What to Know About a Russian Blue Cat

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 25, 2022
6 min read

Silver and emerald make a winning combination in the Russian blue cat. Like most blue animals, Russian blues are really bluish gray. Silvery tips on their plush coats make them shimmer in the sunlight. The silvery coat sets off their striking green eyes. 

The origin of the Russian blue is uncertain, but some believe the breed originated from Arkhangelsk, a port in northern Russia. When they were shown at London's Crystal Palace in 1875, it was with the name Archangel cats.  

Today, they lend their exotic beauty to humbler settings while providing mostly hassle-free companionship for their owners.

There are a lot of beautiful blue cats, but they are not all Russian blues. The breed has three hallmarks:

  • A blue coat with silver tips
  • Bright green eyes
  • Footpads that are mauve or lavender

The Russian blue has a long, lean body that is fine-boned but muscular. The head is wedge-shaped with large, delicate ears and roundish eyes. Long legs and a long tail complete the picture of elegance and grace. 

Medium in size, adult Russians weigh 8 to 15 pounds. Males are usually larger than females.

The average lifespan of the Russian blue is 12 to 15 years. They can, however, live much longer, with some reporting lifespans of over 25 years.

The Russian blue is a highly intelligent breed. Some people find them aloof, but their owners say they just like to evaluate a situation before getting involved. They are playful, not just as kittens but also as adult cats. Many Russian blues like to play fetch with their owners and will bring them items to be thrown. 

Russian blues often turn their intelligence toward figuring out to open things, such as doors and containers.  

Russian blues like to lead orderly lives, with meals on time and few disruptions. Generally, though, they are low-maintenance pets. 

Grooming. Russian blues keep themselves well-groomed. Stroking your cat will remove any loose hairs, but you can also use a brush if you like. 

Avoid ear infections and irritation by cleaning your cat's ears weekly. Use a soft cloth or cotton ball, not swabs. 

Feeding. Russian blues enjoy their food. Consult your veterinarian to find food that fits your cats' needs and yours, too. Dry food is standard, but some cat owners add a bit from a can or pouch to make their cats' meals more interesting. Some cat food that comes in pouches has added sugar, salt, and additives. If you opt for dry food, don't buy too much at once, as it can become stale.  

Water. Fresh water is vital for your cat's health. Be sure to clean the water dish, as well as refill it. Some cats enjoy cat water fountains. Encourage your cat to drink by keeping the water bowl slightly away from the food bowl. The smell of food may distract your cat from the water bowl. 

Exercise. Russian blues are an agile breed. Give them places to jump and climb, and they will exercise themselves. Toys are also great for Russians. They will entice your cat to move and also provide mental stimulation.

Protection against fleas and ticks. Even indoor cats can have fleas and ticks. These pests can be a health hazard for your cat, as well as a nuisance. If your cat scratches a lot or has irritated skin, fleas could be the cause. Ask your vet how to prevent flea and tick problems. 

Protection against parasites. Your cat should be on year-round medication to prevent parasites. Once or twice a year, your vet should check your cat for intestinal parasites by taking a stool sample. 

Tooth and nail care. Cats should have their teeth brushed regularly to prevent gum disease. Your vet can show you how and recommend a good pet toothpaste. 

Many cats also need their nails trimmed regularly. Cats that go outdoors or that use a scratching post may not need their nails trimmed as often.

Temperature sensitivity. Although the Russian blue's coat is relatively short, it is very dense and plush. It provides good protection from cold weather, but your Russian blue should be comfortable in normal room conditions. 

Indoor living. Most cat care experts say that cats are safest indoors. Outdoor cats can face many dangers, including:

  • Exposure to diseases and parasites
  • The chance of being struck by a vehicle
  • Attacks from dogs or wild animals
  • Territorial disputes with other cats
  • Falls from trees or other high places
  • Abuse by humans 

Indoor cats are exposed to household dangers, but owners can control these more easily than outdoor hazards. 

Since, however, outdoor cats get to explore and use their senses more, owners of indoor cats should create stimulating environments for their pets. Indoor cats may enjoy scratching posts and pads, cat perches, and interactive toys. They also like windows with a view of the outdoors. 

Litter boxes. Cats may refuse to use smelly litter boxes. Remove solid wastes once a day. Discard the litter and clean the box about once a week. Clumping litter doesn't need to be changed as often. Don't use strongly scented cleaners on the litter box. Cats are especially sensitive to lemon scents.

Vet visits. Your cat should see a veterinarian once or twice a year for wellness checks. Wellness visits should include a blood test, urinalysis, stool sample, and heartworm test, as well as a physical exam. Ask your vet whether your cat should be screened for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). 

All cats should receive core vaccinations, usually combined in a formula known as FVRCP. It includes vaccines for:

  • Feline panleukopenia (FPL)
  • Feline herpes virus type 1 (FHV-1)
  • Feline caliciviral disease 
  • Rabies 

Some cats should receive additional vaccines, depending upon their risk for other conditions. Ask your vet if your cat needs any non-core vaccines. 

Russian blues are a robust breed with no known genetic health issues. With proper vaccines and other routine care, your cat should have many healthy years. 

Russian blues have a fairly long life span and may develop health problems as they age. Common problems of older cats include:

  • Kidney disease. The most common health problem of older cats is kidney disease. Causes include infections, genetics, and age. Talk to your vet if you notice your cat is drinking and urinating more. Weight loss and vomiting may also indicate a kidney problem. 
  • Thyroid Disease. Older cats may develop hyperthyroidism. This excess of thyroid hormone can speed up your cat's metabolism and stress the heart. With hyperthyroidism, your cat may be hungrier but lose weight. Increased thirst and more frequent urination are also signs.
  • DiabetesAs indoor cats age, they may put on weight, which increases their risk of diabetes. Signs of diabetes include loss of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting, They may drink more and urinate more. 

Owners of Russian blues say that this is one of the most trouble-free breeds. Russian blues are:

  • Mostly quiet. Russian blues aren't noisy cats, although they like to exchange vocalizations with their owners. 
  • Low shedders. Their plush coats don't shed a lot.
  • Child-friendly. Most Russians get along well with children.
  • Pet-friendly. They usually accept other pets in the household.
  • Independent. Russian blues can entertain themselves when you need to be away.
  • Intelligent. You can train your Russian blue or simply enjoy playtime with your pet.

Cat historians believe that Russian blues originated near the Russian port of Arkhangelsk, about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. They believe sailors took the cats aboard and carried them to other ports. 

Under the name Archangel cats, Russian blues were exhibited in England and competed in the earliest English cat shows. For a while, all blue shorthaired cats were treated as the same breed. Later, Russian blues were tagged as Foreign blues. 

World War II created hardships for cat breeders and caused a loss of breeding stock. After the war, breeders trying to revive the breed turned to a practice called outcrossing. They bred their blues to similar cats, including Siamese and British shorthairs. Scandinavian breeders also used outcrossing.

Russian Blues came to North America in the early 1900s.  Eventually, North Americans got breeding stock from both England and Scandinavia. They combined the best features of both to create the modern Russian blue.