Experts say that this very old blue blooded breed has existed for centuries. Time has drawn much speculation and legends to the origins of the Russian Blue cat, and there have not been any conclusive records about its foundation. The most common of all conjectures is that this breed, as the name suggests, originated from northern Russia in the 1860s. Before it became Russian Blue, it was called the Archangel Blue as it was brought over from the port city of Arkhangelsk. The region lies near to the Arctic Circle and this is also probably the reason why the Russian Blue is such a hardy breed.
Documented history of the breed started only in the 1800s in Great Britain. It was first shown at London’s Crystal Palace under the Archangel Cat name in 1875. Even though the Russian Blue is a distinct breed from other Shorthaired blue cats in the aspects of its coat, body and head type; the British cat fancy had however grouped them into one category. During that period, the father of the cat fancy, Harrison Weir, highly favored the British Blues (now known as the British Shorthair), which led to the British Blues winning the show ribbons. However, the Russian Blue did not diminish into obscurity. The year 1912 brought much delight to Russian Blue fanciers when the Governing Council of the Cat fancy (GCCF) recognized the Russian Blue as a distinct breed and granted it an exotic class known as “Blue Foreign type”.
The breed was thriving with the rekindled spirit of breeders in developing the breed. However, its existence was threatened, along with other cat breeds, during World War II. British fanciers were also facing a shortage of resources to preserve the breed. While the hope was outlasting after the war, individual groups of breeders in Britain, Denmark, Finland and Sweden promptly acted to bring the breed back from the verge of non-existence. This could only be accomplished by crossbreeding due to the dearth of purebred Russian Blues. Thus, the Russian Blues were crossed with blue-point Siamese, British Blues and other blue cats. This has resulted in the slight variations of body and head type in the Russian Blue breed according to the different regions where the breeders lived.
Things only began to change slowly when the first Russian Blue set paws in America in the early 1900s. Breeding programs started after World War II with British and Swedish breeders contributing much to the establishment of the stock. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) accepted registrations for the Russian Blues in 1949. Due to the inconsistencies in the breeding of the Russian Blue breed, CFA was not able to grant immediate recognition of the breed. In the 1960s, breeders then made the wise decision of sharing their stocks in order to establish a consistency in the body, head and coat type. Years of hard work have finally produced a uniform look for the breed. Popularity of the Russian Blue began to thrive in all North American cat associations, which had all till date duly granted it the Championship status. Even though the Russian Blue is not in the top rankings of the most popular breeds, it is certainly in the good hands of close-knitted and dedicated breeders who have worked to perfect the cat.
Physical appearance and attributes
The Russian Blue has a foreign body type that is distinctly elegant. Its fine boning is coupled with a well-muscled body that is long, lithe and slender. Males can weigh between 7 – 11 pounds while females are typically between 5 – 8 pounds. The dense fur might make it appear chunkier. Complementing the body are long, firm legs that extend into small, well-rounded paws. It balances well with a substantial tail that is thick at the base and tapers to a slender tip.
The head is of a modified wedge with seven well-defined planes. These imaginary lines are traced from the flat skull between the ears, tip of the nose to the forehead (viewed in profile), from tip of nose to the chin, each side of the muzzle, and each side of its high and wide cheeks. There is therefore no nose break, nor pronounced whisker pinch. One interesting facial feature is in the upturned corners of the mouth that create an illusionary smile.
Atop the head is a pair of large ears that is wide-set and broad at the base. They taper into a slight point and the outer half of the ear is moderately furnished with tufts. Eyes of Russian Blue are large and almost round with a vaguely oriental slant. They are set wide apart and gleam in intense yellow during the kitten stage before the color changes into a stunning vivid green.
Its coat of color is probably its most outstanding features; one color, one pattern and one length. Russian Blue wears a double coated, short fur that reflects a steely grey color. The silver tipping of the guard hairs gives the cat a satiny luster. Such Russian Blue is common in most North American associations.
In Australia, crossbreeding with solid white domestic Shorthair from Russia has produced additional coat colors of solid white and black. Thus, in Australia this breed is known as Russian or Russian Shorthair. Various associations around the world such as the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), Australian Cat Federation (ACF) and the New Zealand Cat Fancy (NZCF) have granted recognition to this breed.
Personality and temperament
Russian Blue is a placid and well-behaved cat with a stately stance. It does not demand for attention and does not display its trust and affections readily. This breed takes time to develop a relationship. However, once you have won over the heart of the Russian Blue, you become its sun and moon. The Russian Blue will become an ever-present companion that is devoted, constant and unobtrusive. This breed has its reservations towards strangers. Fanciers said this is a sign of their high intelligence.
However, around friends, the Russian Blue would know how to enjoy a good play time and watching it play or joining in the fun can be a great joy. Interactive toys such as those flying feathery ones are among its favorites. The Russian Blue remains playful throughout most part of its life and it knows how to entertain itself even when alone.
Athletic in nature, it has the tendency to look for high perches to climb. Being highly astute has also made it relatively easy to train. Manipulating with doors, drawers and buttons is also a display of its intelligence. This cat does not usually welcome changes and prefers a consistent and serene environment. While it can adapt to children and other family pets, time, patience and proper introduction will be needed.
Care and health issues
In general, Russian Blues are healthy cats that can live up to an average of 15 – 20 years. There are no known genetic health issues and those that might be of concern include common infectious feline diseases. It is still important to vaccinate the cat and to bring it for yearly health check up. Obtaining the cat with a written health guarantee from qualified breeders is also necessary to ensure that it has undergone all health tests.
Grooming the double coated, short fur is relatively effortless. Once weekly brushing will suffice to keep it healthy. Ear checks for infections, nail trimmings as well as frequent teeth brushing with vet-approved products should be incorporated into basic grooming care.
The ideal home
The Russian Blue loves a quiet and consistent home. It can tolerate a short period of solitude and will adapt to indoor living. Its hardiness and thick furs have also made it suitable for cold weathers and the outdoors. However, outdoor spaces would need to be safe and escape-proof. Sufficient space would need to be given for it to exercise and explore. It should also be provided with interactive cat toys, cat trees, cat gym sets and scratch poles.
Unless children are taught to handle it well and other pets are introduced properly into the home, the Russian Blue might instead be well-suited in homes with mature cat-lovers. Even though it takes time to build trust with a Russian Blue, but once that is established, this breed will return double the love shown and coupled it with complete devotion.