Is The Birman The Right Cat For You?
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The Birman is a longhaired breed of cat that has the colorpoint marking associated with Siamese breeds, a silky coat and deep blue eyes. It also has contrasting white ‘gloves’ on each of its paws and is known as the ‘Sacred Cat of Burma’.

Breed history

No one is completely certain where the breed originated from or where it was first known but there are some wonderful stories telling of its connections with the temple priests of Northern Burma in the Mount of Lugh. The spread of the breed to France is also shrouded in myth, with one story saying that the cats were smuggled out of Burma by one of the Vanderbilts while another says they were given as a reward for helping defending a temple.

What is known is the first record of them was in Nice, France when they were owned by a woman name Mme Leotardi. The breed was nearly extinct during World War II and there were only two cats left at the end of the war across the whole continent. They belonged to Mr Baudoin-Crevoisier and were named Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa. These two cats were the founding of the modern breeds but had to be heavily crossed with Persian and Siamese for genetic diversity.

By the 1950s, litters of pure Birmans were once again being born and the breed was recognized in Britain in 1965 and by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1966. These first Birmans were seal point but the blue colour came along in the late 1950s from Persian crosses. Newer colors have been bred including chocolate, red, and tabby or lynx points. The Birman has also been the foundation for newer breeds including the Ragdoll.

Physical appearance

The Birman breed is described as being a medium sized cat with a broad face, widely spread ears that are tall and rounded eyes the color of a deep sapphire. While classified as longhaired, they are actually medium-long in coat length and don’t have the undercoat that a Persian has, therefore are much less prone to matting of their fur.

The Birman is always colorpointed, apart from the symmetrical white markings known as gloves on each paw – these are a trademark of the breed and used to separate it from other similar species. The white should cover all of the toe but stop at the point where the toes become the foot on the front paws, though extend further on the back paws. The rest of the body is either white or cream with a touch of wash color from the points.

For showing purposes, the following are recognized colors; seal, chocolate, blue, lilac, red or cream. Tabby or tortoiseshell variations in seal, blue, lilac and chocolate are also allowed but other colors are not yet well enough established.

Common health problems

The biggest health threat to the breed is one commonly seen in most breeds, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), or heart disease. It is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait and is a progressive disease that can lead to paralysis of the hind legs, heart failure and death.

The Birman is also one of the least genetically diverse of the cat breeds, according to a study, the Ascent of Cat Breeds 2008, conducted at UC Davis.

Naming a kitten

Many breeders of Birmans stick with a French tradition of naming all kittens born in a certain year with a name beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. This tradition is currently adhered to in Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand as well as in France. For example, in 2013 all kittens’ names began with the letter K, while in 2014 it is the letter L and so on.

Personality

Birmans are often described as having the beauty of the Siamese without the harsh localisations. They tend to be quiet and docile cats who happily follow their owner from room to room and need to be involved in whatever is going on. They aren't as bossy as Siamese and their docile nature certainly doesn't hint at a lack of intelligence. They are very curious and clever cats that can sometimes get into trouble due to their urge to investigate places.

As a pet, Birmans enjoy a cuddle and are usually happy to be held. They often tell their owners when they want attention or food but have a soft and gentle voice.

Conclusion

Birmans are cats that look like longhaired but don’t have as many grooming problems; they look like Siamese but aren't as loud and are a great breed for a loving and affectionate pet.


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