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The Burmese is another shorthaired breed originating from Asia, and in Britain is of medium 'foreign' type with a body shape not as cobby as the British Shorthair, but not as long as the Siamese. Two different breeds of Burmese have developed on either side of the Atlantic, with the original American branch of the family (from which the European Burmese developed by British breeders have descended) having a rounder body shape and shorter nose. Burmese are very popular as show cats, with quality exhibits still winning top awards at the age of twelve or so, whereas many other breeds (including the Siamese) tend to show their age more in terms of shape and deteriorating colour.
Evidence suggests that the Burmese cat may not have been an original breed as such, but emerged as the result of matings between varieties commonly found in Far Eastern countries including Burma, Thailand and Malaya. It appears that they existed for at least a couple of centuries before a Dr. Thompson from the USA imported a brown female called Wong Mau from Burma in 1930, although research has shown that this cat may actually have been a Tonkinese, a breed closely linked to the Burmese. She was mated to a Seal Pointed Siamese, and produced Siamese kittens as well as brown kittens similar to herself, and when eventually mated to one of her brown sons, she produced much darker kittens, and so the Burmese was born. In 1949, the first Burmese were imported to Britain by a Mrs Lilian France, (brown was the only colour then), and the breed started to gain popularity in this country, being officially recognised in 1952. A blue Burmese suddenly appeared in a litter in 1955, but it wasn't until 1969 that other colours began to be bred after a chocolate Burmese was imported from the USA. Gradually other colours were added to the UK palette of Burmese colours, the Tortie being the most recent to be recognised in 1977.
In Britain this breed now appears in ten colours - brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red cream, and tortie (brown, blue, chocolate, lilac). The Burmese has a well-muscled solid body, often heavier than it actually looks, with slender legs in proportion to the body. The coat should be clear although slight tabby 'ghost' markings may appear on the face and elsewhere, particularly in reds and creams. Reds, creams and also tabbies may show freckles as they get older, particularly on the ears, lips, paw pads and nose leather. With all colours, the under parts of the Burmese are lighter than the back, but the shading will be gradual, although the face and ears may also be slightly darker in tone. The eyes are large, with the top slanting slightly towards the nose, and can be any shade of yellow from chartreuse to amber, although golden yellow is the preferred shade.
The Burmese is an intelligent and affectionate breed of cat, very people-focused, who make ideal pets for all members of the family, equally as good with children as with much older people, and often seeming very sensitive to the needs of individual humans, especially if they are ill, unhappy or needing comfort. They are very sociable animals, and if you are out at work or for other long periods of time, it is essential that they have another cat for company, preferably another Burmese. They are also very playful and love to retrieve toys thrown for them, and if they are not kept fairly well occupied, it is soon discovered that idle paws soon make mischief. Burmese are another conversational breed, with a slightly less strident voice than the Siamese, although they like to be allowed to air their views on a wide variety of topics at home with their family and friends. They get on well with dogs, so long as their canine companion fully understands that it is the Burmese who is in charge!
Burmese are generally very healthy cats, although there are a couple of rarely seen conditions that can affect a very small number UK Burmese lines. The first is an acute teething discomfort suffered by some young kittens whilst the second set of teeth is coming through, with a more extreme reaction than is seen in other breeds. As soon as the second teeth break through, the problem is alleviated although it is distressing for kitten and owner if it does occur, as there is no veterinary treatment that will help. The other known condition is Hypokalemia, where the blood levels of potassium are low, and which can affect kittens of around 6 months in very rare cases, although with prompt treatment the kitten may well make a full recovery. However, it is a very rare recessive gene traceable to certain breeding lines, and both parents must carry the gene for the kittens to develop the problem. As always, it is very important to purchase a kitten from a reputable breeder who will not have cross-bred particular lines. In common with all breeds of cat, Burmese need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors. It is wise to have Burmese kittens neutered by the age of 6 months, as, like the Siamese, they tend to mature sexually at a very young age.
Burmese 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. Eyes and ears should be checked and kept clean if necessary by use of a clean damp cloth. These cats have very short glossy coats, which need little grooming, and can normally be kept free of loose hairs simply by stroking. Burmese can live very happily indoors without going outside, so long as they have a scratching post to and plenty of toys to occupy them.