The sparkling, silvery blue coat and brilliant green eyes of the Russian Blue draw immediate attention to this shorthaired breed. But it’s the intelligent and playful disposition that makes the Russian Blue a perfect pet for most households.
As with so many cat breeds, little is known of the Russian Blue’s origins. He probably does come from Russia—his thick coat is surely that of a cat from colder climes—and he is considered a natural breed, meaning Matushka Nature created him, not the handiwork of humans. The Russian Blue’s development as a breed, however, took place primarily in Britain and Scandinavia, starting in the late nineteenth century, when showing and breeding cats became a popular activity.
The Russian Blue made his first appearance on the world stage of the cat fancy at an exhibit of cats held at London’s Crystal Palace in 1875. Labeled an Archangel Cat, because he was said to be from the Russian island of Archangel, he competed against other blue cats of varying types. A newspaper report of the show described the Russian Blue as “very handsome” and “particularly furry,” adding “They resemble mostly the common wild grey rabbit.” Other early names by which the breed was known were Maltese and Foreign Blue.
A British cat fancier named Mrs. Carew-Cox began importing the cats in 1890 and bred and showed them through the turn of the century. She described them as having short, silvery fur, large ears, wide-set eyes and lean faces, with sweet, intelligent personalities—in short, much the same as the Russian Blue of today. In 1912, the cats were well enough established that they could be shown in a class of their own instead of being lumped together with other blue cats.
The Russian Blue has bright green eyes, pinkish lavender or mauve paws, two layers of short thick fur, and a blue-grey coat. The color is a bluish-gray that is the dilute expression of the black gene. However, as dilute genes are recessive (“d”) and each parent will have a set of two recessive genes (“dd”) two Russian Blues will always produce a blue cat. The coat is known as a “double coat,” with the undercoat being soft, downy, and equal in length to the guard hairs, which are an even blue with silver tips. The tail, however, may have a few very dull, almost unnoticeable stripes. Only Russian Blues and the French Chartreux have this type of coat, which is described as thick and soft to the touch. The silver tips give the coat a shimmering appearance. Its eyes are almost always a dark and vivid green. Any white patches of fur or yellow eyes in adulthood are seen as flaws in show cats.
The Russian Blue is an intelligent, curious, and tranquil animal. They are known for their friendliness, but are generally shy with strangers. They have been known to play fetch, and are sensitive to human emotions. They enjoy playing with a variety of toys and develop loyal bonds to their loved ones. They can be quiet, only meowing occasionally, but can also be very talkative. They are clean animals that are normally reserved around strangers, unless they are brought up in an active household. Many Russian Blues have been trained to do tricks. Russian Blues can also be fierce hunters, often catching rodents, birds, rabbits, and small reptiles.
Russian Blues have a tolerant nature toward children who treat them kindly and respectfully. They will even put up with the clumsy pats given by toddlers, as if they recognize that no harm is meant, and if necessary they will walk away or climb out of reach to escape being bonked on the head. That said, the patient and gentle Russian Blue should always be protected from rough treatment, so always supervise very young children when they want to pet the cat.
The Russian Blue is also accepting of other animals, including dogs, as long as they aren’t chased or menaced by them. Introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.