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The Russian Blue is one of the earliest recognised breeds of pedigree cat in the UK, and was exhibited at the first cat show held at Crystal Palace in 1871. The Russian Blues competed in a class with blue cats of all breeds, and it wasn't until 1912 that they got their own class. Unusually for a cat of 'foreign' type, they have quite a reserved personality with people they don't know, but are loyal and trusted companions to their owners. They are a gentle breed and make good pets, but do not have the loud, often harsh, voice of many of the other Foreign and Oriental breeds, nor are they quite so active even though are highly intelligent. The Russian Blue is a very dignified cat and would certainly never have a 'mad half hour', so beloved of the Siamese, Orientals and Burmese! It is often believed that people with moderate allergies to cats can cope better with a Russian Blue for a couple of reasons - they are thought to produce less glyco protein (a source of cat allergies) than other breeds, and their thick coats may also trap some of the allergens closer to the skin. Although the Russian Blue has been used on a very limited basis to develop other breeds in the UK (such as the Havana, one of the Oriental breeds) this was fundamentally to improve coat texture. Generally speaking, Russian Blues are not currently involved in breeding programmes outside of the Russian shorthair group, which itself has developed in recent years to include a Russian Black and Russian White, both currently only at Preliminary status in the UK. The new colours conform to the general Russian Blue type, the whites being pure white with pink nose leather and paw pads, and the black is most striking with a jet-black coat and black nose leather and paw pads.
It is thought that the modern Russian Blue descends from the ships' cats brought from the Russian port of Archangel to Britain and Northern Europe in the early 1860s, when they were often known as Archangel Cats. Very similar-looking cats may be found in the colder regions of Russia today, and such blue cats are considered lucky in Russia, with engravings and pictures given to new brides. Russian Blues are even mentioned in an 1893 book, Our Cats, by Harrison Weir (the founder of the British cat fancy), although from the Russian Revolution in 1917 until 1948 they were called Foreign Blues, when they became known as Russian Blues. Today's Russian Blues contain both British Blues and Blue Point Siamese way back in their pedigrees, at the point when the breed had almost died out in the 1950s, and there were then attempts by Scandinavian and British breeders to revive it by crossbreeding, although the Siamese traits have now been largely bred out and nowadays the outcross is regarded as having been detrimental to the breed.
The Russian Blue is distinguishable from other pure blue cats not only by its long and graceful body, but also by its double coat of medium blue with a soft, downy undercoat and top distinctive silvery sheen. The coat is blue right down to the roots, without any tabby or ghost markings although these are sometimes seen in kittens, and is short, thick and very fine with a silky feel. Paw pads and nose leather are also blue. The other distinguishing characteristics of this very gentle breed of cat are pronounced whisker pads, and the large, quite pointed ears set close together and held high up on the head, both giving a rather solemn expression. The eyes are a bright vivid green, set rather wide apart, and are almond-shaped, although the early Russian Blues had yellow or orange eyes right up until 1933.
This highly intelligent breed tends to be very affectionate towards their owners, but not as extrovert and demanding as many other Foreign and Oriental breeds. Some like being picked up and made a fuss of, but mostly they show their love to their nearest and dearest on their own terms. They are quietly conversational with their owners, but do not insist on having a loud opinion on everything. Because Russian Blues have such tranquil temperaments, they are ideally suited for more elderly people as they do not rush about, as well as for children as they will tolerate slightly clumsy handling by means of wriggling out of small restraining arms rather than biting or scratching. They like company and do not like being left alone for long periods of time - at least one more cat or a small dog will make ideal companions if you tend to be out a lot. And of course, they enjoy having plenty of toys to play with.
The Russian Blue is not known to have any breed-specific health problems and can often live to the age of 15 years. Pets from reputable breeders should be strong and healthy. They need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
This breed will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. Eyes and ears should be checked and kept clean if necessary by use of a clean damp cloth. They have very short glossy coats, which need little grooming, and can normally be kept free of loose hairs simply by stroking. Some breeders say that the less the cat is brushed, the more radiant the coat becomes. Russian Blues can live very happily indoors without going outside, so long as they have a scratching post and plenty of toys to occupy them.