The Myth of the Shelter Rescue "Russian Blue"
“We found this cat, and when we took her to the
vet, he said it was a Russian Blue!”
“There is a Russian Blue in our local shelter. Can someone rescue it?”
“I’m not sure exactly what kind of cat he is, but I think he has some Russian Blue mixed in.”
Every Russian Blue enthusiast has heard any or all of these statements at some point in time. What’s the probability that any of them contain an element of truth? Probably less than one percent.
The facts are that Russian Blues are not a common breed of cat and are not running wild reproducing or hybridizing randomly. In 2003, The Cat Fanciers’ Association registered only 541 Russian Blue kittens born that year.(compare this to the number of more popular breeds registered - 1417 Abysinnians, 2265 Maine Coons, and 20431 Persians, and one realizes how few Russian Blues there really are!) Add to this number some additional kittens registered in other associations and the total number is still significantly small. The Russian Blue breed is carefully protected and maintained by reputable breeders who place pet kittens with neuter/spay agreements or are altered prior to placement. There just simply are not the numbers of unaccounted for Russian Blues there to support the claims of all these additional cats being Russians.
Several other facts come into play as well.
Color does not make a breed.
Feral and random-bred cats can and do produce solid colors. Dilute colors such as grey (called “blue” in the cat world) and cream, without tabby markings, are less common than solid black, solid white or patterned (tabby) cats.
Often siblings of blue domestic shorthairs are not blue. This would not occur in a pedigreed Russian Blue litter. Nor does hybridizing (a "mix") necessarily produce blue kittens.
people believe that every animal must be some sort of breed
Whether it be cats, or dogs, or any other animal, in the minds of many people an animal has to BE some breed or at least a mixture of a breed. This may be a need to label and categorize things, or just not knowing that a population of domestic/non-pedigreed/random bred animals exists.
do not know the nuances of individual breeds.
They go to school to learn to heal animals, not to be cat judges. In the course of their careers, they will probably have limited experience with actual purebreds, and far less with a minority breed such as the Russian Blue.
workers usually have no real breed knowledge
Intake personnel at a shelter usually have no experience with actual pedigreed cats either. Like the majority of the population, to them all point-restricted color cats are Siamese, all longhairs are Persians (unless they are very large longhairs and then they are Maine Coons). Therefore, all blue cats have to be Russian Blues, right? Sometimes the surrendering owner just tells them that it is a Russian Blue and they are relying on the owner’s statement - whether it has any basis in fact or not.
and adoption groups may even label a cat as a Russian Blue
to make it more adoptable
Their primary interest is in finding the cat new home and that is understandable. They may even actually believe that the cat is a Russian Blue. If categorizing the cat as a known breed will move it more quickly, then it will be called that regardless of the reality of the situation. Shelters’ webmasters have even been known to steal a photograph from cattery or association website and claim that this is the cat they have for adoption! (note: in addition to being a false claim, this is also a direct copyright violation and subject to legal proceedings).
A recent survey of shelters advertising through Petfinder's website showed that 396 cats listed at that time were described as "Russian Blues." Remembering the earlier statistic that only 541 Russian Blues were even *registered* in a single year, one will quickly come to the conclusion that few if ANY of these cats are actually Russian Blues.
The disturbing facts in this situation is that:
- It promotes the myth of a large number of purebreds in the shelters.
- It leads the new owner into believing that they have something that they do not.
In other words, it is a misrepresentation.
None of this is to say that a found, random-bred blue cat is less loving or less deserving of a special home than a Russian Blue. EVERY cat deserves to be the center of someone’s universe. But 99.9 percent of “found” blue cats simply are not Russian Blues, and no amount of rationalizing or hypothesizing is going to change that. The numbers and environmental factors are simply against it.
additional article on the differences in Russian Blues and
random-bred blue cats is here