BREED PROFILE:
Getting to Know the Russian Blue

By Margaret Johnson
from The Cat Fanciers' Association Complete Cat Book

With its plush, silvery coat, vivid green eyes, and sweet smile, a Russian Blue is unlike any other blue cat. Many are first attracted to the elegance and beauty of the Russian Blue, but their loving and playful disposition is the major reason this breed has so many devoted followers. Conservative by nature, Russian Blues are thoughtful, intelligent cats that are very affectionate once they get to know you. When introduced properly, they get along well with children and other pets.

The Russian Blue is a good choice for anyone looking for a feline companion to become a good friend and an important member of their family. The most distinctive feature of the Russian Blue is its beautiful fur, which seems to be frosted with powdered sugar. The Russian Blue coat is soft, silky, and so plush that your fingers leave marks in it until you smooth them away. This thick, double coat is often compared to the fur of a seal or beaver. Water resistant and dense, its original purpose was to protect this demure cat from the harsh climate of northern Russian. This breed's coat is blue with silver tipping that gives the cat a luminous appearance. The lighter shades of blue are preferred as long as the silver tipping remains distinct.

Then you get to those mesmerizing emerald green eyes reminiscent of the forests of Russia. A Russian Blue's eyes are large, rounded and set wide apart. A shy cat, the Russian Blue prefers not to look you directly in the eye. When they choose to grace you with a thoughtful gaze, it is hard not to fall under their spell. At first they avoid looking at you, and then catch you unaware as they stare directly at you as if they could read into your soul.

The Russian Blue head is a study of planes and angles framed by large ears set rakishly towards the side of the head. Their muzzle and mouth form a sweet smiling expression. The upturned mouth makes this cat seem to be smiling at some secret thought or joke. The Russian Blue's broad, wedge-shaped head is often compared to the flared head of a cobra. The seven flat planes of the Russian Blue head differentiate it from the head of any other breed. The profile has four flat planes, one from the nose to the brow, one from the brow to the back of the head, one from the nose to the chin, and one from the chin to the neck. From the front, the Russian Blue has three more flat planes, one from ear to ear and one on each side of face from the muzzle to the base of the ear. The muzzle is smooth without a prominent nose pad or whisker break.

The Russian Blue is the dancer of the cat fancy with a lithe, muscular body. They are fine-boned with long legs and a long tail proportionate to the length of the body. Their dainty, rounded paws make them appear to be walking on tiptoes.

Like dancers, Russian Blues are very graceful and often strike a regal pose to let you know how truly elegant they really are.

A medium-sized cat, Russian Blue males tend to be a bit larger than the females. The Russian Blue's plush fur often makes it appear larger than it is. Russian Blue females tend to weigh between five to eight pounds while males tend to weigh between seven to ten pounds. They love their food so it is up to their owners to help them maintain their svelte figures.

Their Personality

Russian Blue

The breed is normally shy. Nevertheless, like all breeds, personalities vary from cat to cat. Their keen senses and cautious nature may be a throwback to a time when the Russian Blue had to fend for itself and fight for survival. While most Russian Blues are wary around strangers, some are very outgoing and friendly and do not seem to know what the word stranger means. Like making a new friend, it usually takes a little effort and time to win its trust and love. Once won over, you have a loyal and very affectionate friend. These cats become very attached to their owners. They like a small circle of close friends so they are not inclined to bond with everyone who enters your house. Even so, some Russian Blues seem able to sense those that do not like cats and can become quite a pest trying to win them over.

Once a Russian Blue settles in, you soon discover what a charming, entertaining creature you have invited into your home. Your Russian Blue will follow you from room to room just to be with you. Their favorite place is on your lap or shoulder. They show their love for you by rubbing against your head and licking your face. Thoughtful creatures, these cats are sensitive to their surroundings. They will clown around in an attempt to lighten your mood or quiet a crying child.

A Russian Blue sits with you when you are sick, helps you read your paper, and is always ready to play.

Although Russians are careful when trying something for the first time, they become quite stubborn when they decide they want to do something. Intelligent, Russians never forget. They remember where you put the feather or the food and will often open the cupboard or drawer to get the object of their desire. They love to play and will train you to throw toys that they can retrieve. Russians are great jumpers and go crazy for feathers and other toys.

Maintenance

They are clean cats that require little grooming. At home, your Russian Blue will require few baths. Grooming will consist primarily of combing to prevent shedding, clipping nails, and keeping ears and eyes clean. The show ring will require more effort to present your Russian Blue at its best. Basic home grooming for nails, ears, and eyes are mandatory for showing.

In addition, a bath will help your Russian Blue be more competitive. Russian Blue coats vary just as human hair does so it may take a few experiments to determine the best shampoo and conditioner. Shampoos for blue or white cats, texturizing shampoos, and body shampoos are among those to try to enhance the fullness and color of your Russian Blue. A light conditioner or vinegar rinse is a good finish to a Russian Blue bath. Bathing should be part of your Russian Blue's show training. The bath should consist of thoroughly wetting the coat, one or two lathers, thorough rinsing, conditioner, and a final rinse. If your Russian Blue will tolerate blow-drying, blow the hair against the fur to enhance the fullness of the coat. At the show, various coat-conditioning sprays and combing can help put the final touches on your cat.

Patience should be the rule when introducing a new Russian Blue to your household. Russians like to take things slowly. A good start is to select a single room or area of your home to house your new Russian Blue for the first few days or weeks. This will allow you and your new cat to get used to each other before he gets too busy exploring his new home. A bedroom is a good choice for several reasons. First, your bedroom is full of your signature smell. Cats use their sense of smell to recognize everything around them. Next, sleeping people present a new cat with an easy, non-threatening way to get to know you. Your new Russian Blue can tiptoe around the bed and check you out while you are asleep. Third,

Russian Blues love to sleep with their people. After thoroughly investigating their new human, most Russians will find a good spot on your bed and cuddle up for a catnap. If a bedroom is not a good choice for you, any room where you can spend some quality time with your new cat will do. Russian Blues love to play so sitting on the floor with a toy is a good icebreaker. Spend as much time with your new Russian Blue as possible even if it is just reading or watching TV. Russian Blues love to be combed so combing your cat during TV time is a great way to bond.

The time it takes a Russian Blue to become acclimated to a new environment will vary from cat to cat. A good rule is that once the cat responds to your call, he is probably ready to begin his investigation of rest of your home. Short, supervised visits to new areas of your home are the best approach. He will want to explore every nook and cranny of the house. Russian Blues love high and small places so do not be surprised when you find them in the most unlikely spots.

They have been known to jump upon a doorjamb or to the top of a cupboard to find the perfect vantage point to keep an eye on everything. Russians also can fit themselves into the smallest places so don't rule out under the dresser or behind the stereo when your cat is playing hide and seek with you.

Russian Blue females make very good mothers. Even young females that have never had kittens often take to baby-sitting and grooming their companions. Normally quiet, Russian Blue females are often very noisy when they are in season.

Males can also be quite talkative when they are feeling amorous.

The average size of a Russian Blue litter is three kittens. Kittens are usually between two to three ounces when born. Like most kittens, their eyes open between ten and fifteen days. Kittens start out with blue eyes that often change to khaki or gold before turning to green. Eye color development varies but the eyes should be showing some green by four months of age with the adult eye color usually setting in prior to one year. They often display faint tabby markings in their fur that usually disappear when they get their adult coat. Russian Blue kittens start being very mobile around three weeks. They start eating on their own between three to four weeks of age. They can be quite enthusiastic when they first start eating and are sometimes found standing in the middle of the food dish acting like its their last meal.

Kittens are usually weaned between four to six weeks. About the time of weaning, they become quite interested in exploring their world. This discovery period can last until they are three to four months old. During this phase, they are more interested in their surroundings than in their human friends. Around four months, Russian Blue kittens start associating their human companions with some of the finer things in life like food, fun, and love.

Due to their shy disposition, it is imperative to start show training for a Russian Blue as early as possible if that is where your interests lie. As soon as the kitten starts moving around, show handling should begin. Show handling consists of kitten games such as 'show stretch', 'helicopter', and 'airplane'. Show Stretch includes getting the kitten used to being handled and stretched, as they would be in a judging ring. Helicopter is an up and down movement to get kittens used to being off the floor. Airplane is a more energetic version of helicopter to work with the kittens, as they get a little older. In addition to show handling, Russian Blue kittens should be exposed to as much noise and activity as possible to get them used to the type of atmosphere you find at a show hall. Playing the radio on a rock station is a good way to help them get acclimated to noises.

At cat shows, Russian Blues prefer gentle, firm handling. They never forget, so make sure you make their show experience as enjoyable as possible. A special food treat, extra playtime, and extra attention are often all it takes for your Russian Blue to take pleasure in showing. It is also very important for the owner to remain calm. Russian Blues are very aware of your feelings so will pick up on it if you are nervous or frightened. They may also prefer a cage of their own.

Russian Blues who are great friends at home often become quite indignant and blame each other for being at the show. Once home, they act like they missed each other.

Breed History

The Russian Blue is a natural breed believed to have originated from the Archangel Isles in Northern Russia. While little written history on this breed is available, many stories and legends surround them. Legends about this dainty cat have them living in the wild, riding with the Cossacks, and sleeping with royalty. Early stories about the Russian Blue place them in the wild and hunted for their luxurious fur for the lining of hats and muffs. Another has this reserved cat riding the shoulders of their Cossack masters into battle. The Russian Blue is also rumored to be a favorite cat of royalty where they were found at court with several Russian Czars and two English Queens. In Russian folklore, the Russian Blue was also thought to have a healing influence and even bring good luck.

Sailors were believed to have brought the first Russian Blues to England and Northern Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1875 at a cat show at the Crystal Palace in England, a Russian Blue was shown as an Archangel Cat. Early Russian Blues were often called the Archangel Cat, Maltese, or Foreign Blue and competed in a class with all other blue cats. The diary of Mrs. Carew-Cox of England describes her work breeding several blue cats that were imported from Russia in the 1890's. Her diary even indicates how she bought one of her first Russian Blues with a leg of mutton. It was not until 1912 that the Russian Blue was given a class of its own. From the early twentieth century through World War II, English and Scandinavian breeders worked to develop the bloodlines from which our modern Russian Blues are descended.

Although the first Russian Blues were imported to the United States in the early 1900s, little is known about them. The real story of the Russian Blue in the United States begins after World War II when American breeders began importing Russian Blues from Europe. CFA registry of the Russian Blue began in 1949. For several years, two distinctive types of Russian Blues were being shown based on the pale, plush coats of the English bloodlines and the green-eyed, stylish heads of the Scandinavian bloodlines. During the 1960's, American breeders began to combine the English and Scandinavian bloodlines to produce the Russian Blues we know today. As breeders combined these bloodlines and worked to improve the temperament of this breed, the Russian Blue became more popular and is now a favorite at home and at shows.

Whether it is the luxurious coat, flashing green eyes, sweet smile, or affectionate disposition, the Russian Blue continues to attract many dedicated breeders as well as cat owners. They provide their owners with a unique combination of elegance, intelligence, playfulness, and friendship. They are always in charge of the relationship, but are very kind and gentle about having the upper hand. Once a Russian Blue has owned you no other breed of cat will do.

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