Let's talk Siberian cats

The Siberian cat’s thick and lustrous coat is not just for show – although it is magnificent. Over the centuries, this ancient breed developed a triple-layer insulating and waterproof fur coat, ideal for withstanding the harsh climate of its native Siberia. If their ancestors evolved for the rugged, outdoor life, these days, Siberians certainly appreciate more comfortable conditions – these affectionate cats can be playful but are mostly quite content curled up in the warm, near their owners, always ready for a snuggle.

Official name: Siberian

Other names: Neva Masquerade (pointed variety) Siberian Forest Cat

Origins: Russia

Siberian sitting looking above camera in black and white
Inline Image 15
Illustration of Siberian cat
Male
28 cm - 33 cm Height
7 kg - 8 kg Weight
Female
28 cm - 33 cm Height
6 kg 500 g - 6 kg Weight

Baby cat Birth to 4 months
Growing kitten 4 to 12 months
Adult 1 to 7 years
Mature 7 to 12 years
Senior From 12 years

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Get to know the Siberian

All you need to know about the breed

With their extravagant fur coats, wide round eyes, fluffy ears and impressive brush-like tails, Siberian cats are true Russian beauties. But if you’re expecting an icy temperament to match their icy Siberian origins, you’re in for a bit of a shock. These wonderful cats are big softies who just want to be close to their chosen humans – they will literally follow you around the house and snuggle up on your lap, offering themselves up as a sort of feline hot water bottle.

Siberian cats will even ‘talk’ to you. Siberians communicate with their humans through sweet little chirps and harrumphs as well as the more conventional purrs and miaows.

Gregarious Siberians get on well with other animals and children too. They are playful and athletic by nature and that may sometimes translate into energetic leaps onto the furniture or frenzied batting at the cursor on your computer. However, these cats also have a calm, placid side. No wonder the Siberian breed is sometimes put to use as a therapy cat.

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2 facts about Siberian cats

1. From Russia with gloves

Actually gloves might be the only thing missing from the Siberian’s winter wardrobe. This warm-hearted cat’s weather-proof clothing is impressive: a triple-layer, water-repellent coat, a full ruff, fluffy breeches and a fox-like bushy tail. Tufted paw pads complete the Siberian’s outdoor equipment, there to help them walk across the snowy landscape before they got to you.

2. Lynx-tipped Neva Masquerade

No, it’s not a secret code, but a way of describing a Siberian cat with distinctive markings and tufty ears. The alternative name Neva Masquerade is used for Siberians with darker fur on their extremities (also known as pointed). And if your cat has little tufts of hair on the tips of their ears then they have something in common with their bigger, wilder (distant) cousin, the lynx. These tufts, which help keep cats’ ears clear of dirt, are known as Lynx Tips.

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History of the breed

Siberian cats date back at least a thousand years and are thought to be related to the Norwegian Forest Cat: the physical similarities between the two breeds are obvious and they both evolved to withstand harsh cold environments.

Siberian cats have long been popular multitaskers in their homeland of Russia, from farm cats to much-loved family pets, even making magical appearances in local folklore and fairy tales.

Although some had been shown at cat shows as far back as the 1870s, it was only after the end of the Cold War that these fabulous felines really started to be more widely known as some Siberian cats were exported to Europe and the United States. The Cat Fanciers’ Association accepted the breed for registration in 2000 and the breed made it to championship status in 2006.

Front view of standing Siberian in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Siberian cats

Siberian sitting on iron garden chair

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Siberian

Heart trouble

Siberians are generally healthy cats but the breed is among those prone to a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease that causes the heart muscle to enlarge, decreasing its efficiency. Always try to buy from a reputable breeder who will take care to only breed from disease-free parents.

Watch the pounds

Siberians are a naturally big breed and may be at risk of putting on too much weight, which can lead to health problems. Make sure your cat eats the right food and in the right quantities to ensure they stay in the best of health. Regular check-ups with your vet are always a good idea.

Healthy diet, healthier cat

Kitten
Adult
Senior
  • Tailored health nutrition has a fundamental role to play in maintaining the health and beauty of a cat. Food provides energy to help with vital functions and a complete nutritional formula for cats should contain an adapted balance of nutrients. Feeding them in this way will offer a diet that’s neither deficient or excessive, both of which could have adverse effects on your cat’s health. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. Cats are also naturally adapted to eating small servings - between 7 and 10 times a day. Giving them the recommended daily ration of kibble once a day will let the cat regulate their own consumption; ironically, when they have only one or two servings a day, their weight increases more than a cat who eats on demand.
  • The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your cat has health problems, please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusively veterinary diet.
  • When choosing food for Siberian cats, there are factors to consider: their age; individual sensitivities; their lifestyle, which impacts their level of activity substantially; and their physiological status, such as sterilisation, a potential factor in weight gain. If the cat has outdoor access, the changing seasons also play a role, especially when it comes to moulting, which happens twice a year.
  • Age
  • Age is a factor in terms of a cat’s energy needs, especially in their early and the later years. An 8-week-old kitten consumes three to four times more energy per kilo than an adult. A cats’ appetite is reduced as they grow older due to dental sensitivities or a lessened perception of odours and flavours.
  • Lifestyle
  • The energy density of the food should be different for indoors and outdoor cats. Going outside changes a cat’s nutritional as well as their energy needs, the latter of which increase according to the amount of time they spend outdoors, their territory, and the degree to which the climate changes through the year (many outdoor cats become indoor cats during the winter). While a 4kg cat needs around 300 kcal/day if it’s outdoors, the same cat who stays inside won’t expend more than 200 kcal/day - a full third less. What’s more, a sedentary cat that is fed a high-fat, high-energy diet as often as they like is less able to regulate its consumption.
  • Healthy nutrition for indoor cats
  • Because an indoor lifestyle often means less exercise (an indoor cat expends a third less than one living outdoors), an adjusted calorie content which meets those reduced energy needs and a diet containing L-carnitine to help promote fat metabolism can help maintain an ideal weight. Avoid feeding them human foods or fatty snacks; instead, reward them with kibble taken out of their daily meals, and strictly follow the feeding guidelines written on the pack to prevent them from gaining weight. - Indoor cats spend more time grooming themselves. Selected fibers, such as psyllium, can help to eliminate the hair they’ve ingested, which will reduce hairballs. For Siberians living mostly indoors, eating highly digestible proteins will help reduce both the amount of stool and its smell.
  • Healthy nutrition for outdoor cats
  • Cats that are able to go outdoors spend more energy than those who stay inside. A food that’s more dense in energy is therefore recommended. Increasing the volume of food with a low energy density, such as an indoor cat formula, isn’t a solution for feeding outdoor cats as it can lead to a decrease of the digestive efficiency. Nutrients that specifically support healthy joints can benefit a very active outdoor cat. Select nutrients and antioxidants can bolster the skin barrier to help outdoor cats cope better. Just being outside leaves them open to possibly receiving a small wound or exposing them to harmful bodies, like external parasites.
  • Growth Phase
  • Growth is an essential stage in a kitten’s life. It is a time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. When it comes to their energy, protein, minerals, and vitamin requirements, a kitten’s are much greater than those of an adult cat. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, but also to grow and build it. A kitten’s growth comes in two phases:
  • Construction - From Birth to 4 Months
  • Weaning is the transition a kitten makes from liquid - or maternal milk - to solid food. This period naturally corresponds to the time when they cut their milk teeth, at 3 to 6 weeks old. At this stage kittens are not yet able to crunch, so a soft meal (rehydrated kibble or an adapted wet food) helps facilitate the transition between liquids and solids. Between 4 and 12 weeks after birth, the natural immunity a kitten receives from the mother’s colostrum - or first milk - decreases while the kitten’s immune system gradually develops. This critical time, called the immunity gap, requires a complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, to help support their natural defences. Kittens go through an intense and particularly delicate period of growth during which they’re prone to digestive upset. Their diet at this time should not only be rich in energy to meet their essential growth needs but should also contain highly digestible protein for their digestive system that’s still maturing. Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, can also support their digestive health by helping to balance intestinal flora. The result? Good stool quality, all around. The kitten’s food should contain omega 3 fatty acids - EPA-DHA - which helps support the proper neuro-cerebral development.
  • Consolidation and Harmonisation - From 4 Months to 12 Months
  • From the fourth month, a kitten’s growth slows down, so a food lower in fats is recommended. This is particularly important after a cat is sterilised. Between 4 and 7 months, a kitten’s milk teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent ones. When the adult teeth have come through, a kitten needs to eat kibble that’s big enough so they’re encouraged to crunch. Until they’re 12 months old, a Siberian kitten’s immune system is still gradually developing. A complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, can help support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. The digestive system matures progressively, with digestive aptitudes reaching full maturity toward twelve months of age. A cat is then able to consume adult food.
  • When it comes to their nutrition, the goals for adult Siberians are:
  • Contributing to maintaining an ideal body weight by using highly digestible ingredients and keeping the fat content at a sensible level*, especially for sterilised cats, indoor cats, and strays. Supporting optimal digestion and balancing intestinal flora by using highly digestible proteins and prebiotics. Preserving the health and beauty of the skin and coat with the addition of essential fatty acids, especially EPA-DHA, essential amino acids, and B vitamins. Maintaining a healthy urinary tract system. Adding fiber to stimulate the elimination of hair that’s ingested during grooming, thanks to selected fibers, in order to help reduce hairball formation. Supporting daily oral care and hygiene
  • Some cats can be fussy eaters so food palatability is key. Exclusive formula and aromas, kibble size, special texture, or a combination of different shapes or textures - with both their dry and their wet food - will help stimulate their appetite.
  • *Adjusting the energy level of the food to the energy needs of the cat encourages them to regulate their own consumption. Cats usually have more difficulty curbing their appetite if the kibble is very rich in fats.
  • After 7 years old, Siberians start facing the first signs of ageing. A formula enriched with antioxidants will help maintain their vitality and an appropriate phosphorus content will support their renal system.
  • Ageing also means modified digestive capacity. A senior cat - one over the age of 12 - may sometimes have difficulties with absorption, too. To maintain the weight of the ageing cat and prevent any risk of deficiency, they should be given an extremely digestible food filled with essential nutrients.
  • As they get older, cats increasingly suffer from teeth problems, and in some senior cats, the sense of taste and smell may decline as well, which can lead to a lowered intake of food. To ensure they continue to eat enough, the shape, size, and hardness - meaning texture - of their kibble needs to be tailored to their now potentially more fragile jaw.
  • Note that the best energy level for any cat still depends on their lifestyle, even those who are ageing. A senior cat that continues to go out regularly will benefit from a diet with a slightly higher fat content. On the other hand, ageing does not reduce an indoor cat’s risk of obesity. Their calorie intake should still be closely monitored. A food with a moderate fat content then may be optimal.
Close-up of Siberian looking at camera

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Caring for your Siberian

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Keeping that wonderfully thick Siberian coat in good condition doesn’t take as much effort as you might expect: a brush or comb twice a week should ensure it stays tangle free. During shedding season, you may need to increase the frequency. Regular ear and teeth cleaning (daily if possible) and nail trimming are important too, and your cat needs to have access to a scratching post to allow them to fulfil their instinctive need to scratch. Siberians are playful cats and appreciate the chance to run and jump or chase a toy. If you have the patience, intelligent Siberian cats can easily master obedience commands and tricks – good for their mental stimulation.

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All about Siberian cats

Not really – Siberians’ coats may be thick and impressive but they only need a quick brush every few days to stay in good, knot-free condition. In shedding season (twice a year) expect to do a little more brushing and probably a LOT more vacuuming.

No cats can be considered truly hypoallergenic. However, anecdotal evidence suggests the Siberian breed may not elicit such strong reactions in people with allergies as other breeds. That may be because Siberians have lower levels of the allergy-causing protein in their saliva and skin than other cats – but scientists are still researching the phenomenon.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/

2 - Royal Canin Cat Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book