The Burmese is a fairly well known breed, and these cats have always been relatively popular, though perhaps not as much as the fairly similar but far more widely known Siamese. But perhaps you would like to know more about this elegant breed. Here are some interesting facts about its history, looks, and personality.
The Burmese cat originated in Burma (Myanmar). In 1930 a small female dark brown cat called Wong Mau was taken from Burma to the United States. She was mated to a Siamese, and she produced pointed and mink coloured kittens She was then bred to one of the mink kittens, and this produced the now well known sepia patterned Burmese, ie darker body than the Siamese, but still with coloured points. Almost all modern day Burmese cats are descended from these matings.
Within 50 years of their first appearance in the West, the Burmese had split into two distinct types on each side of the Atlantic. The American Burmese has a rounded, short-muzzled head, and the European Burmese has a more wedge shaped head. There are a few other differences, enough that they are considered as two separate breeds.
Differences over the head shape and more importantly some serious health issues, led to American Burmese being barred from European breeding lines for a time. For many years registries recognised either the American Burmese or the European Burmese, but not both. This later changed, but health issues in some lines of American Burmese still prevent them being registered by the GCCF and some other associations. More about these health problems below...
A number of health issues have occurred in Burmese cats of both types. Burmese cats in Europe are at greater risk of Diabetes than other cats. Also, certain UK lines of Burmese seem to suffer from an acute teething disorder of young kittens. But more worryingly, some American Burmese have a severe head malformation which is usually fatal. This is caused by a so-called lethal gene, and geneticists are trying hard to breed it out. But this is the reason for the ban on some American Burmese lines among European registries. Despite the above, the Burmese tends to be a fairly long lived breed, with cats frequently living into their late teens or even older.
Although all descended from the brown Wong Mau, Burmese cats on both sides of the Atlantic now come in a variety of colours. In Britain they can be found in brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, and cream, always with the distinctive sepia pattern. Accepted colours are slightly different in the American Burmese.
While gold or yellow eyes are most common, and considered by some people to be most desirable, Burmese cats can also have blue or green eyes. The eye colour is not considered particularly important when it comes to showing.
Are you looking for a cat which does not require much coat care? If so, the Burmese may be the cat for you. Burmese cats have short, sleek fur, which does not need much grooming, if any at all. Most owners find that simply stroking their cat is all that is required to keep the coat in good condition. Many owners do not even bath their cats before a show. The short fur also means that these cats do not shed hair very much. So the Burmese is a true low maintenance cat.
Burmese cats may not need much in the way of grooming, but that does not mean that you can simply leave them alone to do their own thing. In fact, Burmese cats just hate being on their own! They are extremely people oriented, perhaps even more so than the Siamese, to which they are closely related. They are friendly and active, and want to be involved in everything you do. They like to play, they like to be involved, they are very inquisitive, and in this respect they can be quite challenging to own. They are also very friendly to strangers, and therefore are one of the easiest cats in the world to steal, as they are likely to follow anyone. So if you're not prepared to involve your cat in all aspects of your life, and also look after it carefully and make sure it does not go off with other people, perhaps you should not get a Burmese.
Despite being so outgoing and people oriented, the Burmese is a fairly quiet cat, at least in comparison with the extremely vocal and noisy Siamese. Nevertheless, the Burmese will use its voice to attract your attention the same as any other Asian cat, but with a low rumbling miaow rather than the loud Siamese yell. So it is certainly not a silent cat.
Don't be deceived by this breed's elegant, almost slender appearance. If you pick up a Burmese, you will find it is surprisingly heavy and muscular. They are quite small cats, usually weighing between four and six kilos, but are much heftier than you would expect. Indeed, with their glossy coats, they have been described as 'a brick wrapped in silk'.
Has the above whetted your appetite for a Burmese? If so you should be able to find a kitten fairly easily as this is a well established breed. But do make sure that you will be able to be around quite a lot and give this attention loving, rather demanding breed all the fuss it wants. If you are away from home a lot or work long hours, perhaps some other breed would suit you better.