Choosing a Russian Blue
The Russian Blue, also known as the Archangel Cat, Archangel Blue, or Blue Russian, is a gentle, courteous cat that wears a perpetual Mona Lisa smile. This cat breed is a growing favorite with feline fanciers. Although still relatively rare, an increasing number of cat lovers are discovering the joys of singing rhapsodies in blue. With their vivid green eyes, silver-blue coat, and pleasing body style, the Russian Blue is a strikingly beautiful breed. On top of that, their pleasing personality and playful temperament make them a delightful companion.
History and Origin of Russian Blue Cats
Russian Blues have been around long enough for their ancestry to be shrouded in mystery and conjecture. According to legend, the Russian Blue has existed for centuries and the breed descended from the White Sea port town of Archangel (also known as the Archangel Isles) in northern Russia, which is about 150 miles from the Arctic Circle. No direct evidence exists to prove this, but the breed’s double thick coat gives credence to the theory that they developed in a cold climate, and, according to reports, blue shorthairs still exist in Russia today. There are also theories that Russian Blues descended from cats kept by the Russian Czars.
It’s thought that British sailors transported Russian Blue cats to Great Britain in the 1860s. At the first modern-day cat show held at London’s Crystal Palace in 1871, a Russian Blue was shown under the name “Archangel Cat.” Early photos show the cat as a solid blue feline of foreign type with a short, dense, glossy coat. They’ve also acquired the nickname “Maltese,” which is a term that has come to describe any completely blue cat.
Over the years, there has been confusion between the Russian Blues and the British Blues. In 1912, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) acknowledged that the Russian Blue was distinctly different from the British Blues with which it had been competing, and they were granted a breed class all their own. The breed continued to make upward progress until World War II, when they nearly ceased to exist due to deregulated breeding.
During the 1940s and 50s, two breeder groups, one British and one Scandinavian, worked to save the breed from extinction by crossbreeding the few hardy survivors with other breeds like the Blue Point Siamese and the British Blue. In 1965, a group of British breeders began efforts to restore the Russian Blue to its original appearance by breeding together the lines developed in Scandinavia and Britain.
Imports from Britain helped improve the U.S. stock, and today, America’s Russian Blue is so admired that examples of the breed have been sent to Europe to improve their bloodlines. While still uncommon, the Russian Blue has gained an enthusiastic following both in North America and nearly every other continent on Earth.
Appearance of a Russian Blue
Russian Blues are truly a beautiful cat breed. Their body style is “foreign,” which means long, lithe, and slender. While appearing slim, the Russian Blue is actually quite muscular and strong and can leap to the top of the tallest bookcase with ease. The Russian Blue head is triangular and almost wedge-shaped, but the face appears broader because of wide set eyes and thick facial fur. Large ears are also set far apart and are wide at the base. The slight upturn to the corners of the mouth makes Russian Blues appear to be smiling at some secret joke. They also have amazingly vivid green eyes.
This breed’s most distinctive feature is its beautiful coat. It is silky, plush and so dense it stands out from the body. The thick undercoat gives the fur its density, and no doubt helped protect the cat from the harsh winters in its native land. As you might expect, hair comes in only one color and pattern – solid blue. The color that cat fanciers call a blue coat actually closely resembles gray, and outer hairs are decorated with silver tipping that reflects light, giving the coat a silvery sheen. Although blue is the only color accepted by the North American registries, other colors are accepted elsewhere. The Australian Cat Federation (ACF), for example, accepts the Russian in blue, black, and white.
Russian Blue Cat’s Personality
Russian Blues are gentle, reserved cats that can be found under the bed when guests pop in for a visit. They like their usual routine and dislike environmental changes more than the average cat. With their chosen humans, however, they are playful and affectionate and develop close bonds of loyalty and love.
Active but not annoyingly so, Russian Blues like nothing better than retrieving a tossed cat toy or chasing sunbeams for your amusement. Agile and light-footed, Blues pussyfoot about the house with the grace of small, furry dancers. It usually takes some time to develop a relationship with this breed, but fanciers say it’s well worth the extra effort. In time, Blues become deeply devoted companions that crave your attention. When you are home, Russian Blues will quietly follow you around, unobtrusive but loyal, and show their affection with forehead kisses, shoulder perching, and purrs of affection.
Blues are vocally quiet, well behaved, and quite easy to train. After you’ve developed a bond, Blues want to please, and a simple “no” is generally all that’s needed to discourage unruly behavior.
Grooming a Russian Blue
Since the coat is dense and they possess a thick undercoat, the Russian Blue does require some grooming to look its best. Combing with a high-quality steel comb at least once a week, and two to three times a week during the seasonal shedding periods, is necessary to maintain a lustrous coat. The Russian Blue generally goes through two yearly sheddings – once in the fall, when they shed their summer coat, and once in the spring, when they shed their winter coat.
Cost of a Russian Blue Cat
In the United States, Russian Blue kittens range in price from about $500 to $1200, depending on the breeder and area. Breeder and show-quality kittens start at $800 and go up to $3,500, depending upon bloodlines, conformation, quality of coat and color, and show prospects.
Association Acceptance for Russian Blues
Associations that accept the Russian Blue include:
- American Cat Association (ACA)
- American Cat Fancier’s Association (ACFA)
- Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
- Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA)
- Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF)
- The International Cat Association (TICA)
Veterinary Care for Russian Blues
Indoor Russian Blue cats that are not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered, ideally before the first heat in female cats. They should be dewormed as kittens and receive the standard series of vaccines as recommended by your veterinarian. Yearly exams are suggested for all cats and annual blood work is necessary for cats over 8 years of age.
Home Care for Russian Blues
Recommendations to keep your Russian Blue healthy include the following:
- Keep them indoors. An indoor-only environment protects cats from trauma, animal attacks, toxins, and potentially deadly infectious diseases.
- Enrich your home. While keeping your cat indoors, it is important that you have plenty of environmental stimulation. Window perches, climbing trees, scratching posts, and a variety of toys can enhance the environment and provide much-needed exercise and stimulation. Russian Blues also enjoy having special hiding spots and perches under beds, in closets, on secret chairs, or over dressers. Learn more about Selecting the Right Environmental Enrichment for Your Cat.
- Give plenty of play time. It is important to engage Russian Blues in 20 to 30 minutes of play time per day with laser toys, feathery flyers, or catnip. Some also enjoy making a game of eating with a food puzzle.
- Maintain the litter box. Russian Blues are generally very meticulous and prefer excellent litter box hygiene. This means one large litter box per cat in the home plus one (two cats should have three litter boxes) that are scooped twice daily. Unscented scoopable litter is preferred by most cats. The litter box should be placed in a quiet area away from the furnace, washer, and dryer.
- Perform routine grooming. Daily combing or brushing can help minimize shedding and prevent uncomfortable hairballs. Regular grooming also helps to increase circulation to the skin and distribute dermal oils.
- Keep up with daily dental care. Daily brushing, combined with professional dental cleanings, is recommended to minimize the pain and discomfort associated with periodontal disease.
- Provide high-quality food and water. High-quality dry and canned cat food is recommended for your pet’s health. Due to the high-water content of canned food, even a small amount can provide added water to optimize hydration. Offering canned food also allows you to observe the behavior and appetite of your cat. If they typically run for their canned meal, days when they do not could alert you to a medical problem. Also, be sure to offer plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. Many Russian Blues even enjoy drinking from fountains.
Health Concerns for Russian Blues
Russian Blues are generally healthy cats, but do suffer from a couple of common diseases.
Problems that can occur with an increased frequency in Russian Blues include:
- Dental disease
Diseases common in all cats, including Russian Blues, are kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, feline lower urinary tract disease, and cancer.
Allergy and Adoption Details
Russian blues are considered a good choice for families with allergies because they shed less and contain reduced levels of an allergen called glycoprotein Fel D 1. Russian blues are relatively rare, and most breeders maintain waiting lists. It’s more important to find a good breeder than to find the first available kitten. When choosing a kitten, keep in mind that Russian Blues are usually reserved around strangers. Shyness is not necessarily an indication that the kitten won’t make a great companion once you establish a relationship. See how the kittens interact with the breeder to get an idea of their personalities and to gauge the amount of handling the kittens have received.
Because of this breed’s natural shyness, early handling is vital if the kittens are to grow up to be well-socialized cats. That means you want a breeder who has raised the kittens “underfoot,” and has given each kitten an ample amount of handling and attention. Young Russian Blue cats need consistent handling and a stimulating environment to help them overcome their innate shyness. Learn more about Russian Blues from the Cat Fanciers Association.