The Siberian is a domestic cat breed that has been present in Russia for centuries. The full name of the cat is the 'Siberian Forest Cat' although sometimes referred to as the 'Siberian' or the 'Siberian Cat'. The cat is an ancient breed that is now believed to be ancestral to all modern long-haired cats. The cat has similarities with the Norwegian Forest Cat, to which it is likely closely related. It is a natural breed of Siberia and the national cat of Russia.
The cat was first mentioned in a book by Harrison Wier, which included information of the earliest cat shows in England in 1871. The cat was first imported to the United States in 1990 and, despite the popularity, the breed is rare in the US. The cat was registered by the Kotofei cat club in St. Petersburg in 1987. A Siberian cat, Dorofei, is owned by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and another by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.
Known to be an exceptionally agile jumper, the Siberian is a strong and powerfully built cat, with strong hindquarters and large, well rounded paws. They have barreled chests and medium sized ears, broad foreheads, and stockier builds than other cats.
Siberians express the three natural types of feline fur: guard hairs, awn hairs, and down. These three layers protect the cat from the Russian weather extremes, and provide a hardy, easy to care for coat today. The fur is textured but glossy, which decreases the occurrence of matting. A twice weekly combing is enough to keep the coat in good condition.
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. The Siberian cat breed does not have any unusual, distinct, or unique fur colorations or patterns.
Most breeders, enthusiasts, organizations, main registries such as TICA and the WCF, and countries accept the color point coloration as being natural. Color point Siberians are also known as "Neva-Masquerade": Neva for the river where they are said to have originated, and masquerade, for the mask-like coloration.
Siberian cats moult once or twice a year. The first moult is at the end of winter. The 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.
Siberian cats tend to come into reproductive readiness earlier than other breeds, sometimes as young as five months. 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. 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.
If a Siberian is not desexed, some queens (females) have been noted to have litters as late as nine or ten years. However, kitten mortality is generally lower when the queens are between 18 months and five or six years of age. This is due to several factors: physical and emotional maturation of the female, health and vitality of the queen, 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 long term breeding career for a pedigreed male can create a risk of Popular Sire Syndrome, in which one male has an overly large genetic influence on the breed. In Eastern Europe, where the breed is very common and less expensive, this issue is less likely to arise.
During the early 1990s, catteries in Russia had limited foundation stock and the number of Siberians that had been exported to Poland, Germany, Scandinavia and the USA was limited. Although inbreeding was common, the robust health of the breed decreased the likelihood of genetic defects. One exception is Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in almost all lines of "golden" Siberians. The pedigree link shows a queen that died from HCM and illustrates the level of accepted inbreeding.
Siberians are basically a very healthy breed, though many lines have been impacted by one or more genetic diseases. The most common are HCM, and Persian kidney disease (PKD-1). In an effort to reduce genetic disease in Siberians, several organizations maintain open-source reports of Siberian HCM and PKD, providing breeders information about high-risk lines.
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