|Peg Johnson's computer screen went dark again
for the third time in an hour. She peeked beneath her desk to
discover the blink of emerald eyes and the shimmer of a silvery coat as
her kitten, Amethyst, stepped on the red, glowing button on the power
strip to turn it off and on.
"Russian Blues are intelligent. They don't
demand a lot of space or attention and amuse themselves until you're
ready to play," she says. Johnson, who is former
Russian Blue Breed Secretary for the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) and
owner of Heartbeeps cattery in Clarkston, GA., says that intelligence
often is interpreted as shyness. But don't be fooled.
Perhaps your Russian Blue is just waiting until he has figured out how
best to win your heart.
A QUIET INTELLIGENCE
Russian Blues often surprise their owners with
their quick and quiet intelligence. Artie, a 1-ear-old neutered
male, astonished his owner, Andrea Thompson, the first time she walked
in her bathroom to find him using the facilities.
"He toilet-trained himself," says Thompson,
who operates Rubanthom Cattery in Thomson, Ga. "These are
incredibly intelligent cats. They use their paws to open doors and
cabinets. They're fast and sneaky, playful and mellow all at the
That curiosity and cleverness can make them
interesting and challenging companions.
"I liken them to living with a 2-year-old when
they are young. They have to know that 'no' means no.
They'll test you all the time to see if you're serious," says Ann'a
Zimmer, TICA Chairperson for the Russian Blue breed committee and owner
of Blumajik Cattery in Tulsa, Okla. "If you let them get away
with something just once, they take that as permission to get away with
Russians, for the most part, are considered a quiet
breed and have small sweet voices. Zimmer says her cat, Alija,
however, will chirp whenever shi passes by. As long as she gets an
answer back, she'll carry on an entire conversation with a wide range of
vocal tones and sounds.
Despite their chatter, Russian Blues are shy cats.
"It's more accurate to say they are cautious and
like to check things out before they jump in," Zimmer says.
While the breed is very adaptable, they prefer a
quiet, laid-back household.
| "I think Russian Blues are fairly
wary of anything that makes a lot of noise. They tend to startle
easily," says Annette Wilson, who is a CFA all-breed judge, member
of the CFA Russian Blue Breed Council and Russian Blue breeder at
Wynterwynd cattery since 1976. "They are extremely easy to
live with, quiet and affectionate in a very subtle way. They are
not pushy cats, but are always as affectionate as you want them to
That includes greeting you at the door at the end of
"If you've been gone during the day, they'll
certainly let you know they're glad you're home. They exhibit a
real delight in their people. But they are not an absolutely,
all-the-time, clingy type of cat. The Russian Blue is very astute
about when to sit beside you rather than you," says Diana
Doernberg, a CFA all-breed judge, member of the CFA Board of Directors
and one of the long-time breeders of the Russian Blue in the United
States whose Velva Cattery is in Akron, Ohio.
Russian Blues are a minority breed in the cat
fancy, ranked approximately 17th in registrations by the CFA, according
to Doernberg. "The popularity of the breed is limited more by
the small number of cats bred than by folks liking the breed. The
average litter size is only three kittens. We fare well in
competition and are very popular with the judges," Johnson
With their origins shrouded in mystery, the elegant,
regal Russian Blue is the breed legends are made of. Some say they
were the favored cats of the Russian czars, and that Queen Victoria had
two as pets. There are even stories of them riding into battle on
the shoulders of Cossack militia. They most probably arrived in
England with Russian sailors from the Archangel Isles.
The breed mad its first appearance in a cat show at
the Crystal Palace in England in 1875 as the Archangel Cat, competing in
a class with other all blue cats. In 1912, it attained recognition
as a separate breed and was accepted by the CFA in 1947.
In 1975, Russian breeders in Australia introduced
a domestic white cat from Siberia into the breed, creating colored
Russians in white, black, and tabby. They believe they have
re-created the original Russian spectrum of colors.
Ruth Nesenkar, a breeder since 1974 and owner of
Pau-nes and Taiga catteries in Silercity, N.C., explains: "To
achieve a blue cat in the first place, you must have a black cat and a Maltese
gene which effects the color to produce the blue." She also
points out that the white color gene masks all the other colors
|There is some debate in the cat fancy about
these new colors. Breeders in the United States and Europe cling
to the true-blue-or-nothing coloring of the breed, while cat fancier
associations in Australia have recognized the broader palette. The
structure of the Australian Russian cat is somewhat different from that
in the United States.
"If I weren't serious about maintaining the
breed identity, which for the Russian Blue includes a blue, short coat,
then I'd have to question my purpose for breeding cats," Wilson
says. "The Russian Blue as we know it has been around for a
very long time. There are no health reasons or show reasons to go
outside the breed guidelines."
MONA LISA SMILES
Russians are medium-sized, elegant cats with long
legs and a solidly muscled body.
"They are like ballerinas: lithe, muscular
and elegant. They act like prima donnas as well. They seem
to know they are more special than other cats," Johnson says.
Their triangular heats resemble a cobra, rather flat
with a two-plane profile: a flat forehead meets a straight nose at
eye level. Their ears are translucent and rather large and wide a
And, of course, what would a Russian Blue be without
a blue coat? An even-colored blue, its lustrous looks come from
guard hairs that are tipped in silver.
Because of limited breeding, Russian Blue kittens
that are sold as pets are often very close to show quality, Doernberg
says. "Sometimes you'll find a Russian Blue that has less tipping,
although it might otherwise be a show quality kitten," she
says. "Russian Blue breeders think the best life for a cat is
as a loved family member and therefore, we sell the majority of our cats
to pet homes."
According to the CFA show standard, features that
would disqualify a kitten from show status include a kinked or abnormal
tail, a white locket of hair, a long coat or any color other than blue.
Overall, Russian Blues are easy to care for.
"They are wash-and-wear kitties that require very little
grooming," Johnson says. "Very infrequently they may
require a bath. Regular combing prevents them from shedding."
"The most distinguishing features are their
vivid green eyes and little Mona-Lisa-like smile. They look like kitties
with a secret; as though they've gotten into something they shouldn't
have," Johnson says.
Russian Blues have a secretive smile for a
reason. They are just as curious about you as you are about
them. "They may take time to get to know," Johnson
says, "but if you take that time to win them over, they'll become a