By Diana Doernberg
Originally published in The Cat Fanciers’ Almanac 1994

Ever since the day in 1966 when my first Russian Blue female, CH Rasdedjan’s Ninouschka of Velva (Imp.), arrived from Sweden and stepped out of her custom-made wooden carrier, composed and eager to investigate her new surroundings, I have been completely captivated by this breed. These elegant, unique and distinguished cats, with their emerald green eyes, silver-tipped fur, refined boning, and plushy coats, are like no other breed.

The quiet loving nature of the Russian Blue is also unlike the disposition of other breeds. You may choose a Russian Blue but a Russian will have the final say as to how the relationship develops. When you win their trust you will be rewarded with their complete devotion and they will react to you as they will to no other person.

Although all Russian Blue breeders have the occasional totally outgoing kitten who loves everyone and never meets a stranger, this kitten is usually the exception. The more typical reaction of a Russian kitten is to run to a safe location, usually behind a piece of furniture, and to there review all the implications of any new development. If you wish to establish a relationship at this point, sit down, quietly dangle a shoelace or move a cat teaser back and forth slowly and wait. Soon the Russian will be unable to ignore the motion and will carefully attempt to capture the moving object. From that point on negotiations toward a more serious relationship will be in order.

This very typical Russian Blue “look before you leap” characteristic reinforces my belief that Russians are a very intelligent breed. Aside from the fact that the Russian Blue will have gained considerable play time from you at your first meeting he will also have determined just how interested you are in getting to know him. If you have little patience for his game and “wait and see” attitude then perhaps you would not have been the totally committed new owner that he is seeking. Russians don’t like change. They are a long-lived, hardy breed of cat. If they come to stay, they expect to stay a long time and be treated as a valued member of your family. Lots of cat toys (Russians remain eager to play throughout their lives), no loud music and meals on time (especially meals on time) suit a Russian to a tee. See, I told you Russians were smart!

Russian Blues are clever and extremely agile. I have had Russians that would sit on the tops of door frames. They love small spaces and can fit themselves into areas that you would not believe could make a cat feel comfortable. My first female discovered as a kitten that doorknobs open doors. When confronted with being either in or out of a room that was not to her liking she would simply jump on the doorknob, hold on until she turned the knob in the appropriate direction and found her way into the area she wanted. I know that every Russian Blue breeder can relate similar tales. Over the years I have received many notes and pictures from pet owners who have related other amazing antics of their Russians.

Perhaps the Russian Blue’s unique personality and demand for individual attention have played a part in keeping the number of Russian Blue breeders relatively small. Russian breeders are very protective of their cats. Russians do not do well in cat households with large numbers. Socialization of young kittens is absolutely essential. Breeding a show quality kitten is only half of the necessary formula for a show stopper. The Russian must be in full agreement with a breeder’s desire for his or her show career or it will be a no go situation. Given the Russian’s reserved personality, desire for an ordered existence and relatively small numbers, it is perhaps even more amazing that so many really outstanding championship, premiership and kitten winners have been produced. Without exception these cats and kittens have been truly born to the ring.

History of the Russian Blue

The origin of the Russian Blue is still not documented. However, since its history in the United States began, its determinable origins have been England and the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

The first Russian Blues registered by CFA, which appeared in the CFA Stud Books in Volume 34, published in 1949, were Dunloe Jan (Imp.) and Dunloe Blue Silk (Imp.). They were litter mates out of Dunloe Aphrodite by Dunloe Blue Socks.

A further check of CFA records shows it was not until 1964 that the first Russian Blue achieved Grand Championship in CFA. This was a male, GC Maja Acre Igor II of 3 R’s. When I first began breeding Russians, I visited this cattery but I don’t recall whether or not Igor II produced any offspring.

Working with Russian Blues at the same time was Felinest Cattery in Illinois; Aberdeen Cattery in Alabama; Three Crown Cattery in New Jersey; Bobcat Cattery in Texas and various breeders in California. GC Felinest Silver Dollar, GC Es-Ta’s Tao of Aberdeen, GC Pavel of Braheborg (Imp.) and GC Tinnerdalens Njusia of Bobcat were all famous Russians that are behind most of the Russians being shown today. It is safe to say that these breeders mainly worked in their own individual areas and obtained their own individual looks. While each group of cats excelled in individual areas none seemed to excel in the overall Russian Blue standard.

The first Russian Blue who combined several bloodlines and was shown on a national basis was GC Kit-Kin Peter of Car-Mac. GC Kit-Kin Peter was CFA’s 1968 and 1969 Best Russian Blue. Another early Russian combining several bloodlines, GC Meri-Rose Mischa of Evinrude was the 1970 Best Russian Blue.

Although both Kit-Kin Peter and Meri-Rose Mischa were considered “typey” cats for the years they were shown, the cat that really established the type that we see today was GC Felinest Flying High of Velva. As a young kitten, Flying High was sold as a pet to a friend; but later he was shown when we realized what a wonderful cat he was. He had a good kitten career and granded in one show. Before he was neutered at a year-and-a-half, he was bred to five females who produced 21 kittens, of which six became Grand Champions, one a National Winner and two became Distinguished Merit dams.

Flying High’s most famous offspring was CFA’s first Russian Blue national award winner: GC, NW Velva’s Blue Viking. Viking was the 1970-71 7th Best Cat and the 1971-72 2nd Best Cat. Flying High’s two distinguished merit offspring were Viking’s litter sister, CH Velva’s Miss Behavin and GC Velva’s Extraordinaire.

National Winners and Distinguished Merit

In the years since the first national win was awarded, Russian Blues have achieved another 21 national awards through the 1992-93 show season. Four Russian Blue males received two national awards each, including GC, NW Velva’s Blue Viking, GC, NW Miribu’s Silver Lining, GC, NW Velva’s Cobalt Baron of Tsar Blu and GC, NW Jontue’s Rhythm and Blues of Casein, DM. The only Russian Blue female to reach a national award was GC, NW Wynterwynd Finders, Keepers who was 1990-91 9th Best Kitten. The Tsar Blu cattery has had the most national award winners with four Tsar Blu males making national awards from 1977 through 1989.

Although the males have dominated the national award list, Russian Blue females dominate the Distinguished Merit list. Russian Blues achieving the DM title include 18 females and only four males. Of these four males, two were national award winners: GC, NW Jontue’s Rhythm and Blues of Casein, DM and GC, NW Tsar Blu’s Zane Grey, DM. Rhythm and Blues has top honors for producing 21 Russian Blue grands, and is still siring kittens at the age of 13! Two mother-son combinations have also attained the DM award: CH Velva’s Valerie Fair of Tsar Blu, DM and her son, GC, NW Tsar Blu’s Zane Grey, DM; and CH Velva’s Miss Behavin, DM and her son GC Velva’s Willywinky, DM

In 1968 only two Russians from two catteries granded. During the 1970 season, eight Russians granded from seven catteries. 1993 brought 42 grands from 29 catteries! The Russian Blue has attracted a small, closely-knit group of breeders who are fiercely loyal to and protective of these lovely cats. During the past two years, the Russian Blue competition at shows has increased markedly with large kitten classes and often several grand champions in competition. This certainly replaces the “only Russian Blue in show” classes of a few years ago. The Russian Blue community is congenial, but also very competitive – this is evident in the improving quality and success of this minority breed.

Nowhere has this quality been more evident than it was at the 1993 CFA International Show in Nashville, where nine kittens, five adults, and six alters (representing 10 catteries) were competing and well-represented in all finals. With over 200 kittens present, one shorthair specialty final included five Russian Blue kittens, including Best and 2nd Best Kitten awards! Even though our numbers were small compared to many breeds, the Russian Blue successes at this show included these overall placements: 9th and 16th Best Kittens, 11th Best Cat in Championship; 9th, 17th and 18th Best Cats in Premiership. The quality this show season is also evident in the two Russian Blue cats who are making great strides toward national awards. During the 20 years covered by the CFA national awards, the catteries producing the Russian Blue award winners and distinguished merit cats have made a significant impact on the Russian Blue breed. Although each cattery has its own individual look, each winning Russian Blue has had that wonderful style and elegance. As the Russian Blue breeders continue to work together to maintain the vigor and beauty of this breed, the number of grand champions and award winning Russians will continue to grow. With these captivating and beautiful cats to work with, the next 20 years should be just as impressive