Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Balinese is often referred to as a “longhaired Siamese” and, in many ways, the Balinese is a softer, hairier version of the Siamese. They are similar in terms of body shape, personality and many other traits. In genetic terms, the two breeds are related although how the longhaired gene that ultimately produced the Balinese from the Siamese evolved remains something of a mystery.
Initially, the Balinese, like the Siamese of the time, had an apple-shaped head and a bulkier body than their modern counterparts. Today, both Siamese and Balinese have a more angular, lean body with a triangular head with a flat forehead and no muzzle break. With the exception of the description of the coat and tail coat, the two breeds have an identical breed standard.
They are considered a medium sized breed, weighing approximately 6-8 lbs. and females weighing 5-7 lbs. Balinese should be relatively fine-boned. The body should be long and tubular in shape, lithe but well-muscled. The coat is semi-long and is a single coat which means there is no woolly undercoat. Instead, the coat lies relatively flat and has a silky texture. It is longer on the tail, where it forms a plume. The body should be evenly coloured and noticeably darker at the points (tail, face, feet, ears, and in males, scrotum). All Balinese cats have blue eyes that are almond in shape and of medium size. They are set on an Oriental slant.
The single coat requires only occasional brushing but does not mat or tangle, making it much easier to keep than the longer coats of breeds like the Himalayan.
The occasional longhaired kitten had shown up in Siamese litters periodically for many years but the origin of the longhaired gene was unknown. Whether something else was mixed in or it was a mutation, no one really knows. Then, in 1928 a longhaired Siamese kitten was born and registered in the United States and fanciers began to take a real interest in the concept. The remained an oddity until the 1950s when a few fanciers became serious about the idea of producing longhaired Siamese kittens on a regular basis. It began with Marion Dorsey (Rai-Mar Cattery) and Helen Smith (MerryMews Cattery). It was Smith who gave the breed the name Balinese. The Siamese breeders objected to the new breed being considered a true Siamese cat and so it was decided that it should be a breed unto itself. The elegant waving of the cat’s tail reminded Helen Smith of the graceful Balinese dancers and so she christened them “Balinese”.
The accepted colours were initially the same as those of these Siamese – seal, chocolate, blue and lilac. In the late 1970s, red, cream, and the tabby pattern were added although they were referred to as Javanese rather than Balinese. More recently, the other colours and bicolours have all been deemed acceptable as colours of the Balinese.
The Balinese is a relatively healthy breed that usually lives well into its teen years and even early twenties. The only defect that is associated with the breed is crossed eyes. This condition is also known as strabismus. It can affect one or both eyes and, from a phenotypic perspective, it appears that the eyes cannot both focus in the same direction at the same time. Instead, at least one eye appears to be looking at a strange angle. It is caused by an imbalance in the muscles or the mobility of the muscles that surround the eye or a crossing of the nerves in the eye. It does not affect basic vision but cross-eyed cats may experience poorer depth sensation ability and binocular vision which can make them less efficient hunters than non-cross-eyed cats. It is not uncommon in Siamese or Balinese cats but does not affect their quality of life.
As all cats are born with their eyes sealed, there is no way of knowing if a kitten will be cross-eyed initially. Even after the eyes open, it can take up to six weeks for the eyes to begin to appear crossed. Cats with crossed eyes should not be bred but will make fine pets.
Like the Siamese, the Balinese loves to be with his people. He will follow you around the house and do his best to be a part of all your activities while adding his suggestions vocally. The voice of the Balinese is somewhat softer than that of the Siamese and they do not yowl in the same manner but they will carry on a conversation with you.
They are affectionate animals and love to be cuddled and curl up on your lap. They are quite tolerant of children but will not allow rough behavior and may choose retaliation if mistreated. That being said, they are curious and intelligent cats that enjoy games. Children will find they love to play with all types of toys and are willing to turn anything into a game. They will fetch and love puzzle toys.
Balinese tend to adapt well to families of all types and compositions and do well with other family pets. Indeed, their tendency to bond so closely with their families means that an empty house for extended periods of time may prove a bit lonely for your Balinese. A companion cat can be an ideal solution if the home does not already have another pet interested in playing and cuddling with the Balinese.
They are quite curious and will explore all parts of the home, high and low. For this reason, breakables shouldn’t be left out where they can be knocked off shelves. Paper items make quick and easy toys as far as the Balinese is concerned so valuable papers should not be left lying around either. Keeping toys and activities available to your cat will help prevent him from creating his own toys out of objects found lying around.
All in all, the Balinese makes an excellent choice as a family pet. They are active and interested in everything you do. Their natural desire to be with you means they will likely follow you from room to room and when you are unavailable will resort to keeping other pets company. Their minimal grooming requirements means that those who like longer haired cats can enjoy the feature without the extreme grooming that can be mandatory with many other longhaired breeds. As with any purebred cat, research your breeder carefully and make sure you are comfortable with them, their cats, and their breeding practises.