittens!) (compared to other purebred types of cats).

Fiore the Siberian kitten angel from London
Fiore the Siberian kitten angel from London

Siberian cats make great parents. Male cats will take as big a part in tending to kittens as the female cat, and often male and female live together as “family” forever. Even very young cats show great care for their litters. Siberians, in general, tend to be very social and thrive in presence of other Siberian cats to share affection and entertainment.

The coat of a Siberian cat consists of two layers: a thick, warm undercoat and a dense “overcoat” that has excellent waterproof qualities. Due to this coat “design”, a sturdy Siberian cat can handle way below zero temperatures with ease! No wonder Siberia was just the right climate for these sturdy cats.

Some of the colors Siberian cat coat can be

Siberian cats come in multiple coat colors. Those can be: Brown Tabby, Tabby with White, Solid Black, Black and white, Silver tabby, Silver Tabby with White, Golden Siberian, Torbie, Red Tabby, Creme and white, Red Silver Tabby. Read more about Siberian cat colors here 🙂.

Due to the work of breeders Siberians have a large number of various coat colors and patterns that originally weren’t natural for the cats living in the wild. Their natural, tabby color, is the one that’s suited best for camouflage purposes in the wild.

Siberian cats love sunbathing, but don’t let them stay under direct sunshine for too long – it may lead to their coat drying out in patches and further coat damage.

Jewel the Neva Masquerade Siberian
Jewel the Neva Masquerade Siberian

Siberian cat coat is water-resistant and very thick, so washing these cats is usually quite a task! However, apart from regular combing, Siberian cat coat doesn’t require much care.

Siberian cats do shed. All cats shed to a certain degree (except for certain hairless breeds like Sphynx cats.) Siberians have luxurious, dense coats and certainly shed a fair bit! You will definitely see your Siberian’s hair on your rug, your chairs, your sofa and your lap, because that’s where your cat will spend lots of time 🙂

Do consider this factor when you think of getting a Siberian cat. If a bit too much shedding is going to be a problem, you might want to look at a different breed. For Siberian cat lovers it’s only a minor inconvenience and the love and fun that these beautiful cats bring in your life will make it fully worth it. Read more about Siberian cat shedding here.

What do you love most about your Siberian?
“The fact that he has such a strong personality! He talks ALL the time, replies and understands. He’s like a tiny human, only cuter! He’s stubborn, but yet he is a fast learner as long as you motivate. He is also quite unusual regarding cuddles: He lies down on your lap several times daily just to get attention and be close to you. Most cat owners I know have to fight for the cuddles 😉” Read more…

Kahlua the Siberian kitty from Pennsylvania
Kahlua the Siberian kitty from Pennsylvania

Because Siberians do have so much hair, it’s a great idea to help them groom it. Combing your Siberian cat’s hair a few times a week will help get rid of extra hair that’s already falling out and collect it in one place as opposed to being scattered around your whole house. You might even be able to knit something out of all the hair your cat sheds. Maybe some cat socks or cat hat! 😉 

Get a few combs of various density and set up a regular schedule for when you and your kitty are going to have grooming time. If you start them when they are young, they will likely enjoy the experience, provided you brush their hair carefully and not hurt the cat.

Brush along the direction of the growth, not against it! If you encounter a patch of tangled hair, try to carefully untangle it, keeping scissors for last resort only. Cutting out patches of hair may damage your cat’s coat and their looks.

Many people suffer from cat allergies, which complicates their life when it comes to choosing/owning a pet. Are Siberian cats hypoallergenic?

Meeko and Sassie, the Siberian brother and sister
Meeko and Sassie, the Siberian brother and sister

Well, no cat breed really is, because all cats produce various types of allergens. Most of the people that suffer allergies are allergic to cat hair, cat dander, cat urine or cat saliva. When it comes to allergens in cat saliva (which is the culprit in most cases), the real allergen is FelD1 protein that people are triggered by. It’s produced in the cat’s saliva, and when the cat licks itself, it gets spread throughout its fur. Siberian cats produce noticeably less FelD1 than any other types of cats, which makes them hypoallergenic for some people. A lot of people allergic to other types of cats notice that they don’t have any allergy symptoms when exposed to Siberian cats (even though they have quite a bit of hair and shed quite a bit too).

Would you recommend other people to have a Siberian cat, why or why not?
I would recommend a Siberian to anyone who wants a cat to be part of their family like a dog. They are incredibly affectionate and they need attention. Leaving them alone for an extended time isn’t a good idea. I know of many Siberian owners who have other pets to keep them company.Read more…

I have a separate article about this here in this Complete Guide to Siberian Cats Health. You may want to check it out if you want a more full and detailed description of various conditions that Siberian cats sometimes have. Siberian cats are one of the sturdiest and healthiest of the purebred cat breeds. Provided you do your research and find a good breeder, your kitten will most likely be absolutely perfectly healthy and happy, and will not have any genetic issues that may appear later on.

The Siberian cat is a truly wonderful creature – a tender soul in a strong muscular body of a cat that can easily survive Siberian frost! (That is actually a thing in Russia!) They are kind and inquisitive, strong, brave but loving at the same time.

Siberians are great hunters and great protectors that will guard your home (or your bed!) better than any dog. They will not annoy you with their mewing but will definitely keep you company when you need it. They are great with kids. All in all, a Siberian cat would be a great addition to any family, provided you do your research and learn as much as you can before you adopt one 🙂

Here you will find a list of breeders worldwide, split into countries and territories:

Siberian cat breeders