Published on March 21st, 2016 | by Debbie Martin0
Popular Cat Breeds – Siberian
Profile: What is a Siberian?
A Siberian is a chunkily-proportioned cat with a heavy frame which gives a strong impression of physical strength. The cat is the second largest formal breed of cat (with the Maine Coon being the largest). On average, a cat will take around five years to reach maturity – though males will end up slightly larger than females.
The Siberian is a full-bodied breed known for its round edges and natural good looks, whose stocky frame is a direct result of the conditions in its freezing homeland. In order to cope with those artic temperatures, the animal needed to evolve a dense fur coat that would repeal the elements. The Siberian’s bushy tail allows it to cover the exposed skin on its nose and paws when the temperature dropped to particularly chilly levels. Though the breed has rounded ears, breeders are permitted to indulge in a practice called ‘Lynx tipping’, which allows the tips of the ears to be hairy, thereby emulating the pointed look of the lynx.
The Siberian’s face is alert and sweet, with eyes that come in a range of colours – from gold to green to blue. Some even have differently coloured eyes. The breed’s thick fur coat comes in a variety of different colour schemes. Some cats will have white markings on their bellies; others will display the same colours over their entire bodies. Some cats will be extensively patterned with tiger-like stripes; others will come with snow-white camouflage fur coats.
The Siberian’s fur is triple-layered, allowing it to endure even the most punishing of winter climates. These three layers are the guard hairs, which comprise the topmost layer of fur, which helps to block sunlight and repel moisture; the awn hairs, which sit just beneath the guard hairs and represent most of the animal’s visible fur; and the down hairs, which are the very thick bottommost hairs which are mostly concerned with insulating. These three layers together produce a coat that’s glossy, textured, and can cope with even the harshest Siberian winter.
History: Where did the Siberian come from?
If you’re thinking that the answer to this question is an obvious one, then you’d be right. The Siberian has been a national treasure in its homeland of Russia for centuries. They’re a crucial component of Russian home life and folklore, and beloved of millions of Russian households – and millions across the world, too.
This latter development is only a very recent one. After the end of the cold war, Siberian cats were quickly presented to a wider market, and the first specimens arrived on the shores of the US in the summer of 1990. Just ten years later, the Cat Fancier’s association recognised the breed.
The Siberian’s full name is the Siberian Forest Cat. With so much evolutionary heritage invested in navigating frozen forests, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the breed is exceptionally agile, and capable of climbing even the tallest trees, and of walking across even the narrowest of ledges.
Personality: What’s a Siberian like to own?
One might suspect that the heavy fur coat of the Siberian would make it especially difficult to look after. But, while it’s true that the breed does require its fur to be regularly washed, the situation isn’t quite as dire as it might be in the case of other long-haired breeds like the Persian. The Siberian largely manages to keep its fur straight and free from tangles, and with regular short brushings can remain in tip-top condition.
The breed moults at the end of winter in response to changes in day length. Some Siberian cats might go through a smaller moult at the end of summer, too – but many will not. Unlike many other breeds of cat. Siberians are also happy to be bathed occasionally. It’s been speculated that this comfort with wetness is thanks to the fact that Siberians spent so much of their time playing in the snow.
As far as personality goes, the Siberian is generally affable. They’re happiest when they’re near other animals, whether those animals be dogs, other cats, or human beings. Despite this, they’re not particularly vocal or overbearing; they’ll instead offer you comfort and support by simply being there. When they do decide to make a noise, it’ll generally be a soothing, mellifluous one.
Siberian cats like to play – if they’re presented with toys, they’ll make good use of them, and some even learn to play fetch. They’re curious cats who will investigate everything – they’ll chase cursors around a computer screen, and swat and your fingers when you’re attempting to type, or play video games.
Siberian cats develop this playful nature quite early on in life, and most retain it long into old age. This means that you’ll need to discourage some behaviour when the cat is young if you want to avoid it continuing throughout its life. One behaviour which might potentially present a problem is excessive exploration – Siberians will happily explore high shelves and precarious fireplaces if not discouraged from doing so early on in life.
There is some anecdotal evidence to support the notion that the Siberian is hypoallergenic. This is thought to be because Siberians have lower-than average levels of a special protein called felD1 in their saliva. When a cat grooms itself, it leaves saliva in its fur. This saliva then dries and flakes downward onto the carpet, or sofa, or bedcovers. If you’re sensitive to felD1, this can mean that you’ll suffer an allergic reaction.
In truth, the hypoallergenic cat is something of a mythical beast; while some cats might not trigger an allergic reaction in some people, they’ll always be exceptions, and so it’s always a good idea to test how you react to a particular animal before offering it a home.
Scientific inquiry into the subject has not yet yielded any substantial results. As such, there’s no way of guaranteeing that you won’t suffer an allergic reaction later on, but the more extensively you test, the better. Spend some time with a cat before you welcome it into your home, and you’ll have the best possible safeguard against allergic reactions.