Cats in Russia - a historic account
The first records of cats being present in Russia date the 7th century. At that time, they were owned only by the noble class and considered as a luxurious commodity. There were even high fees to pay for stealing a cat. Then, the church took the cat under its protection. For instance, in the city Vladimir, the old churches have special cat entrances into the building. Still today, the cat is the only house animal which is allowed to enter the Orthodox Church.
Only in the 15th century the cat became more widespread in the country and commoners were allowed to have cats at home. Since then, cats populated every Russian village and the country fairy tales. In such stories cats are represented as clever and mighty creatures who bring good luck to their owners. They were believed to send away bad spirits by "convincing" them to leave. Besides being great mouse and rats hunters, cats were considered a symbol of a home comfort and peace, there is even the saying "there is no house without a cat as there is no courtyard without a dog. A cat was the owner of a house and as such she was the first one to enter into a new house, for it to be warm and plentiful. In other Russian folklore stories, it was believed that the cat was working for the Home Spirit "Domovoj" (benign magic creature which keeps and protects the home), and therefore the cats were chosen so that their fur colour would match the owner's hair. In addition, cats were considered closer to the female essence and a saying stated that "the man who loves his cat will also loves his future wife".
The Russian tsars also loved cats. Aleksey Mikhailovich had a special favourite cat which was depicted by a Dutch artist in 1661 (see the picture above). His son, Peter the Great made a law that every storage building should have cats to prevent mice and rats incursions. Elizaveta, Peter’s daughter, ordered 300 cats with carers from Kazan, to protect her palace from the rodents.
Since the 15th century the cats have spread through the European and Asian part of Russia. The ones which were brought to the east, by traders and people in search of territory, came in contact with other Asian and wild cats and mixed freely. These cats gave rise to the aboriginal Siberian cat.
History of the Siberian Cat Breed
The Siberian cats are a Russian "aboriginal" breed, which originated mainly due to natural selection. Because of the cold environment where these felines lived, genes for strength, health, intelligence and care for their litters were naturally selected and are now transmitted to the Siberian cat. This is why Siberian cats are resistant to many diseases and easy to take care of.
Officially, Siberians are a very young cat breed. Breeding for their exterior started in Moscow and St. Petersburg only in 1986. However, soon after, in 1990, Siberians were registered as an official cat breed and their standards specified. Nowadays Siberians are recognised by all the main feline associations (WCF, TICA, FIFe and CFA).