With a fluffy tail, a unique triple coat, and a prominent neck ruff, it’s easy to imagine the Siberian cat braving winter in his homeland. But today, the National Cat of Russia makes a loving, affectionate pet in all kinds of homes.
The friendly Siberian is a naturally occurring cat breed that’s slow to mature, not reaching his full-grown size of 12-15 pounds (or more!) until around his fifth birthday. These large cats often like to cuddle, and they can be wonderful lap cats (although, of course, every cat has his own personality and preferences). Generally speaking, Siberian cats are bright, athletic, and get along well with two- and four-legged family members alike.
Caring for a Siberian Cat
Siberians are affectionate, clever cats who enjoy a balance of play, training, and rewards, says Maria Bunina of Musrafy Cattery near London. She imported her first Siberians from Russia in 2003, and has been involved in promoting the breed in the U.K. and worldwide ever since. She considers Siberians to be quite well-balanced: “They’re not too needy, but not too independent either.”
The Siberian’s stunning coat consists of three types of hair: guard hair, awn hair, and undercoat. The coat comes in a wide variety of colors—and while this might be a draw for many would-be pet parents, it also has drawbacks. Their fur requires regular grooming, but perhaps not as much as you’d assume. Some Siberian cats (especially those with softer, fluffier coats) are more prone to matting than others. But, generally, a weekly combing will do the trick, with a little extra effort during their spring and fall shedding seasons—at which point, Bunina says, “You really cannot overgroom them.”
Siberian Health Issues
Siberians are generally very healthy cats with a long lifespan of 10-18 years. But, while the breed is not tied to any specific hereditary health issues, Bruce Kornreich, DVM, Ph.D., director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, says it’s important to pay attention to what reputable Siberian cat breeders say they see frequently.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
The role of genetics in this condition hasn’t been definitively determined, but certain cat breeds tend to be more prone to developing HCM.
Cats with HCM may have symptoms that include loss of appetite, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. Not all cats with HCM are symptomatic. Often, this condition is diagnosed when your cat’s only sign of disease is a heart murmur heard by your vet during an exam.
Medications can help treat HCM, and depending on your cat’s symptoms, your vet might recommend keeping him in a low-stress, quiet environment and switching to a low-sodium diet.
With their bold, adventurous nature and a love for climbing high, Siberian cats tend to be more injury-prone than other purebred cats, according to one Swedish study.
Kornreich recommends that folks with Siberians take special care to secure shelves and furniture their cats may want to jump or climb on. For this reason, pet insurance may be a wise choice with this breed. “But,” he adds, “I think pet insurance is probably something that all cat parents ought to be considering.”
Providing your Siberian with a cat tree and other pet-friendly climbing toys can reduce the risk of injuring themselves in your home.
“Siberians are supposed to have a broad chest and barrel-shaped body; these are not slim cats,” Bunina says. And while that broad build can come with a little extra fat, obesity increases your cat’s risk for diabetes, arthritis, and other health conditions.
If your Siberian is overweight, address the problem by reducing his portions or changing his diet. For safety, all weight loss regimes must be approved by your veterinarian.
Dental health is an issue for all cats, including Siberians. Overall, Kornreich recommends pet parents brush their cat’s teeth regularly using a toothpaste specifically approved for felines, as human toothpaste can be toxic to kitties. Treats and dry kibble can help with tartar, but the best thing you can do is follow a regular tooth-brushing routine and have your cat’s teeth cleaned once a year by a veterinarian.
What To Feed a Siberian Cat
Choosing a commercially available cat food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) will ensure your Siberian gets the nutrition he needs. A food designed to promote healthy bones and slow growth for larger cat breeds may be a good option, Bunina says.
Because this breed is so slow to develop, you may be able to extend the length of time you keep them on kitten food. But watch their weight; kitten food is high in calories.
How To Feed a Siberian
Feeding your Siberian a measured amount of life stage-appropriate food (kitten, adult, or senior) a couple of times a day is best. Because these cats are highly intelligent and somewhat prone to obesity, giving them at least part of their food in a food puzzle may be a great way to engage their mind and give them a chance to “hunt” for their food like their ancestors did.
Use a bowl large enough to fit their whiskers, and talk to your vet about whether a mix of wet food and dry food might help your Siberian stay properly hydrated. Some cats love drinking from fountains, too, although this is not a guarantee that your cat will drink more water.
How Much Should You Feed a Siberian?
Kornreich says the average cat should get about 250 calories per day. However, because the Siberian cat is larger than your average cat, use the label on your cat’s food as a starting point for serving sizes.
From there, he says, work with your veterinarian to better understand your cat’s body condition score, how your cat’s activity level and lifestyle impact his caloric needs, and whether you need to make adjustments.
And, Kornreich adds, “Be very careful about treats. They shouldn’t comprise more than 10% of a cat’s total caloric intake per day. Sometimes people don’t keep track of treats, and all of a sudden their cat is putting on weight and they don’t know why.”
Nutritional Tips for Siberian Cats
As long as your Siberian is eating a well-balanced diet, he shouldn’t need supplements unless recommended by your veterinarian.
Behavior and Training Tips for Siberian Cats
Siberian Personality and Temperament
Gentle, adaptable, and incredibly smart, the Siberian is a fun cat to have around—but they can have vastly different personalities, Bunina says. “Some are just fluffy cats who want to be with their people,” she says, “and some are hunters.”
Siberian kittens are always playful, she says, especially if you have multiple kittens around. “They get up early and have the zoomies, then get the crazy zoomies again before bed,” she says.
Siberian Cat Behavior
Some Siberians are prone to chirping, Bunina says, but this isn’t typically a loud cat, especially if they’re properly socialized as kittens.
She stresses the importance of giving your new Siberian kitten the love and support he needs when you bring him home. This is a naturally affectionate and adventurous cat who will appreciate opportunities to explore his home and love on his people. He generally doesn’t enjoy being left alone for long periods of time, so stay alert for signs of separation anxiety.
Siberian Cat Training
Siberians are clever kitties that can be a real joy to train, especially if you’re patient, Bunina says. It’s not uncommon to see them walking on leash with a harness.
They typically have no trouble learning their name, finding their litter box (just make sure it’s large enough!), or finding food. The most challenging aspect of training them may be trying to keep them from high spaces.
Fun Activities for Siberians
Climbing up high
Running on a wheel
Playing with wand toys
Walking on leash
Exploring or sunning on an enclosed catio
Siberian Cat Grooming Guide
The Siberian’s water-resistant triple coat is not maintenance-free, requiring grooming sessions at least once a week. These cats shed (or molt) every spring and fall, during which time you’ll need to put more into grooming to get that undercoat off them.
Bunina recommends starting a regular grooming routine when your Siberian is a kitten, even though their coat will not require it at this point. “Make it a weekly habit,” she says. “Kittens find it easy. There’s no hair-pulling; it’s just having a good time, and it’s bonding. And that gets you ready for the big molt.”
Bathing a Siberian cat isn’t typically necessary, and there are no special skin-care requirements for this breed.
Though grooming is a routine part of Siberian cat care, they don’t require the upkeep of other breeds, like Persians. But before you bring home a Siberian kitten, make sure you have time at least once a week to brush your cat.
Matted fur can be an issue—so even when you’re not grooming your Siberian, pet him often so you can feel if any mats are forming. To make grooming easier, talk to a professional groomer about trimming your cat’s hair into a lion cut.
Siberian cats don’t require special eye care, but pet parents should stay alert for any signs of eye infection.
No special ear care is required for this breed. But if you notice any redness, odor, or discharge in your Siberian’s ears, contact your veterinarian.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Friendly, social, and adventurous, the Siberian thrives in a home where he’s given plenty of love, affection, and opportunity to explore. Regular grooming is needed to keep his fur healthy, and pet parents will want to provide their Siberians with enough engagement to keep their keen minds working.
When properly socialized, the Siberian is likely to be a good lap cat, and he tends to get along well with all family members. In fact, Siberians prefer not to be left alone for long periods.