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Norwich Bulletin - 4/24/2005

The Cat Of Russia

The Russian Blue is one of the oldest known natural breeds of cats that help make up the cat fancy. Legend gives Russia credit as being the country of origin for this elegant and loyal cat and there are many different stories told, one more fanciful than the next. Stories have it that these blue beauties were the cherished pets in the courts of the Russian Tsars and Tsarinas and that they perched on the shoulders of the Cossacks as they rode into war.

But the most plausible explanation is that they came to England from the northern Russian port of Archangelsk, giving them the nickname of the Archangel cats. The fact that they have thick, double coats, lends credence to the possibility that the Russian Blues come from the colder northern climate of Russia.

This little blue (gray) cat with its vivid green eyes has been known as the Spanish Blue, the Foreign Blue and the Maltese, depending on the country it found its way to. During World War II, much of the breed was wiped out, but lovers of the breed used Siamese outcrosses to try and salvage what they could of the original breed.

Careful breeding once again brought them back to the consistent type that they desired, but few Russian Blues were seen at cat shows until the 1960's. England and Scandinavia worked hard to produce the Russian Blue we know and love here in the United States today.

The cat is fine boned, long and muscular. It is a medium sized cat with a natural elegance. There is nothing extreme about a Russian Blue. They have a double coat that is an even blue all over, with the appearance of a silver tipping all over that gives the cat a royal sheen. The other definite characteristic of the cat is its emerald green eyes.

Russian Blues make ideal family pets. They are a sophisticated cat with a regal bearing, and yet they are not at all aloof with their families. They are very intelligent, seeming to understand every word you say. Quiet, gentle, never exceptionally demanding and they are very wary of new situations and strangers. Blues are suspicious of strangers and they will remain apart from company until they have sized up the human and deemed him worthy of their attention.

Once the newcomer is accepted, they are friendly, loving and attentive. They seem to have the uncanny knack of knowing how you are feeling and what it is you might want or need from them. They adapt to children, new situations and other animals fairly quickly and once bonded, they are bonded for life.

The Russian Blue has no specific health issues. In the past their shyness and a propensity for gingivitis were the main concerns of the breeders, but selective breeding has done much to improve both. The only genetic concern might be what has been called the White Russian, a throwback to the early years when the breeders were using Siamese outcrosses.

These cats may be pointed with blue eyes and although a beautiful and striking animal, they are only showable in the household pet class. While not quite a health concern, it is noteworthy that the Russian Blue likes to eat and altered cats can get a bit chunky, which could lead to health problems linked with obesity.

The Russian Blue may be quiet and reserved at times, but they are also athletic and playful, enjoying their toys both alone or with their humans. They are fast, agile and like interactive play. They are patient and if you are busy, it almost seems they are leaving you alone until they know that you ready for them, either to play or to have them curl up on your lap while you watch television or read. They are also very adaptable to schedules, entertaining themselves while you are at work and greeting you happily when you get home.

While little to no grooming is necessary, daily petting is a must. Petting your Russian Blue actually helps get a sheen and sleek look about them. They shed very little and during the shedding months, just a damp wash cloth will do the trick to get rid of loose hair.

Remember whenever you are considering a certain breed of cat or dog, to make sure you go through a responsible breeder. You can check out breeders on www.tica.org or www.cfa.org. You can also attend a cat show and meet breeders and exhibitors of the different breeds to find the right cat for you.

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