Breeds
Nebelung close up.

The Nebelung: Not Your Typical Bluehair Cat

The Nebelung is more than just a beautiful cat breed. Find out where this breed’s name originated, what they’re like to live with and more.

Kim Campbell Thornton  |  May 28th 2019


With a long, silky, shimmering coat, the Nebelung is an epic cat in more ways than one. The rare breed’s romantic name comes from a legendary poem of love, hate and vengeance — the Nibelungenlied — that dates to medieval Germany. The 19th-century composer Richard Wagner turned the tale into a four-part opera known as The Ring cycle.

What’s it like to live with a Nebelung?

A Nebelung being held.

What’s it like to live with a Nebelung? Photography ©Casey Christopher.

But never fear: The Nebelung won’t wreak havoc in your life. The cats with beautiful blue coats are devoted and affectionate to family members, whom they prefer over all others. The sensitive cats are most likely to approve a quiet home with empty nesters or people who have a tranquil lifestyle. Families with young or exuberant children should wait to get one of these cats.

Nebelungs enjoy sitting in a lap or following their people to supervise whatever they’re doing. They can become friendly with other cats or dogs in the household. Nebelungs are playful and smart, but their mild-mannered nature makes them easy to live with. Nonetheless, the Nebelung will communicate clearly about any flaws in the care you provide, such as not serving meals on time or letting the litter box get to an unpleasant state.

A Nebelung’s unusual features

The Nebelung has what’s known as a “foreign” body: long and slender with a wedge-shaped head, wide-set eyes of brilliant green, large ears and a plumed tail. Beyond the association with the Nibelungenlied, the name Nebelung arises from the German word nebel, meaning mist or fog. It’s an apt description of the cats, who look like mystical creatures from a fairy tale.

The cats were meant to resemble the long-haired cats imported to England in the early 19th century. Those cats may have come from Russia, so it’s no surprise that the Russian Blue played an important role in the breed’s development.

The Nebelung’s short history

Nebelung full length.

Nebelung full length. Photography ©Tierfotoagentur | Alamy Stock Photo.

If you have a cat with a medium-length silvery gray coat, you may wonder if your special companion is secretly a Nebelung, but breed experts say that’s unlikely. Nebelungs are relatively new to the world of pedigreed cats, and the number of breeders throughout the world is 50, give or take a few. Only one of those lives in North America.

The cats were created by a breeder named Cora Cobb in Denver, Colorado. Starting with a black domestic shorthair and a black domestic longhair, she produced two kittens that stood out from the others in their litters. One was a long-haired blue male named Siegfried, born in 1984. The other, from a second litter in 1985, was a longhaired blue female named Brunhilde. Cobb bred them in 1986 and the following year asked The International Cat Association to grant the cats status as a new breed. The cats were allowed to outcross to Russian Blues, some of which carried the gene for long hair. This helped to ensure the Nebelung’s genetic diversity. By 1997, TICA granted the Nebelung full recognition as a breed. Other registries that recognize the breed include the American Cat Fanciers Association and the World Cat Federation.

Nebelung facts

  1. Nebelungs love their own people, but they can be reserved and even shy with people they don’t know. Don’t force attention on them, or allow children to, and they may come to be your friend — in time. More likely, though, this feline introvert will head to her safe space when guests visit the home, even if she has met them previously.
  2. It can take up to two years for the dense, medium-length coat to achieve its full glory. The blue hairs are tipped with silver, giving the fur a shimmery appearance. With that beauty comes plenty of maintenance. Nebelungs shed and require daily combing and brushing to prevent mats.
  3. A medium-sized cat, the Nebelung is sturdy and well-muscled, weighing from 5 to 16 pounds.
  4. The breed has no known genetic health problems and typically has a long life span of 15 years or more.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Tierfotoagentur | Alamy Stock Photo.

About the author

Kim Campbell Thornton has been writing about cats and dogs for more than 30 years. She is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles on pet care, health and behavior.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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