Last updated: February 18, 2017
This big, bold, and beautiful cat is often compared to the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon. Like them, the Siberian evolved in a cold climate and developed into a hardy, heavily coated cat that is uniquely suited to his environment, the cold taiga of Siberia.
The Siberian is a large cat. They typically weigh between 8 – 20 pounds and some can get bigger still. A lot of it is muscle and coat. They are very athletic cats; strong, powerful, and agile. Unlike the Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon, the Siberian is generally round in shape. He has a barrel shaped body of moderate length. They have substantial bone and the hind legs are slightly longer than the fore legs. The feet are round and large in size with toe tufts being desirable. The tail is of medium length and tapers only slightly to a blunt tip.
The head is a modified wedge with rounded edges. It sits on a thick, heavily furred neck. The head is large and in proportion to the body. The ears are medium large and set on the side of the head with at least one ear length separating them. The hair on the back of the ears is short and thing but heavier in the front. The rounded tips may have lynx tips. The ears are large and roundish but not completely round in shape. The tilt slightly towards the base of the ear. They can be any color and the eye color does not need to coordinate with the coat color.
The coat is semi-long and very thick. It is a triple coat, ideal for harsh winter weather although it is better to keep your Siberian indoors. He has a thick ruff, full fluffy britches and belly. The coat can be any color and ranges from coarse to soft in texture. Some studies have suggested that the Siberian may lack or have a reduced amount of FelD1 in his saliva. This is the allergen that affects many people through cat dander. Thus, it is possible that the Siberian may be hypoallergenic. But, levels do seem to vary between individual cats and there is no guarantee that a person may not be reacting to a different allergen on the cat. So, if you are allergic it is best to do a test run with the cat you intend to purchase to ensure that you are not allergic to him. The coat does require regular grooming. It is not overly prone to tangles or mats, so combing once or twice a week is usually sufficient. They tend to shed some of the heavy winter coat when the weather warms up and daily brushing is advisable during this time to get all the dead hair out.
The Siberian has been mentioned in Russian fairy tales and literature as far back as 1000 AD. They were prized for their hardiness and their hunting abilities, keeping farmsteads, homes, and shops free of mice and other vermin. Like most cats at that time, they needed to be able to fend for themselves and developed excellent hunting skills combined with a physique that allowed them to live outdoors in the harsh weather of the area.
They are first mentioned in books in the 1800s and there was a Siberian at the first ever cat show in England as well as early New York shows. The World Wars and Cold War effectively limited the exportation of these cats to western Europe and North America for most of the 20th century and they remained relatively unknown throughout that time period for much of the cat fancy.
With the end of the Cold War, cat fanciers began to once again import and export animals to Russia. The first pair of Siberians came to the United States in 1990 when Elizabeth Terrell imported a pair in exchange for sending a pair of Himalayans to Russia. They were registered and accepted for championship by most registries subsequently. Today, they are not overly common outside of Russia and you will still likely have to go on a waiting list to get a kitten.
Like other breeds that have evolved naturally with little outside interference, the Siberian is a hardy, healthy cat. They typically live 11 to 15 years. The Siberian can be slow to mature, often not reaching full adult size until they are five years old.
There are no diseases specific to the Siberian breed. However, like all cats, they are prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be anything from mild to severe and begin to show symptoms at any age, although it is more common in older cats. It involves a thickening of the ventricle walls in the heart. This prevents the ventricles from relaxing properly. It most commonly results in congestive heart failure, although other complications can also occur.
All breeding cats, regardless of breed, should be tested for HCM by a cardiologist prior to being bred. The breeder of your kitten should be able to provide proof that the parents were both tested.
The Siberian is a lively, active cat that is very intelligent. They are quick to learn tricks, including ones you would prefer they didn’t such as how to open doors. It is best to keep their minds occupied with toys and puzzles to prevent them from creating their own amusements. They are avid jumpers and climbers and a cat tree is a must. Their heritage leaves them very capable of balancing on door tops and other unusual places. Despite their size, they are extremely acrobatic and can make their way into all kinds of trouble if given the opportunity.
They are friendly, easy going cats that get along well with most people including children. They also do well in homes with other pets including cats and cat friendly dogs. They are fine with being left alone but expect them to want to enjoy your company when you are home. They will follow you around the house; sometimes, bringing you a toy to initiate a game of fetch. The Siberian may contemplate joining you in the tub as they tend to enjoy water play and are big fans of making puddles by batting at water with their large paws. They will talk and carry on a conversation but their voices are softer than that of the Siamese and its relatives. They tend to do a lot of soft mewing, trilling, and chirping.
Although harder to find than many other breeds, the Siberian can be an excellent choice for a family pet. They do require some grooming although not as much as other breeds with the same amount of coat.