Happy Birthday, Tekla

Tekla is 8 years old today. Her registered name is Katzenburg’s Tekla of Dvinskaja, which tells more about her noble origins.

Ingeborg Urcia would be proud of Tekla.

Tekla is the last of the kitties from a distinguished cattery. Ingeborg Urcia literally wrote the book on Russian Blues. Coincidentally, I discovered her book, “This is the Russian Blue,” at the same time I got my first Russian Blue, Ashley – Nordic Lara Ashley of Dvinskaja – almost 25 years ago.

A casual comment to my husband – Someday, I’d like a gray kitty, a Russian Blue – led to a love affair with the breed that continues today. I probably would have been happy with a nice gray kitty, but he searched out a “real” Russian Blue for me.

Ingeborg’s book fulfilled my hunger for knowledge about the breed. I hadn’t planned on it, but I became involved in showing Ashley, and then bred her. I had planned on selling her three kittens, but the best laid plans dictated that they stay with me. Ashley, Sara, Sophie and Cinders all did well in the show ring, but I quickly decided that a successful breeding program was more than I could handle.

But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the breed, or the heartbreak that comes with owning cats. My four “original” Russian Blues went to the Rainbow Bridge, one by one. In the course of time, I developed a relationship with Ingeborg Urcia and hoped at some point I could own one of her famous Russian Blues.

Yuri was that kitty. He was a bit funny-looking as a kitten though it didn’t take long for him to turn into a beautiful boy: sleek and muscular and quite the little prince. Within a couple of years, he was joined by Kira, a surprise gift from my husband; Yuri and Kira had the same parents. Yuri loved Kira the minute he laid eyes on her and stayed by her side until the day FIP resulted in the decision to send her to join our other cats at Rainbow Bridge. I thought I would never stop crying, and I would cry just as hard when we lost Yuri unexpectedly a couple of years later.

By then Tekla had joined us.

Knowing how much I missed Kira, my husband had given me a note for my birthday:


I have not been born yet—but when I arrive I will be a green-eyed, gray female kitten, eager to be part of the family. My approximate arrival time is this May. In the meantime, Happy Birthday. See you soon.

Love, Kitten

After much anticipation and backing and forthing with Ingeborg, Tekla was born in April. Ingeborg said she was the only girl that popped out after two boys. We were both excited and started making plans for her and her husband to fly to Connecticut with the kitten and see New England.

However that happiness turned to sorrow. Ingeborg had not been feeling well and learned that she had bone cancer. Her husband called a short while later and said she was hospitalized. She died just three weeks after the kittens were born.

We were assured that we would get our kitten. Ingeborg’s veterinarian stepped in to make arrangements for the care of all her cats.

Then our wait began. Ingeborg’s estate had to be settled and the kittens needed to be socialized, weaned, vaccinated and spayed or neutered. In the meantime, we settled on a name for our kitten: Tekla. Tekla’s mom, Kaisa, was Finnish and there was a woman from our church who was Finnish; she ruled the church’s kitchen. Somehow it just seemed to fit.

We also sent a blanket and some toys, scents from her new home. We kept in touch with the vet tech, but the process of getting her ready seemed to take forever. Spring turned into summer and the wait continued.

Finally in August, we received the phone call. Arrangements were being made and Tekla would fly into Logan Airport in Boston via Alaska Air. It was the red eye on a Saturday and she would arrive at 7:45 a.m.

Since we didn’t know the area, we left the house at 3 a.m., armed with coffee and snacks and goodies for Tekla. We called our journey “Sally and Paul’s Great Adventure” and we were beyond excited.

We arrived at Logan’s cargo area and found the Alaska Air terminal tucked at the very end of a long row of nondescript buildings. We inquired inside and were told that the plane had arrived and they were unloading. Another family was waiting for their beagle puppy. So we returned to the car to wait – after all, we’d been waiting for eight months – what’s a few minutes more? Shortly the beagle guy tapped on our window, “Your kitten is here!”

Of course we just about tripped over ourselves scrambling back into the office. But there she was: a very small kitty in a very large carrier. Quickly we took care of the paperwork and returned to the car, carrying our long-awaited, precious cargo.

Tekla, Day 2

She was beautiful. I opened the carrier and she calmly strolled out and into my arms, purring and kneading. It was like she knew this was where she should be.

Tekla rode in my arms most of the way home. I just couldn’t bear to put her down.

Once home Tekla quickly settled in with the rest of the family. Yuri, her half-brother, was less than thrilled, rather odd considering how much he loved Kira.

As with all kittens, she grew quickly. She’s maintained that sweetness of our first encounter throughout the eight years she’s been with us. She still purrs and kneads whenever she has the chance, most often on my left arm as I type. She’ll tilt her little face and kiss me. In good Russian Blue tradition, she sleeps under the covers at night. We have intimate conversations, often from the kitchen counter or on top of the fridge, her favorite spots to hang out. She “blesses” me when I sneeze.  She’ll pick a toy and run through the house with it, meowing at the top of her lungs; often that takes place just after lights out. She’s good buds with the rest of the gang, including Mollie, who at age 2, substantially outweighs her.

I often wish Ingeborg could see how beautiful and sweet Tekla is. I feel she is extra special knowing that she is the last of the line from the woman who literally wrote the book on Russian Blues.


About ExclusivelyCats
Sally Bahner is an expert in all aspects of cat care: Writer, consultant, speaker, instructor.

2 Responses to Happy Birthday, Tekla

  1. Karen says:

    I got my Silver American Shorthair from Ingeborg Urcia in early “90”s if I remember right.
    Best cat we have ever owned. We were wondering if you know who took over her cattery?
    I’m so glad that you wrote about her.
    Karen Johnson

    • That’s right! Ingeborg also bred American Shorthairs. I had forgotten about that. She was in the process of breaking up her cattery around the time Tekla was born. Some of the kitties went to a breeder in California, Heatherwynd. (I’m not sure if they’re still active.) Tekla was from the very last litter she bred. She just turned 13 and is in perfect health. There are a few Katzenburg kitties still around via the Russian Blue Facebook group. And Katzenburg kitties are found in many pedigrees here and in Europe, including that of our younger Russian Blue, Celica Blue, who is from Kaliningrad, Russia.

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