The elegant Russian Blue, also known as the Archangel Cat or the Archangel Blue, is winning hearts over left and right with its vividly green eyes and shimmery fur. The superior combination of remarkable strength and agility, exceptional beauty and sweet-nature earned them the well-suited title of "Doberman Pinschers of cats". To top things off, did you know that Tom Cat from Tom & Jerry was in fact a Russian Blue too? You read that right! And today we are bringing Tom out into the spotlight! Ladies and gent, please, meet the Russian Blue!

The main features

Russian Blue is a sweet-natured cat known for its bright-blue coat, broad head and beautifully green eyes. They are strong, agile and elegant. Their coat is incredibly soft and plush and it varies in shades from light, silverfish tones to darker, slate greys. They have the characteristic silver-tipped hairs that give them a beautiful shimmery finish.

What magic lies behind their plushy blue coat though? The bluish-grey color is actually an effect of a diluted expression of the black-coloring gene. The gene altering the expression of the black gene is called dense/dilute pigment gene (D/d) and it codes for melanophilin. Melanophilin alters the original coat pigmentation by affecting the deposition of the pigment in the hair. If a cat is a recessive homozygote dd for this gene, then the black cats will appear grey, the brown will be lilac, the cinnamon will become fawn, and the orange cats will turn cream (Figure 1). Dominant homozygotes (DD) and heterozygotes (Dd) are not affected.

Figure 1: Dense/dilute pigment gene alters the original coat pigmentation (credits)

Therefore, Russian Blues are carriers of black-coloring genes but they are recessive homozygotes for the dilute pigmentation genes (dd) which is what makes them gray in color. If each parent has a set of two recessive genes (dd) all the Russian Blue babies will always be blue too. If the parents are heterozygotes (Dd) (aren’t blue themselves), then their litter may contain both black and blue kittens. There are some colorpointed variants of the Russian Blues around the world too, as the breed was crossbred with the Siamese during the WWII.

The Russian breed is often confused with the British Blues. British Blues are not a distinct breed, but rather a blue variant of the British Shorthair which comes in a diverse range of colors and patterns.

Origins

The Russian Blue is a naturally occurring breed thought to have originated from the Archangel Isles in Northern Russia. The urban stories have it that the Russian Blue breed descended from the cats kept by the Russian Czars, rumored to have hunted the brown bear. Despite its Russian origins, the breed was actually mainly developed in Great Britain and Scandinavia where it was probably brought from Russia by sailors in the 1860s (The Cat Fanciers’ Association, 2018). Following the Second World War, there was a significant decrease in number of Russian Blues, which led to cross-breeding of the breed with the Siamese.

The Russian Blues present and famous in the US today were developed after the WWII by combining both the British and the Scandinavian variants developed in Europe. Russian Whites, Blacks and Tabbies were all created by crossing Russian Blues with domestic cats. The breed was also used to a certain extent in the development of the Havana Browns and in altering Nebelung cats.

Personality

Russian Blues are very curious, friendly and social cats. They can seem shy or distant at times, but in fact, they often get depressed or anxious if they feel neglected in any way. Blues are known to be very loyal, loving and even sensitive to human emotions. They strongly bond with their humans and make for exceptionally loving companions. Although quiet and gentle, Blues are super playful and energetic. Because they are highly intelligent and have excellent memory, they also tend to remember their favorite visitors even if the visits are infrequent. While you can easily teach them diverse cool tricks, don’t be surprised if they also bust your favorite hiding places for different objects!

Health

Average life expectancy for Russian Blues is from 10 to 20 years. These moderate-sized cats have little to no genetic problems. They do love to eat though, and it is therefore important to appropriately dose their food in order to avoid obesity. Some published studies have recognized the Russian blue cats, among several other breeds, to be at a higher risk from Diabetes mellitus (Cooper RL et al, 1997-2007 & Ohlund M et al, 2015). Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disorder in which blood sugar levels remain high for long periods of time. This occurs when there isn’t enough insulin being produced in the body or the body isn’t responding to it.

Shimmery blue fun facts:

1.You can draw patterns in their shimmery coat. Because of the thick and plush structure of their fur, it is possible to draw a pattern which will remain until you smooth them out again. Is it even legal to be so lovable?

2.They may be hypoallergenic. Not only are they shimmery and plushy, but many cat enthusiasts are also speculating if the breed is actually hypoallergenic too. Cat allergies are allergic reactions to allergens produced by cats. Cat allergies are caused by the proteins present in cat’s saliva and dandruff (Feld1, Feld2, Feld3, Feld4 and IgA). Among these, Feld1 and Feld4 are considered to be the two major cat allergens. It is speculated that the Russian Blue cats actually produce lower levels of Feld1 than other breeds, which makes them better tolerated by humans suffering from mild to moderate allergies.

3.They are often mixed up with other “blue” cats. Because of the coat resemblance, Russian Blue are often mixed up with British Blues or Chartreux’s. However, there are subtle differences between the breeds that can help you differentiate them. While Russian Blues have green eyes, Chartreux has orange and British Blue gold, copper or blue-green pigmented pupils. Also, Russian Blue cats are much more elongated and lithe than the other two breeds. Although all three sport plushy, shimmery coat, the Chartreux’s has wooly, British Blue’s crispy and the Russian Blue’s silky structure to it.

4.They are sought out as pets for their loving personalities. Aside from all the glimmer and sparkles, the breed is actually highly enthused about for their particularly sweet nature. Although often shy in front of strangers, this cat adores its humans and cherishes every moment she gets to spend with them!

5.They are respected celebrity divas in the cat world. Among the numerous appearances in the pop culture, the most famous Russian Blues would have to be Tom Cat from Tom & Jerry and Felicity from Felidae. Russian Blues also appear in the movies Cats & Dogs, Two Lumps and the Warriors series. The famous Nyan Cat meme was also inspired by this breed.

The Russian Blues have the world under their paws. And for all the right reasons! They’re gorgeous, loving and intelligent and they enrich any home and any life they paw their way into. Do you have a shimmery blue cat too? Tell us about them, we’d love to share some love with them!

Citations:

1. Cooper RL, Drobatz KJ, Lennon EM, et al. Retrospective evaluation of risk factors and outcome predictors in cats with diabetic ketoacidosis (1997-2007): 93 cases. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2015;25(2):263-272.

2. Öhlund M, Fall T, Ström Holst B, Hansson-Hamlin H, Bonnett B, Egenvall A. Incidence of diabetes mellitus in insured Swedish cats in relation to age, breed and sex. J Vet Intern Med. 2015;29(5): 1342-1347.

3. “Russian Blue”. Breed Profiles. The Cat Fanciers’ Association. Retrieved 28 July 2018.