SIBERIAN AND NEVA MASQUERADE
The Siberian Forest Cat has existed in Russia since at least 1000AD. This natural breed is believed to have originated in the Siberian Taiga where domestic cats mated with wild cats. “Russian Longhairs” or “Russian Angoras” were used in the 19th Century to develop the Persian breed. Those Russian Longhairs were mostly large, tabby cats with shorter and heavier boned legs than the Turkish Angora and a massive coat and ruff.
The modern Siberian breed was developed after the Second World War from free-ranging cats from Leningrad (St Petersburg) and Moscow. The colourpointed variety appears to have originated during the 1960s through matings with colourpointed feral cats in the Neva River region in Leningrad.
Siberians were unknown outside of Russia until borders with Westen Europe began to open up. During the 1980s, Russia developed its own cat fancy and the Siberian was recognised by the Kotofei Cat Club in Moscow in 1987. Siberians and Neva Masquerades arrived in the USA during the 1990s. Siberians were recognised by FIFe in 1997.
Unlike the better known Maine Coon, the Siberian’s dense, triple coat is not shaggy. Its coat is more dense in the winter. Its body is shorter than either the Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat. The protective seasonal coat and no extremes of conformation indicate a cat that evolved to survive in a harsh climate. Females may be considerably smaller than males. Although they may take 4-5 years to mature physically, Siberians reach sexual maturity relatively early. The females often bond closely to only a single mate who may take an interest in rearing the kittens.
Almost all colours and patterns occur, including colourpointed varieties. Some registries recognise those colourpointed cats separately as Neva Masquerade (“masked cats from Neva”). In the fancy breed, brown and silver tabbies are the most popular colours. Brown tabby can have a golden appearance. The colours not accepted are chocolate, cinnamon, lilac, fawn and apricot. The Burmese pattern and mink patterns are also not permitted. Some western lines of “golden” Siberians may carry Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy due to inbreeding of limited foundation stock during the 1990s.
It is claimed that Siberians are hypoallergenic due to producing less of the Fel d1 allergen in their saliva than other breeds. Scientific studies between 1999 and 2010 found that only around half of the Siberians surveyed produced less Fel d1 allergen, while others produced high levels of the allergen. With such great variation between individuals, the breed cannot be considered allergen-free.