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The Russian Blue cat

The Russian Blue cat


This breed’s name might be a bit misleading, but you’re going to love the Russian Blue: a gentle, somewhat shy, but stunning, shimmering, silver cat with dazzling green eyes.


The history of the Russian Blue cat


The Russian Blue

I’m going to state this upfront: I don’t think there’s a whole lot of evidence that today’s Russian Blue came from Russia. Not that it would really change anything about this spectacular cat.


Origin stories abound. There’s the one about how sailors in the 1960s brought Russian Blues home to Great Britain from Archangelsk Isle (also known as the Archangel Isles), in northern Russia.


Then there’s the claim that they were hunted in the wild for their plush, silvery coats, surviving only thanks to their keen wit and cautious disposition. It’s a handy story that explains both the Russian Blue’s intelligence and reserved nature.


There’s also the one about how Russian Czars and English monarchs favored this breed. And, there’s a couple of outright fables, including one about a Russian Blue who had the power to heal a Russian prince, and another about cats riding into battle (on horseback) with Cossacks.[1]


Cats on horseback. Sure.


While it’s entirely possible that there were pretty gray cats in Russia, and that some were brought to Europe in the 1860s (there’s a reference to an Archangel Cat in British print in 1862)[2], the Russian Blue that we all know and love today is probably something else entirely. Or mostly something else.



The first “Russian Blue” was shown at the Crystal Palace in 1875


Russian Blue

Cat fancy has only been around for about 150 years. We’ve been breeding dogs for 9,500 years or so, but no one really took an interest in purebred cats until Harrison Weir, the acknowledged “father of cat fancy,” started putting on cat shows in London in 1871.


A Russian Blue was first shown at the Crystal Palace in 1875. It was referred to as an Archangel Cat and a Russian Blue. But it was also called a Spanish Blue, a Chartreuse Blue, and an American Blue.[3]


So many nationalities for a “Russian” cat!


Weir, himself, wrote about this first Russian Blue in his famous book, Our Cats and All About Them. The cat won a lot of prizes for its gorgeous color, but Weir admitted, in print, that he knew the cat had a tabby-and-white mama, and a black-and-white baby daddy.[4]


Weir believed that this beautiful gray cat was not a separate breed at all, and that its stunning coloring was merely a different form of black (he was right – see below). He also mentioned that he’d seen plenty of gray farm cats who did not have gray parents.


All kinds of cats were once exhibited as Russian Blues


Various short-haired cats “from Russia” (some of whom might have actually been from Russia) were shown, including blue cats that were really poor quality British Shorthairs, blue-and-white cats, solid-white cats, and even solid-blue Siamese.


They all looked different: some had long, pointy heads with large ears, while some had round heads with small ears. Some had glossy coats, while others had wooly coats.


But there was demand for Russian Blues. They were bred with black British Shorthairs to “improve” the color of their fur, and to Persians to change the eye color from green to orange (it didn't stick - all Russian Blues today have green eyes).[5]


In those days, cat breeds were so loosey-goosey, that a gray cat could be shown as a British Blue Shorthair, or as a Russian Blue, depending upon how well its owner thought it would do in a particular breed category.


That would be unheard of today, with our current system of breed registries. 


Russian Blues were crossed with Siamese cats during WWII


Russian Blue

World War II wasn’t good for anyone, including cats.


Just feeding cats was next to impossible, nevermind keeping breeding lines alive and well. Cat breeders couldn’t very well travel across war-torn country to mate cats.


There just weren’t enough Russian Blues around, so some British breeders crossed their Russian Blues with Siamese. Unfortunately, this introduced the recessive gene for colorpointing into Russian Blue genetics, and also the Siamese “voice.”


After the war, American breeders went to great lengths to weed out the genes for these Siamese traits, and, consequently, the American version of the Russian Blue is different from Russian Blues from Europe, Asia, and Australia.[6]



What does a Russian Blue look like?


Oh my. Is this a pretty cat.


The Russian Blue has an exceptionally dense, lustrous, double coat. Every guard hair appears to have been dipped in liquid silver.


The coat color itself, called “blue” in cat fancy terms, can be anything from shimmering silver, to slate gray.[7] The eyes are a vivid green.


(You can read all about how gray cats come by their special coats in this post.


A Russian Blue has a broad face, straight nose, and large, flared ears. His body is fine-boned, but long, lithe, and muscular. He has long legs that finish in small, rounded paws, with pink toe beans.[8]


This cat weighs seven to 12 pounds, with males being a little heavier than females.[9]


What is the personality of a Russian Blue?


Russian Blue

A Russian Blue is a quiet, sweet-tempered kitty. He’s affectionate with his human family but he’s not pushy or overly demonstrative. He will tend to attach himself to one particular person in the household, following that person everywhere.


He’s less comfortable with strangers. If you have company over, your Russian Blue will probably find a safe place to hide.


A Russian Blue will be social with his family, but also enjoys time alone. He will get along with other pets, but doesn’t really need a kitty (or doggie) brother or sister. If you work all day, however, your Russian Blue will need a lot of attention when you get home.


A Russian Blue doesn’t adapt well to change. Even changes that seem minor to his guardians – such as a change in mealtimes, or somebody new visiting your home – can feel very stressful to a Russian Blue. You’ll have to be aware of your Russian Blue’s routine, and work to keep it predictable.


A Russian Blue is a s-m-a-r-t cat, and athletic, too. Russian Blues are fierce hunters. Your Russian Blue will need a lot of physical and mental stimulation, including access to numerous toys to keep her interest, especially ones that activate the hunting instinct.


Fetching is a favorite sport of Russian Blues. These cats also have an excellent memory and will remember the location of special toys, leading their person to them to play.[10]



Are Russian Blues hypoallergenic?


Russian Blue



Some people  maintain that the Russian Blue is "less allergic" than other cats, but this is not true. The claim is that Russian Blues produce lower levels of the glycoprotein Fel d 1 (one of the known proteins that people with cat allergies are allergic to).[11]


There is absolutely no scientific evidence that shows that Russian Blues are less allergic than other cats.[12]


The saddest thing – for both human and cat – would be to bring a Russian Blue into a household with a cat-allergic member, and then to have to rehome that cat later.


Read all about cat allergies in this post.


What are the genetics behind the Russian Blue’s “blue” fur?


Cats come in two colors, genetically speaking: orange and black. I go into much more detail about cat coat genetics in these two posts about orange and black cats:


Fun facts about orange cats

All about black cats


These two posts are also worth reading if you’re really interested in how cats get their colors:


The tabby cat

Are all white cats deaf?


Russian Blues have “dilute” genes


A cat who has blue fur, actually has the genes for a black coat.


A Russian Blue, who is all blue, has the genes for a black coat, as well as special modifier genes to lighten the black.


The “lighten-up” genes are called “dilute” genes, and they’re recessive. A Russian Blue, or any blue cat for that matter, must get one recessive gene from each of her parents to have blue fur.


This would explain why Harrison Weir saw blue farm kittens, even though there were no blue mother and father cats running around. A kitten could have blue fur even if neither of his parents were blue, so long as each parent passed on the recessive dilute gene to their baby.


Russian Blues also have non-agouti genes


russian blue with stripes on the tail

If you read my post about tabby cats you would learn that all cats are tabby cats underneath whatever color is “showing” on the outside.


For Russian Blues to have solid-colored fur with no tabby stripes, they would need to have non-agouti genes, too.


Non-agouti genes tell the pigment cells in the fur to make each strand solid, instead of striped. Like the dilute genes, a cat needs to get a non-agouti gene from each parent to turn out solid-colored.


Non-agouti genes sometimes do an imperfect job. Sometimes a little “ghost” striping shows through in spite of the best efforts of the non-agouti genes to hide it.


If you look at your Russian Blue lying in the sun, you might see a little ghost tabby stripes on his tail or legs.


Why is a gray cat coat called “blue?”


blue smoke

I’m going to mention here that “orange” cats are actually called “red” in the cat world, too. So, some of this tradition of giving things lavish-but-not-very-descriptive names, is just the cat fancy world being well…fancy.


But it’s not just cats. I’ve heard gray cigarette smoke being described as “blue.” I’m told that Stephen King often references “thick, blue smoke,” whether from cigarettes or cars, in his novels.[13]


There is actual real physics behind this, apparently. Smoke particles are so small that when light hits them, it scatters rather than bouncing back. Short, blue wavelengths of light scatter the most, and so those blue wavelengths are the ones we tend to see.[14]


A gray cat can sometimes appear to have a blueish tinge to the fur. To me, it takes some imagination to see the blue.


And finally, there are other reasons a cat can appear blue, such as this kitty who got into some paint.[15]

blue cat 

Is the Russian Blue the only blue cat breed?


There are British Blues, which are British Shorthair cats with a blue coat. Read all about British Shorthairs here

British Shorthair

The Chartreux is a rare French breed of cat known for its blue coat. But a Chartreux has deep orange eyes, as opposed to the brilliant green of the Russian Blue, and a heavier, more muscular build.[16]


The Korat is also blue cat with green eyes. It’s a very old breed from Thailand. The differences between the two cat breeds are subtle. A Korat has a slightly different head shape from the Russian Blue, and slightly shorter ears with rounded tips. A Korat’s body is a bit stockier, too.


Read all about the Korat in this post.

Korat cat

A Nebelung is related to the Russian Blue, but itself is a very rare breed of longhaired cat with gray fur and green eyes.[17]


Is the Russian Blue a healthy cat?


Yes! Yes! Yes!


The Russian Blue is a very healthy cat with no known genetic issues. I suspect this breed’s unusual provenance – a little of this, a little of that mixed in – could account for the lack of common genetic diseases in breeding lines today.


In fact, in Italy, the Russian Blue is being added to Oriental Shorthair lines to make them healthier.[18]


You can expect your Russian to live for 10-20 years, but there are some who have lived to the ripe, old age of 25.[19]


May you be so lucky.


Love Pinterest? Here's a Pinterest-friendly pin for your boards!

The russian blue - pinterest-friendly pin




DAwn and Timmy
Dawn LaFontaine

Dawn LaFontaine is a lifelong animal lover who always seems to have a little pet hair in her keyboard. Her blog, Kitty Contemplations, helps cat guardians better understand and care for the special beings they share their lives and homes with. Her cat-products business, Cat in the Box, sells beautiful, well-made, and award-winning products that she designed to meet the biological needs of cats.




[1] Johnson, Peg. “The Russian Blue.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc, June 2001,


[2] “Russian Blue.” Wikipedia, 3 Aug. 2023,


[3] Weir, Harrison. “The Project Gutenberg eBook of Our Cats and All About Them.” Project Gutenberg, 2 Mar. 2011,


[4] ibid


[5] Hartwell, Sarah. Cats and Cat Care Retrospective: 1900s - 1930s - Breeds and Varieties: Breeds and Varieties: Russian Blue, Accessed 9 Aug. 2023.

[6] ibid.


[7] “Russian Blue.” Wikipedia.


[8] “Russian Blue Breed Standard.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc, Accessed 15 Aug. 2023.


[9] “Russian Blue.” PetMD, Accessed 15 Aug. 2023.


[10] “About the Russian Blue.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc, Accessed 10 Aug. 2023.


[11] Russian Blue Cat: Facts and Personality Traits | Hill’s Pet, Accessed 7 Aug. 2023.


[12] “Is the Russian Blue Truly Hypoallergenic?” The CFA Russian Blue Breed Council, Accessed 10 Aug. 2023.


[13] “Dive into Anything.” Reddit, Accessed 16 Aug. 2023.


[14] Glass, Don. “Why Cigarette Smoke Is Blue or White.” A Moment of Science - Indiana Public Media, Accessed 16 Aug. 2023.


[15] “Why Are Blue Cats Called Blue Even Though They’re Grey?” Quora, Accessed 16 Aug. 2023.


[16] “Chartreux.” Wikipedia, 19 July 2023,


[17] “Russian Blue.” Wikipedia.


[18] Ibid.


[19] Ibid.

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