I grew up with cats as pets because my parents thought they were less trouble than dogs — and I loved them dearly. But I traded cats for my husband – a necessary trade since he has a cat allergy. (I’ve always felt it was a very worthwhile trade!)

We didn’t worry much about his cat allergy until years later. As we grew our family, we were struck with how pet-less we were, and how sad that seemed. As a young family living in a city with a shared backyard, getting a dog just didn’t seem practical. Hamsters didn’t appeal, and we had tried birds before. (We loved them, but they weren’t very cuddly.) Could we have cats?

And thus began my research on hypoallergenic cats. It turns out that while there may not be a true "allergy-free" cat, some breeds have fewer allergens on average. I found out that in my state, there are many breeders of Siberian cats (often called Siberian Russian cats), one of the breeds on the hypoallergenic list. I was thrilled, but cautious. Would my husband really not react to these cats? While his allergies aren’t in the life-threatening category, his symptoms are bad enough to cause a lot of nasal congestion and watery and puffy eyes — the type of symptoms that you wouldn’t want to live with day after day.

But we decided to take the risk.

Siberian cat

I am pleased to say that my husband has had only slight allergy issues with our Siberian, pictured above, and she has quickly become a beloved member of the family.

But she was expensive.

Granted, we did get a wonderful deal for a pure breed cat. However in our families, cats were given to us for free, so paying anything for pets was a change. For example, one of my favorite cats was a free kitten from a wild barn cat. So for a couple who couldn’t imagine spending more than $20 on a cat, spending the money on a pure bred cat was a surprise. So I thought I’d share a couple reasons why this specific breed has been worth the gamble.

Siberian cats are low-allergen

As discussed above, my husband has had only minimal reactions to our cat — and she spends part of her day in our bed, getting her allergens all over my husband’s pillow! This reaction alone has been more than worth the price. We bought our cat from breeders who test allergen levels and who only breed the lowest-allergen-level cats. But we didn’t pay the hefty sum to test the allergy level of our cat, though if you have severe allergies and needed to know for sure, that might be a good idea.

Almost all of the breeders in my area allow you to come spend a couple hours with their cats before making any commitment to an informal, personal allergy test. Because I have friends with cat allergies as well, I find it doubly convenient to have a low-allergy cat.

All this to say, our experience with our Siberian has been wonderful on the low-allergy cat side.

Our cat Hermione with child

Siberian cats make wonderful pets 

As I mentioned, I grew up with cats, and it was rare for us not to have at least a couple of cats. I had two very special cats growing up, and they were wonderful. But I have to say that Hermione, our Siberian, has been the most people-focused cat I’ve ever owned. She’s also the least scared of loud noises and, in general, seems to fear little. This is normal for her breed. According to Cat Fancier’s Association, “Siberian cats are very personable and want to be near their owners. They enjoy the company of children, dogs, and other animals. They are fearless and easygoing. Not much disturbs their natural calm and equanimity. They seem to know when they are needed for psychological and moral support and spend time with the person who needs that support. They are a quiet breed that expresses itself in a melodic way through sweet mews, trills, chirps, and lots of purring.”

One of the first things we noticed about her was how brave and unafraid she was of meeting children (probably for the first time) and my husband and I. Some people call this breed a “dog-like” cat breed because their behavior can mimic what we associate with dogs. I’ve noticed, for example, that she loves to follow me around the house, much like a dog would. When she had to wear a cone collar after being fixed, instead of wallowing in her misery alone (like my other cats were prone to), she’d come and lay her sad, cone-covered head in my lap. This also reminded me more of a dog than a cat.

While feisty and playful, she’s also even-tempered for the most part, and even her vet was impressed with her behavior and temperament. I definitely think that Siberian Russian cats make great family pets.

cat yawning

Siberian cats are a healthy breed

And finally, I was really pleased to find out that Siberians are some of the hardiest cats out there. If you are going to spend money on a cat, I think it’s smart to go with a breed that isn’t prone to health issues. This hearty cat has had hundreds of years to develop strong genes in Russia, where they are highly prized. More than just being bred as pretty cats, they have had a practical role as mousers as well. Siberians can live up to – and beyond – 20 years. It’s the norm for them to have long and healthy lives.

I never understood why anyone would spend a lot of money on a cat when I had such wonderful cats for free growing up, but for our family, I have surprised myself. I think the money was well-spent. (And if you want to know more, we bought our cat from this breeder.)

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