Russian Blue

Russian Blue Cat Breed

At first sight you could mistake the Russian Blue for a Chartreux or British Shorthair, but a second look will tell you that the Russian Blue is a very distinct breed

Appearance

The Russian Blue has a graceful body shape, with long legs, in contrast to the more stocky build of the British Shorthair. The average adult of the breed weighs on average between 3 and 5kg. Whilst the Chartreux has a more similar build to the Russian Blue, the two breeds can be distinguished by the colour of their eyes. Where the Chartreux’s eyes are yellow, the Russian Blue’s eyes are a bright emerald green.

Russian Blue cats have a wedge-shaped head, with eyes and ears that are set wide apart. The pronounced cheeks or whisker pads of the breed are a particular point of difference, and give the Russian Blue cat its characteristic facial expression.

 

This breed’s particular characteristic is the velvety softness of its coat. The distinctive blue-grey fur has a silvery shimmer, and ideally the tip of the nose and paw pads should also be blue. Any colourpoint or tabby markings, as well as discoloured or white patches in the coat are seen as flaws in show cats and although nowadays white and black breed specimens are also available, many breed registries do not recognise them as typical of the breed. Russian Blue kittens are often born with ghost markings (faint tabby markings), but these tend to fade before the kitten reaches maturity, leaving an unmarked, blue grey coat. The silky softness of the coat is unique to the breed: The undercoat is equal in length to the guard hairs, giving the cat a short, soft coat with a plush-like feel. The Russian Blue is the only cat breed to have a double coat of this kind.

Character

If you are looking for an intelligent, friendly and sociable cat, then the Russian Blue could be for you.

Russian Blues are cuddly, moderately active cats. Kittens can be playful and spirited, but they grow calmer as they grow into adulthood. Adults of the breed are athletic, curious, yet slightly reserved. Some say this makes them perfect as indoor cats, but beware: the Russian Blue is highly intelligent and requires lots of stimulation and challenge. They can often open doors and have been known to get into anything, including the snack drawer! These cats need distraction to prevent them from getting into mischief, and as they enjoy human company they especially enjoy playing games with their owners. Russian Blues can be taught how to do tricks using methods such as target training or clicker training, with the added benefit of keeping them amused and stimulated. Intelligence toys are also popular with this breed, as are games where they need to search for hidden treats. Many Russian Blues are also prepared to learn agility tricks such as jumping through hoops or onto a chair on request, although this will really depend on the temperament of the individual cat.

 

This breed is very sociable and should be kept as part of a pair or group of cats, especially if the cat will be an indoor cat or living with a family that spends a lot of time out of the home. It is not necessary to pair your Russian Blue with a cat of the same breed, as these cats tend to get on well with other breeds too, but it is essential that you allow your cats to get used to each other in a controlled way, to avoid any issues with territory or socialising. If you are buying a Russian Blue kitten from a breeder, it is important to make sure that the breeder’s cats and kittens are well socialised, and that kittens do not leave their mother before they are twelve weeks old.

History

Not all Russian Blues are created equal. There are three distinct sub-breeds in Europe today, which can exhibit considerable differences due to their diverse history.

The Siberian/ Scandinavian: a little smaller than average, with a particularly elegant body shape and very widely spaced ears. Their fur tends to be darker and they also tend to be shyer of people, which is why they are not favoured by many breeders.

The American: the most elegant of the Russian Blue types. This medium-sized cat has a lighter coloured coat has widely spaced ears and enjoys company, even when faced with strangers.

The English: has a more powerful build, and ears that are placed slightly closer together, pointing straight up. This sub-breed is not as outgoing as the American type, but still not as shy as the Siberian.

A cat that is a mixture of these sub-breeds is common, and ensures genetic diversity in the species.

The reason that the sub-breeds are so different from one another is down to their breeding history. As its name suggests, the Russian Blue originally comes from Russia and evidence suggests that the race originally came from the north Russian region of Archangelsk. The first Russian Blue cats to be introduced in England were brought in by British sailors around 1860, and the first documented specimen of the breed was exhibited as the ‘Archangel Cat’ in Crystal Palace in 1875. The breed became popular in England and tsarist Russia at the end of the 19th Century, and was given its own breed class in England in 1912. The two world wars in the 20th Century caused an extreme reduction in the breed stock in Europe, but thanks to breeders in North America who combined the European bloodlines and some cross breeding with Siamese, British Shorthair and European Shorthair, the breed was saved, and this also helped to produce the modern breed characteristics of a short, plush coat and emerald eyes.

As with many breeds, the story does not end with the current breed standard. There is some controversy over the recognition of white and black Russian Blues as a breed standard. Francis McLeod began the “Russian White and Black Programme” in England in the 1960’s, breeding “Russian White” and “Russian Black” cats. In the 1970’s an Australian breeder, Mavis Jones, bred a white cat with a Russian Blue to produce a “Russian White” colour variant. The Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Cat Club of New South Wales recognised these Russian Blue hybrids as official colour variants in the late 1970’s, and since then they have also been recognised by other breed associations in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The American Cat Fanciers Association has given the “Russian White” and “Russian Black” championship status, allowing them to be shown as “Russian Shorthair”. The breed standard corresponds to that of the Russian Blue, but the cats may also be monochrome black or monochrome white. As with the Russian Blue, the eyes must be bright green.

 

The majority of breeding associations still only recognize the blue-gray variant of the Russian Blue.

Care

The Russian Blue’s distinctive double coat means that it sheds very little hair. This plus the fact that it produces less Glycoprotein Fel d 1 than other cats makes it more suitable for people who are allergic to cat hair. However, glycoprotein is just one of the triggers for cat hair allergies – the lower production in Russian Blues means that they are often easier for people with allergies to tolerate than other breeds, but it does not make this a hypoallergenic cat breed.

Although the double coat looks incredible, it does not require a large amount of grooming. Brushing once per week is enough to remove any excess loose hairs.

Annual check-ups are essential for all cat breeds, and will include annual vaccination boosters, plus a full health check including listening to the cat’s heart and lungs and a check of their teeth to rule out tooth decay.

 

Russian Blues have quite a quiet ‘miaow’ and a friendly, sociable nature, which makes them excellent indoor pets. However, as these cats are very intelligent and enjoy being challenged physically and mentally it is vital that there is plenty in your home to keep them entertained if you plan to keep them indoors full-time. Ideally your Russian Blue needs a cat tree to climb and scratch, places to hide such as a cat den or house, along with cat beds to relax on. They also love human contact and interaction, which is where cat dangler toys and intelligence toys come into their own.

Illnesses

The Russian Blue is a very robust breed and many of the common hereditary or genetic disorders seem to have passed this breed by, although they are still prone to the same common illnesses and injuries as the average cat and kittens should be immunised at the earliest possible opportunity.

It is sensible to feed your Russian Blue a species appropriate diet. Cats are meat eaters and their digestion can only cope with small amounts of carbohydrate. This means that it is important to feed your cat a diet that is high in good quality animal protein, with a few plant-based ingredients to make sure that it gets the right nutrition to stay healthy. A number of cat owners are now considering a ‘BARF’ (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet for their pets, consisting of raw fresh meat to match a cat’s natural diet.

Nutrition

It is sensible to feed your Russian Blue a species appropriate diet. Cats are meat eaters and their digestion can only cope with small amounts of carbohydrate. This means that it is important to feed your cat a diet that is high in good quality animal protein, with a few plant-based ingredients to make sure that it gets the right nutrition to stay healthy. A number of cat owners are now considering a ‘BARF’ (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet for their pets, consisting of raw fresh meat to match a cat’s natural diet.

Finding the Right Breeder

If you’ve fallen in love with this soft, athletic cat breed, you may want to find out more about local breeders. Russian Blues are bred across Europe and the UK and there are many reputable breeders that care for the welfare of their animals.

If you would like to own a pure-breed Russian Blue you can expect to pay around £400-£600. At that price you are not just paying for the privilege of owning a pure-breed, but for the work that is put into caring for the cats and kittens by the breeder. Cat rearing is an expensive business. Responsible breeders set great store by keeping their breeding cats healthy and feeding them a proper, high-quality diet. They will also ensure that cat parents are paired to minimise any risk of passing on genetic defects and to ensure that the kittens produced meet the breed standards. Mother cats should be regularly checked by a vet whilst they are pregnant and more vet visits are required once the kittens have arrived to check that they are healthy. A responsible breeder will also ensure that the kittens are well fed with a good quality, breed-specific food, and that they are well socialised prior to allowing them to go to their new homes. In some cases the breeder may get the kitten vaccinated and neutered before you collect them, but in most cases this is something you will need to arrange with your vet. All of this costs the breeder money, time and effort – a top breeder provides round-the-clock care for his or her feline charges. It is also important that any breeders that you approach do not offer to sell you kittens younger than 12 weeks, because young kittens need time to grow, learn and develop essential life skills before they can leave their mother. They also need time to play and fight with their brothers and sisters and grow used to gentle contact with humans before they are ready for life in the big, wide world!

If having breed certification is not your top priority, you may have considered avoiding buying kittens from a breeder. If this is the case for you, you would be wise to avoid anyone who claims to sell pure-bred cats without certification – common on the internet and in local small-ads. In most cases, these sellers are firmly in the ‘quantity not quality‘ camp, placing more emphasis on producing a lot of animals for sale, than on any ethical considerations. Careful pairing of the parent cats and the welfare of the animals may be ignored in favour of making ‘easy’ money. Responsible cat breeding is an expensive hobby and any breeder that cares for animal welfare will charge a price that is a reasonable reflection of the costs incurred in the breeding proces. Your ethical alternative is to contact your local pet sanctuary or animal rescue charity. Pet charities are currently inundated with cats that are in desperate need of a forever home, so you are almost guaranteed to find a socialized, friendly cat to adopt that may not be exactly a Russian Blue, but has all of the breed’s desirable qualities. Animal rescue charities sometimes come across pedigree cats too, so it is always worth a try.

Our most helpful articles

Bengal Cat

The Bengal is a truly unique cat breed. A 'house tiger' in the truest sense, Bengal breeders go for a bit of wild cat blood, with wildcat hybrids like Bengals or Savannahs proving the latest craze in the world of breeding! Just what is a hybrid cat, and what needs to be taken into account when giving a home to a wild cat cross? Our breed description provides answers. Big cat hybrids could be found in the zoos of Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. This ultimately didn't prove practical for zoos, but transferred well to the world of small cats, with ever greater enthusiasm shown for so-called wild cat hybrids being developed from the pairing of wild cat breeds with domesticated indoor cats. The most well-known example is the Bengal, which resulted from crossing a tame black domestic cat with a wild Asian leopard cat. The result was a cat breed that proves a real hit thanks to its elongated body and extraordinary fur colouring. However, its proximity to its wild relatives sometimes requires an experienced hand.

Russian Blue

At first sight you could mistake the Russian Blue for a Chartreux or British Shorthair, but a second look will tell you that the Russian Blue is a very distinct breed

Maine Coon

The Maine Coon has become one of the most popular cat breeds in the world and enjoys increasing popularity in the United Kingdom. This is probably due to its wild appearance, robust nature and great character.