Is Russian Cat Hypoallergenic?
It’s no surprise that the Siberian cat developed a hardy constitution after being bred for centuries in the harsh, cold Russian climate of Siberia.
Incredibly, Siberian cats have a dense, triple-layered fur coat that is so thick it’s water resistant. But, is the cat’s coat hypoallergenic? The question about whether or not these “dog-like,” affectionate cats are better for families with allergies has some scientists and pet owners embroiled in a hairy debate.
Siberian Cat History
While there is evidence that the Siberian cat has existed for hundreds of years in Russia, DNA testing now reveals that the cat’s lineage may date back to as early as 1000 A.D. and is the ancestral breed for all modern-day longhaired cats.
The breed’s full name is the Siberian forest cat and is closely related to the Norwegian forest cat. First mention of the Siberian took place in 1889 in “Our Cats and All About Them,” by Harrison Wier, the “father of the cat fancy.” The breed had appeared in one of the earliest cats shows in England during 1871 and became a fan favorite, albeit a hard breed to come by. It wasn’t until 1987 when the Siberian was registered in the St. Petersburg Kotofei cat club. The catteries in Russia had limited foundation stock and the number of Siberians that had been exported to Poland, Germany and Scandinavia was limited during the 1980s and early 90s.
Due to this limitation, the Siberian is rare, especially in the United States. The breed was only imported to America in 1990, by a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, breeder named Elizabeth Terrell. Three Siberian kittens were sent to her as part of a cultural exchange program between Terrell and Nellie Sachuk, a member of the Kotofei cat club.
Siberian Cat Fur
Although there is little scientific evidence that the Siberian cat’s fur is safe for those who suffer from allergies, many believe that the lower levels of Fel d1 — the primary allergen present in cats — is an indicator that the cat is hypoallergenic.
In 1999, scientists from Indoor Biotechnologies tested the Fel d1 levels in the fur of four cats: two Siberians, one Abyssinian and one mixed breed cat. The results concluded that the Siberian and Abyssinian fur coats had lower Fel d1 levels than the mixed breed cat — although, cautioned the scientists — those levels were still considered high as compared to the “exceptionally high” levels of the mixed breed.
Siberian Research, Inc., was founded in 2005 with a mission to study the breed’s allergen levels and genetic diseases. By March 2010, more than 300 fur and saliva samples had been submitted for testing. Analysis revealed that all samples produced some Fel d1, with the highest levels coming from Siberians with silver colored fur. Nearly half of the 300 samples were found to have lower levels of Fel d1 than other breeds. Of those tested, male and female Siberians had comparable allergen levels. Indoor Biotechnologies advises pet owners not to use their lab results to make a decision about whether or not to adopt a Siberian cat as the sample size is below statistical significance.
Siberian cats are known to be incredibly affectionate and playful, eager to play with children and accepting of other household pets.
Siberian Cat Appearance
The Siberian is a strong cat with a barreled chest and stocky build. Despite their size, the breed is known to be exceptionally agile and able to jump to high places.
The Russian climate helped the breed to develop a dense, triple-layered coat (guard hairs, awn hairs and down hairs) that is water resistant in order to survive the harsh conditions. As a result, Siberians do not shed their fur easily. The fur is textured but glossy, which decreases the occurrence of matting. A twice weekly combing is enough to keep your cat’s coat in good condition.
Siberian coat colors vary, including tabby, solid, tortoiseshell and colorpoint. The breed does not have any distinct or unique colors or patterns. Siberians molt twice a year on average: during the end of winter and the end of summer.
Siberian Cat Personality
Siberian cats are known to be incredibly affectionate and playful — eager to play with children and accepting of other household pets. This easy-going, social cat is often referred to as “dog like” due to its devotion and constant companionship. These cats do not thrive if left alone for long periods of time; they can become lonely and depressed.
Always looking for an activity, a Siberian will play fetch, walk of a leash if trained, hunt, leap from one high place to the next and play in water if given the opportunity. This breed retains its kitten-like personality throughout life.
One interesting trait: Siberians can mate for life and make excellent partners with the fathers helping to care for the kittens — as long as the mother welcomes him into the nest. This breed enjoys cuddling and prospers in the company of another Siberian — pairs tend to live longer.
Siberian Cat Health
While these may be common medical conditions, your Siberian cat will not necessarily develop any of those listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.
- Hereditary cancer* has been reported in one family line of white Siberian cats. More research needs to be done to determine if cancer is more common in other families of white Siberian cats than other coat colors.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a cardiac condition usually diagnosed between the ages of 2 to 6 years. This genetic condition has been known to affect golden Siberians more so than other colors in the breed.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a congenital kidney disease where cysts form in the kidneys and gradually increase in size as the cat ages. The disease can be managed by special diets that help reduce the workload of the kidneys; however, progression of the disorder may lead to terminal kidney failure.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.
*Siberian Research, Inc.
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