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Russian Blue

Physical Characteristics

The Russian Blue is a robust breed, with firm muscles and an overall dose of good looks. It is physically in the same class as the Korat and Oriental Shorthair -- long, slender, elegant. It is of a medium size, and muscular, but compared to a swimmer in the compactness of its musculature. When it is in full motion and stretched out, one can see that it has a long, graceful neck, but the neck is hidden by thick fur and high set shoulder blades when the cat is sitting, making it look as though it has a short, thick neck.

The Russian Blue appears bigger than it actually is because of its double coat, which is the most eye-catching feature of this breed. Dense, silky, and plush, the hair stands out at a 45-degree angle, allowing you to literally trace patterns into it, where they will remain until you smooth your hand over them. According to some legends, the Russian Blue was at one time the target of hunters, who likened their luxuriant fur to the fur of seals. The coat is bright blue, preferably lavender at the base (root), darkening along the shaft up to the tips of the guard hairs (protective hairs in the topcoat), which are tipped in silver. The coat shimmers with reflective light.

Adding to the captivating physical qualities of this breed is the eye color. The eyes are yellow while the Russian Blue is a kitten, and by four months there is a bright green ring around the pupil. As the cat matures, the eye color graduates into a bright, vivid green, aesthetically intensifying the already remarkable blue-silver coloring of the cat. The eyes are wide set and round, and only slightly slanted at the upper corners, giving the Russian Blue a sweet expression that matches well with its gentle temperament.

One of the more curious and amusing features of the Russian Blue is its “smile.” It has a slightly upturned mouth, which is frequently compared to the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile.

Personality and Temperament

This is a well-behaved cat that is easy to train. Or, rather, it easily trains its people. It enjoys a good game of fetch and will keep the game going longer than you may have time for, and you will make time because the Russian Blue is known for actually appearing hurt when it has been ignored. Elegant, and reserved, this cat is also very playful, and loves to chase after toys or sunbeams.

The Russian Blue can spend hours amusing itself and does not mind an awful lot if it is left at home alone for the day, but it will be very happy to see you when you do arrive. This cat makes for an excellent companion, constantly following its owners about, and generally preferring one human above all others in the family. It should be added that the Russian Blue gets along with most everyone, including children. Their love of human company extends to impishly clowning to help calm a crying baby, and showing sympathy when their people get the blues by patting the face of the person.

One of the Blue Russian's vulnerabilities is its tendency to be startled easily. They also have a natural proclivity to shyness and nervousness around strangers and in strange environments. If it is true that this breed was once the target of fur hunters (as some say), this would easily account for their caution and quick footedness. They would have had to move fast at the slightest sound to quite literally preserve their own skins.

This breed does not like change, preferring for things to be uniform and predictable. It can be thrown off when dinnertime is altered, and is nit-picky about hygiene. It will not even enter its litter box if it is dirty. In the early years, this breed developed a reputation at shows for being difficult to work with because of traits like these. The Russian Blue was gentle and happy at home, but at shows it was visibly discontent and temperamental. Popularity declined and fewer Russian Blues were being shown until breeders focused on improving the attitudes of the breed through selective breeding and behavior management (e.g., soft music, recording of show noises, crystals, herbal remedies). This commitment to the breed paid off, and today the Russian Blue is a happy participant at cat shows.

Health and Care

There are no specific health problems related to the Russian Blue. It is a genetically sound breed, mainly due to it being a naturally occurring breed. Brushing the coat is not essential, but is a nice addition to the weekly routine of other grooming, such as brushing the teeth. This breed has a particular fondness for human company and will sit quite happily while being combed or brushed, since it is spending time with the one it cares for.

One important note to keep in mind with this breed is its love of food. It will eat beyond its need and ask for seconds, making it a sure candidate for weight related conditions if it is allowed to eat as much as it wants. The best prevention is measuring the food and giving it only at assigned times of the day, and making sure that everyone in the house knows that they cannot give the cat too many treats or scraps.

History and Background

As the name suggests, this breed is believed to have originated in Russia. It is widely believed that British sailors, fascinated by this breed of cat, brought them home from the White Sea port town of Archangel (Arkhangelsk) in northern Russia. The presence of a warm, thick coat suggests that they were long accustomed to surviving in a cold climate. As mentioned earlier in this article, there has been some suggestion that the Russian Blue lived in the wild and was hunted for its fur. Whether these stories are true or not remains pure speculation.

The Russian Blue is related to the other three shorthaired solid blue breeds: Thailand's Korat, France's Chartreux, and Britain's British Blue (now called the British Shorthair). All of these breeds have considerable differences in coat and personality.

The cat staged its first public appearance in 1871, when a Russian Blue was displayed at the Crystal Palace in London, under the name Archangel Cat. In those days, the Russian Blue looked quite different than what we are familiar with today. They were short-haired, solid blue cats with thick, dense, glossy coats. And though they were allowed to compete in the same class as other shorthaired blues, the Russian Blue frequently lost to the British Blue breed, a cat that had caught the fancy of the people.

Finally, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy recognized the breed, and in 1912, the Russian Blue was granted a class of its own. Any progress in the breed's popularity was to come to an abrupt end, when World War II was waged over most of Europe, killing most of the Russian Blues. Breeders intent on bringing the Russian Blue line back began crossing the cats with British Blues and Bluepoint Siamese. At the same time, Scandinavian breeders crossed the blue cats from Finland with similarly colored Siamese cats.

By 1965, British breeders expressed unhappiness over the abrupt change in the Russian Blue's shape and personality, and immediately began an effort to bring back the original Russian Blue. By breeding the Scandinavian cats, known for their good head type and vivid green eye color, with the British Russian Blues, a cat with a silver-blue coat color and graceful body style, the breeders finally achieved what they were looking for.

The first Russian Blues came to the U.S. in the 1900s, but it was not until after the war that a real effort was made to promote the breed. The first of the Russian Blues registered with The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) in 1949, but it was not until 1964 that a Russian Blue won a CFA Grand Championship, a male named GC Maja Acre Igor II.

Although an immediate improvement in the bloodline was made when Russian Blues were imported from Britain, it would take years to establish the exact type that would personify the Russian Blue. Breeders were breeding traits into their lines based on their own preferences, so that their Blues would be splendid in one area, but never overall. The breed was too varied, with some exhibiting pale, exquisitely plush coats, and others showing elegant bodies, beautifully shaped heads, and striking green eyes.

Finally, when breeders began to combine several of these bloodlines, the Russian Blue strengthened in its class. From 1965-1970, the number of registered Russian Blue’s increased exponentially. The "father" of the modern standard Russian Blue was GC Felinest Flying High of Velva. Flying High performed admirably at shows as a kitten, and through his bloodline 21 kittens were produced, with six of them going on to become Grand Champions, two given Distinguished Merit, and one a National Winner -- GC, NW Velva's Blue Viking, which won 7th Best Cat in 1971, and 2nd Best Cat in 1972.

Still, due to their characteristic nervousness, Russian Blue’s generally did not perform particularly well at shows, leading to a decline in their popularity into the 1980s. When breeders focused their attention on improving the personality of the breed through selective breeding, and by training their kittens to stay calm in a show environment, the Russian Blue once again became an attention getter and award winner. Since the 1990s the Russian Blue has been winning regional and national awards consistently, and today it enjoys a well-deserved and steady popularity.

Comments  1

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  • My Russian Blue Feral Cat
    12/30/2013 07:54pm

    I am a caregiver to a small feral cat colony. My Russian Blue, Wiley, is a sweetheart but scared of his own shadow. When we hired a cat trapper to catch our feral cats for neuter/spay/shots, Wiley was the only one we couldn't catch. He set off the traps, scared himself and ran away.

    Wiley is highly intelligent. When the other cats in the colony went to be spayed/neutered and shots, he stayed away from his home base for a week. We were so afraid that he wouldn't know how to find food to stay alive. A week later, he returned and looked fine. Sometime after that, I found feathers and parts of mice in my garage. Then I knew how he survived. I was very surprised that he figured out how to hunt, since we had him since he was 4 months old and was fed everyday.

    Feral cats are amazing!

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