Balinese are the semi-longhaired version of the Siamese, with a flowing silky coat and plumed tail. It is thought that they originally derived from Siamese cats in the USA that were carrying a mutant longhaired gene as long ago as the 1920s, and who occasionally produced longhaired kittens of Siamese type. These days, Balinese are a very popular breed in their own right, often winning top awards at cat shows. Shorthaired Balinese with short, plush coats (known as Balinese Variants) often occur when Balinese are mated back to Siamese to improve their type and colour, but they may not currently be shown although they make excellent pets and are also useful for Balinese breeding as they carry the longhaired gene.
At first, the longhaired Siamese kittens appearing in the USA had been regarded as mutants, and simply sold as neutered pets. But then, just after the Second World War, a small group of American breeders got together and decided to try breeding with them and discovered that they consistently produced whole litters of longhaired Siamese. These were shown in the States as Longhaired Siamese until the Siamese purists objected after when they were renamed Balinese, as they were thought to resemble Bali temple dancers with their long, flowing hair! The first Balinese arrived in the UK in 1973, and were fully recognised here as a breed in their own right by the 1980s.
Like their shorthaired Siamese cousins, pure Balinese cats have vivid blue, almond-shaped oriental eyes. They have medium length, fine silky coats in varying shades of off-white depending on the colour of their 'points', although the coat doesn't tend to shade as much as it does in Siamese as the cat gets older. 'Points' refer to the darker facial masks, ears, tails, legs and paws, and, like the Siamese, a wide range of points colours have developed in the UK, with seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, caramel, tabby (known in the USA as lynx points), red, tortie, cream, apricot, cinnamon and fawn points available. Coat length on the Balinese can vary with up to two inches in length on the body, and as much as five inches on the tail. They are definitely not to be confused with Colourpoint Longhairs, a variety of Persian cat with a much longer coat and a ruff, and with a woolly undercoat. Balinese currently compete against Siamese in the same section at cat shows, as, apart from coat length, they are very similar in type, although Balinese tend to have slightly smaller ears than the Siamese. They are a similar build to Siamese, although can give the appearance of being larger, due to the longer coat hair.
Like the Siamese, Balinese are true extroverts with a loving and affectionate nature. They are very sociable cats that thrive on the company of their human families as well as of other pets, and should not be left on their own for long periods. They show exactly the same temperament and intelligence as the Siamese and can be equally as demanding, mischievous and inquisitive as their shorthaired cousins, often to be found interfering in matters around the house that do not really concern them! Some Balinese owners believe that their pets are not as vocal as the Siamese, which they attribute to the quieter, longhaired gene. However, others claim they are equally vociferous, and 'talk' in exactly the same way to say they would like some extra supper, please, or want to join their humans in whatever activity they are engaged in. They need mental and physical stimulation, and are very playful characters who enjoy retrieving balls of paper and rolling round with a catnip mouse.
Balinese do not have known breed-related health problems, and pets from reputable breeders should be strong and healthy. In common with all breeds of cat, they nevertheless need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors. Older Balinese are sometimes prone to kidney problems, detectable by loss of weight and increased thirst, but a Vet can prescribe medication to help combat this, and many live to the age of 14-16. It is wise to have Balinese kittens neutered by the time they are 6 months old, as they tend to mature sexually at a very young age, and do not need to have a litter of kittens first. Un-neutered male cats will spray in the house and tend to wander, whilst un-neutered females will be very noisy.
Like Siamese, Balinese are not fussy eaters (unless they're allowed to be) and will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. It's often wise to shut cupboard doors and put things out of sight in the same way that you would for a toddler, as they are so inquisitive. Balinese can live very happily indoors without going outside. Those Balinese with longer coats need regular light grooming with a brush and comb to keep the longer coats in good condition, though this is less of a task than with a Persian, thanks to the finer coat of the Balinese. It's best to get them used to this as a young kitten before the full coat is established so that they become used to being groomed. Eyes and ears should also be checked and kept clean if necessary. The paler pointed Balinese, such as red, cream and apricot points, often collect dark debris in the corners of their eyes, but this is perfectly normal and can easily be wiped away with a piece of damp cotton wool.