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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
If you are looking for a gentle, quiet, intelligent cat, you may have found your match. It’s easy to see the appeal of the Russian Blue. His long, graceful, slim body is topped by a short, plush double coat tipped with silver. Round green eyes gaze out from his triangular head. He also comes in a longhaired variety known as the Nebelung, which means “creature of the mist.”
The Russian Blue was once known as the Archangel Cat, not for his angelic temperament but because he originated in the Russian port city of Archangel. Russian folklore credits him with healing abilities and bringing good luck.
The Russian Blue and the Nebelung share the same affectionate but reserved temperament and undemanding nature. That doesn’t mean they can get by without any attention, but they won’t mind if you have to go off to work to earn money for cat food and toys. They do like consistency, however. Forget to feed your Russian Blue his dinner on time or make too many changes in his schedule and you are sure to receive complaints.
Don’t get a Russian Blue if you want a cat who will follow you from room to room or greet guests with enthusiasm. The Russian Blue can be affectionate but is not inclined to be clingy toward family members, and guests will see only a flash of tail as he exits the room upon their entry. He does best with older children who won’t rush at him and scare him. If he is raised with young children or cat-friendly dogs, however, he can get along well with them.
The Russian Blue enjoys playing with feather toys. Sometimes he will retrieve, but his favorite game is to teach his people to retrieve. He has a quick brain and is capable of figuring out how to get into cabinets or open doors. Like most cats, the Russian Blue loves to jump and climb. You will often find him resting in a sunny window. He weighs 5 to 11 pounds.
It’s essential to purchase your Russian Blue from a breeder who gives kittens plenty of handling from day one. A Russian Blue kitten may not warm up to you right away, but he should appear comfortable with handling by the breeder. If he shies away from her, look elsewhere.
The breed is well suited to any home with people who will love him and give his gorgeous coat a weekly combing. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats, and attacks from other animals. He can live 13 years or longer.
Born just south of the Arctic Circle in the Russian port city of Archangel, the Russian Blue was an intrepid explorer who legend says rode with Cossacks and frequently made his way to other climes as a ship’s cat. But don’t think of him as strictly working class. His lavish coat and jewel-green eyes made him attractive to the wealthy and noble, and he is said to have been a pet of Russian czars and that imperial cat lover Queen Victoria, who may have encountered the breed when one — described as an Archangel cat — was shown at a cat show at the Crystal Palace in 1875. Grouped together at first with other blue cats, they were given their own classification in 1912, going by the name Foreign Blue or sometimes Maltese.
Although he was capable of surviving arctic winters, two world wars nearly did in the Russian Blue. Few were left after World War II, and breeders were reduced to outcrossing them to cats with similar looks, such as blue British Shorthairs and blue-point Siamese.
Russian Blues were first imported to North America in the early 20th century, but serious breeding programs were not developed until midcentury, when cats from England and Scandinavia were brought in. Today all cat registries recognize the Russian Blue.
This is a reserved cat, albeit one with a sweet, affectionate disposition. Once he is comfortable with you, he can be a playful, loving companion. Expect him to want to sleep with you, help you while you work at the computer or prepare meals (as a taster), or work his healing magic if you are feeling under the weather. Being combed while you watch TV is one of his greatest pleasures.
Don’t get a Russian Blue if you want a cat who will greet guests with enthusiasm. The Russian Blue is affectionate but not clingy toward family members, and guests will see only a flash of tail as he exits the room upon their entry, although he may interact with them later, after he has determined that they are acceptable company for an aristocratic cat such as himself.
He does best with older children who won’t rush at him and scare him. If he is raised with young children or cat-friendly dogs, however, he can get along well with them.
The Russian Blue enjoys playing with feather toys. Sometimes he will play fetch, but his favorite game is to teach his people to retrieve. He has a quick brain and is capable of figuring out how to get into cabinets or open doors. If you can’t find him, look in the smallest, most unlikely space you can imagine, even if you think it’s impossible for him to fit. Like most cats, the Russian Blue loves to jump and climb. You will often find him reclining in a sunny window or striking an elegant pose in the highest spot he can reach.
These cats are careful observers of everything around them. They never rush into a situation or meeting with people but prefer to ponder their options first. That habit is one of the reasons for their reputation of being shy or aloof. It’s also how they learn to open the closet door to pull out their favorite feather toy or break into the treat container or cat food bag. It’s rare that a Russian Blue will look you in the eye, at least not until he gets to know you well, but you might catch him staring at you in an effort to learn all he can about your habits.
Russian Blues have quiet voices and are not especially vocal, but they will respond if you talk to them and can learn the meanings of a number of words. Challenge their intelligence by teaching tricks and providing puzzle toys that will reward them with kibble or treats when they learn to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in her home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to be sure they have nice temperaments. A Russian Blue who has been socialized from an early age and whose socialization continues throughout his life is more likely to enjoy interacting with people, going to shows, and traveling.
Whether you have acquired a kitten or adopted an adult, give a Russian Blue plenty of time and space to adjust to his new home.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Russian Blues are generally pretty healthy, but problems reported in the breed include bladder stones. It is always wise to purchase your kitten from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Russian Blue at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
The thick Russian Blue coat is easy to groom with brushing or combing once or twice a week. Brush or comb the longhaired Nebelung twice a week. You’ll need to brush both types more often in the spring when they shed their winter coats.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed and brush the teeth with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
You want your Russian Blue to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality, and looks of the Russian Blue, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Cat Fanciers Association, Cats Center Stage, the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and The International Cat Association.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to become available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Russian Blue might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
The Russian Blue is an uncommon breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes a pedigreed cat ends up at a shelter after losing his home to an owner’s death, divorce, or change in economic situation.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Russian Blue in your area in no time. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (age or gender preference, for example) or very general (all the Russian Blues available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with pet pros in your area about your desire for a Russian Blue. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Russian Blues love all Russian Blues. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. Start with the Fanciers Breeder Referral List. You can also search online for other Russian Blue rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Russian Blue, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Russian Blue to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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