"HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH SIBERIAN CATS" BY SHELLY FINLEY
I have loved cats all my life. To my dismay, my husband developed adult onset cat allergies. We found even visiting family, who had a Siamese cat, to be extremely difficult. Within one-half hour of being in their house my husband's neck, face and eyes would start itching, burning and swelling and we would have to leave. When our daughter was six and taking horseback riding lessons, she fell in love with a barn kitten and begged to bring it home. It was a beautiful little calico. We took my husband to see if he could tolerate this kitten and he immediately had an allergic reaction. Our daughter was heartbroken.
I started doing research on the internet and I found the beautiful Birman breed. I read that some people who had cat allergies could tolerate this breed, so I found a breeder in my area and we went for an allergy test. My husband was fine and we were very excited to add a Birman to our family. One thing led to another and eventually I was fostering litters for my Birman breeder and her friends. I found out that there is nothing in the world I liked better than loving, nurturing and raising kittens. My daughter and I started going to cat shows and showing our cats and I knew this was a passion for me and something that I wanted to pursue.
After spending a lot of time at cat shows and seeing all the different breeds, I found myself in total awe of the Maine Coons. I loved their look, colors and size. I actually took in a Maine Coon rescue for one night and my husband had a horrible allergic reaction to him, so I knew there would be no way I could ever own one. The love of this look and more research on the internet led me straight to the Siberians. They had the look and colors of the Maine Coon, only their features are more rounded and they are a bit smaller. They had the same sweet expression and round face that my Birmans had and came in a large variety of colors and patterns. I found out that one of the best things about the Siberian breed is that they were hypo-allergenic, which means they carried low allergens.
I found a Siberian at a cat show, took my husband to allergy test and to my delight, he had no allergic reaction at all to the Siberians. After a lot of research and planning, I purchased my first breeding girl in 2006. Then, with the help of Judy Miller at Windrifter Siberians, I purchased my first breed boy and soul mate, Raja. Raja exceeded every expectation I ever could have imagined for a foundation cat. He does not have an aggressive bone in his body and is one of the sweetest and most loving animals I have ever met. And the best part is that he is passing his wonderful personality on to his kittens. He did amazing while he was showing because of his personality, and was the third best Siberian in the nation for CFA in 2009/2010 show season.
Since then I have added many beautiful breed cats to my cattery. Many thanks to Stef Letness at Starberian Cattery for being a great mentor and for letting me have my first black silver, a beautiful girl I named Faith. Thanks to Natalya Tardiff for providing me with my first classic, a beautiful girl I named Mercy. And last but definitely not least, I want to thank Lisa Baenen of Sky Mountain Siberians for allowing me to have one of her gorgeous golden girls (my Angel) and for introducing me to the wonderful world of goldens. Lisa also let me get a beautiful blue lynx point girl who I named Ana. She has one of the sweetest personalities I have ever come across. I have found you can accomplish anything, with a little help from your friends!
My goal is to keep my cattery small so that each and every kitten I raise has an abundance of love and affection so that the babies are healthy and happy. I have a closed-door cattery, which means I will not take in other breeder's cats to breed to my boys and I will not send out any of my girls to be bred with someone else's boy. That is the golden rule to a safe and healthy cattery. If I do want or need to buy a breed cat, I stay with the breeders I know and love. Because of the way I raise my babies, I can guarantee health and temperament. I tell all of my new kitty parents that if they do not love the personality of their baby, I will take it back in a heartbeat -- and since 2006, I have never had one Siberian kitten returned.
I handle the babies the minute they are born and let them get used to my scent, touch and voice, even before they open their little eyes. When I have a girl with a large litter, I will bottle feed the babies every morning and night, not because I have to, but because I WANT to. I like to give the moms a break and it is great bonding time for me and the babies. I wrap them up in little receiving blankets and call this making a kitty burrito! I feel it is very important to socialize the babies from the minute they are born. When they get a little older, my husband, son and daughter are called on to help play with and cuddle the babies. In the evenings when my family is watching TV, I bring the babies into the family room and they spend the night with us. Even if they are too tired to play, we let them sleep on us. I want to spend as much time with the babies as I possibly can. It not only produces very well socialized and loving cats, but it is my therapy and keeps me grounded.
With that being said, I think it is fair to state that I am very picky about who I place kittens with. They are my babies and my love for them doesn't end when they leave my home. Since I brought them into this world, I feel they are my responsibility until they leave it and I take this responsibility seriously. Siberians are very social cats and do not like being alone. It is very important that these cats have company -- human, feline, canine or other, it doesn't matter, just so they are not alone.
I find breeding Siberians not only to be gratifying and fulfilling, but it has given me some of the dearest friends I will ever have. My kitty friends have helped and encouraged me every step of the way in starting this cattery and I could not have done it without their love and support. Not only have they given my babies the best homes I could ever hope for, but they have added so much richness and joy to my life. A very special thank you to my peeps, Cyndy, Jill, Ruth, Toni, Vonnie, and Linda, who is no longer with us but will always be in our hearts.