|Is it a Birman??? Is it a Ragdoll or a Siamese??? Quite a few exhibitors have the experience of hearing visitors lacking knowledge ask these questions at a show. Usually they get a friendly answer: "No, it’s a Siberian cat Neva Masquerade." Surprised and almost dumb-stricken comes then the next question: What’s that?
And then follows the answer: The Siberian Forest Cat is one of the Forest cat breeds. Like the Norwegian Forest, the Maine Coon, Turkish Van and the Turkish Angora, the Siberian cat developed naturally without any human interference. The Siberian comes not only from Siberia, which could be suggested by the name. This semilonghair breed, accepted already in 1992 by the WCF (World Cat Federation) was and still is the domestic cat in the former USSR. The Siberian cat got its name because of its strong muscular body and its half-long waterproof coat, which helps the cat to survive during the most severe winter. When unusually coloured Siberian cats were first seen in the region of Neva river, they attracted the attention of the breeders in Saint-Petersburg. The unusual colour turned out to be the Colourpoint. They caught the point cats and called them Siberian cats Neva Masquerade (SibNM). Thus they were able to start a breeding programme. Some Russian citizens call this colour variety of their Siberian cat Russian Colourpoint. Not every breeder in Germany likes this name for the Neva Masquerade.
It has always been normal breeding practice in Russia to mate both colour varieties (with and without point gene) with each other. The ancestors of our Siberians are animals found in the nature, so one can’t know or find out all the ancestors of any cat. It has often happened and happens still that colourpoints appear in litters of normally coloured parents. Even the pedigree certificates don’t always show the existence of colourpoints among the ancestors. However, these animals were carrying the point gene.
The kittens can only be colourpoints if both parents are carriers of the Siamese gene. One can mate the same animals five times and still get no colourpoint kitten, but in the sixth litter there is a point. Even in litters of a colourpoint cat and a known carrier points are not a must, it is the same as in the former example. The Siberian cat Neva Masquerade is a rare variety. We have now a limited number of studs and queens. A lucky visitor can see one or two in a show, but most of the time there are none.
The first two animals of this colour variety were imported into the former FRG in 1990 and 1991. They were CH. Princess Perlipat und GICH. Terentij. These two animals gave in April 1992 the first Neva Masquerade litter outside the former USSR, which was registered in Germany. The owners of the both had felt the negative attitude of the adversaries of the Siberian cat a couple of years earlier, when they tried to introduce this new old breed.
It has already been said that the Siberian cat Neva Masquerade is a colourpoint, or a „masqued" cat. The face, ears, legs, feet, tail and balls (for males) are coloured. The rest of the body is white to sand-coloured. These coloured parts are called points. They originate from a genetic recessively inherited partial albinism. The distant cooler parts of the body are coloured, while the rest of the body stays pale. As all parts of the body are equally warm in the womb, the point-kittens are born white and get their special pattern only in the first weeks of their lives. The Siberian cat Neva Masquerade is not an independent breed but a colour variety of the Siberian cat, that’s why it must be bred and judged after the Siberian standard. If one thinks of the dimensions of the former USSR one can understand that different types appeared in different regions. In order to have a common basis – as with all other breed cats – a standard which describes an ideal image of a Siberian cat has been worked out. Breeders are now trying to work according to this ideal image and reach a uniform type of the Siberian cat.
As for the type, Siberian cat is medium large to large, larger animals are preferred. There are many animals which could compete with Maine Coons in size. This is a strong muscular cat. The body is rectangular, moderately long, legs not too tall, strong, proportional in regard to the body. The feet are big, round and strong. Between the toes there are tufts of hair. The breast is broad and very well developed. The back of the head is short and muscular. The type of males is stronger marked than that of females. Faults in type are: a square body; the back clearly higher than the front; generally too slender or too low on the legs; too slim legs and feet; no tufts between the toes; a thin and/or long neck.
The head should be well proportioned in regard to the body, somewhat rounded and very broad. The chin should be well developed but not protruding. The forehead should be slightly domed. The strong, broad and massive cheekbones are stressed by strong jaws. The whisker pads should be moderately developed. The cheekbones, whisker pads and chin form a gentle rounded outline. The nose is of even width from the bridge to the leather, the profile forms a slightly concave curve. Faults of head: a straight profile; Persian-shaped head; a pronounced Persian-like stop; triangular head; no cheeks; receding chin; square muzzle; undershot jaw.
The ears are medium large, wide at base, set low and wide. More than a width of one ear is desired between the ears. The ears are a bit pricked forward. The tips are rounded, tip tufts are desired, but heavy furnishing inside is required. Faults: ears too large; too high set; too narrow at base; standing upright; set nearer to the back of the head; no inside muffs.
The eyes are large, slightly oval and rounded below, set wide apart with slightly oblique aperture. Like every Colourpoint the Neva has blue eyes of different shades but of even colour. The blue can be a bright light blue to darker blue. Both eyes should be of the same shade. A brilliant darker blue is preferred. Faults: eyes too small; round Persian-like eyes; oriental eyes; set too narrow; recessed; uneven blue or a colour other than blue.
The coat of a Siberian is in winter especially long on the belly, on the neck, breast, tail and britches. The coat is short on the back of the head and shoulders. The back is covered with long dense firm glossy hair. On the flanks the coat is fine, soft and very thick. During the warm season the down hair is scarce, in winter it is abundant, of fine texture. If Siberians are kept exclusively indoors, they can carry their winter coat in summer. We like warmth in our homes in winter and cool air in summer. That’s why the Siberians carry a shorter coat in winter if the surroundings are warm and a longer one in summer when it’s cool. An animal that has access to outdoors has a significantly longer and thicker winter coat than the one living only indoors.
The Siberian cat, albeit colourpoint or not, can be seen in different colours, i.e. black (seal for the colourpoints – a dark brown, almost black), blue, red, cream, silver, smoke or tortie (patched). All these colours are possible without or with agouti, as solid colours or tabbies. With colourpoint tabbies it is very difficult to distinguish between classic (blotched) or mackerel tabbies. All these colours can be combined with silver. Besides that a cat of any colour can have white. The white is allowed in any part of the body. An exact percentage of white is not required. In this aspect the Siberian is unlike the Birman, where gloves and laces are required or unlike the Ragdoll where there are Mitted and Bicolours.
The Siberian Cat Neva Masquerade takes care of its coat without human help, as it has usually no tangles which occur in Longhairs. Only when they are shedding hair small tangles can be seen in those parts of the body where the coat is longer. It is enough to comb the hair in this case. Every single hair is covered with a natural layer of grease, however, the coat doesn’t look greasy or stuck together. This fact produces the waterproof quality of the coat. Faults: greasy coat on the whole body; Persian-like texture of the down coat; too soft top coat. One should bear in mind that here there are slight differences between colour varieties. Non-agouti cats have a slightly softer coat than agoutis. The dilution factor and the silver gene can influence the coat structure as in other breeds.
The tail is broad and strong at the base and has a slight tapering to the rounded tip. In length it should reach to the shoulder blade if it is held carefully at the side of the body. It has a long brush during every season. Faults: tail too short or too long; not enough furnished; short hair on the tail.
As every predator taken out of wild nature the first-generation Siberians are very unfriendly to people. These animals, born free, evade any contact with people and are not used to handling, same as our stray European Shorthair. Their prey can be as big as a hare, however, scraps are also among their food. Despite the fact that a Siberian can eat almost everything one should pay more attention to its feeding and avoid treating it as a scrap-eater. The animals of following generations, bred according to plan, are friendly and have good contact to people. Every single cat has its own character. They are very affectionate, one can say that sometimes they are too obtrusive. Not only the people in their own home but also visitors are treated with friendliness and affection. Even children get a lot of tenderness, so these cats can be considered as perfect playmates. Their playfulness and ability to jump is enviable, but of course this breed needs time for rest too. They deserve their reputation as nature cats. One can clearly see it if one offers a suitable cat tree. It is easy to keep the Siberians with all cat breeds of any age or with other animals, they are very sociable. They can live well together with dogs, too. However, one should be careful with animals which correspond to the usual game of Siberian cats, i.e. from the size of mice to the size of hares. The cat could forget its sociability and turn out to be a perfect hunter. Historically the Siberian cat was used to finding food independently. That is why it is not advisable to let it roam freely. Not needing us people to get food it can easily grow wild again and never come back if it dislikes something in its home.
There is still strong opposition among breeders and organisations in Europe against accepting the Siberian Cat with its colourpoint variety. Even some Siberian breeders speak and write of the "preservation of the purity of the Siberian race", of Siberians. This situation lasts more than 10 years, though the clubs in Russia have included this colour variety into the standard since the very beginning. The opponents do not want an allowed point factor in a forest cat, because the Siberian is the only forest cat breed with a point factor accepted and included into the standard. One should know that the first cat club in Saint – Petersburg, KOTOFEI, which appeared in late eighties on the basis of a dog fanciers club, developed the first standard already in 1990. In the standard of 1991 all colour varieties including colourpoints were described. The PFS club (Saint – Petersburg Felinological Society) developed its Siberian standard with colourpoints as a colour variety in 1991 as well. On the basis of this standard the WCF accepted the Siberian standard in July 1992. Some people believe, the Siberian cat Neva Masquerade is a separate breed (a German judge). Others think it was bred through the Siamese. One should finally explain how the Siamese gene came into being and how the Siamese cat developed. There are slanderers who assert that the Siberian cat Neva Masquerade was bred through Colourpoint Persians. But one should know that Persian Colourpoints were imported into Russia not earlier than in 1988, while the Siberian cat Neva Masquerade had been bred in Saint – Petersburg already since 1986. There is evidence that there is a picture of a Colourpoint looking like a Siberian cat Neva Masquerade dating back to the 18th century, Central Russia. It could be an old animal, because its body looks dark. We know that colourpoints, especially non-agouti ones, get darker with progressing age. Unfortunately many people are very conservative and do not want to accept new ideas, especially if they come from the East.
However beautiful the Siberian cat and Siberian cat Neva Masquerade are, it is much more difficult for them to find acknowledgement. But in spite of all the opposition and concoctions this lovely and unpretentious breed with its colourpoint variety finds more and more friends and comes into more and more homes. It is without doubt a new enrichment of the cat world: The Siberian Cat and the Siberian Cat Neva Masquerade.