Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Birman is also known as the Sacred Cat of Birma. They are a statuesque, regal cat with a beautiful, flowing, silky coat and an equally beautiful and docile temperament to match it. For those looking for a cat that adapts easily to circumstances and is ideal for families with children and other pets, the Birman can be a perfect choice.
The Birman is a medium-large breed, weighing 6 – 12 lbs. They are a pointed cat, which means that they have a light base coat that darkens at the points (legs, tail, face, ears). One of the things that separates them from other medium to longhaired, pointed breeds is their gloves and laces. All Birmans have four white feet (the gloves). On the rear legs, the white extends up the hock, ending in a V shape (the laces). Ideally, the white on the feet is evenly distributed and ends in neat lines just past the toes but the truly important thing is that the white feet and laces up the hocks be present.
The head is rounded but slightly longer than wide with a notable roman nose. The ears are approximately as wide at the base as they are tall and of medium size overall. The eyes are a deep blue. The Birman has a substantial body with medium to heavy bone. They are sturdily built animals with good musculature.
The coat tends to attract much attention with its silky, flowing softness. It is a single coat with no undercoat. As a result, it tends to lie relatively flat and is not prone to matting or tangling. Shedding is moderate and a weekly combing will reduce it substantially. This is a breed that does shed more heavily on a seasonal basis. During that time, you may need to brush more frequently to keep up with the hair.
Most Birmans are extremely docile and enjoy any type of interaction with you. Done with care, brushing and combing can be a peaceful activity enjoyed by both cat and owner.
The history of the Birman is shrouded in mystery. As the name implies, an eastern heritage is suspected. There are a number of legends about how the cats came to be. The most common one involves a white cat with golden eyes that lived at the temple of a golden skinned, blue eyed goddess in Birma. One day the temple was invaded and the priests were killed. A cat, named Sinha, stayed with his dying master with his paws on the priest’s body. As a reward for his loyalty to the priest, the goddess turned the white cat golden in colour with darker points and changed his eyes from gold to blue like her own. The cat’s feet stayed white as a symbol of the purity of his love for his master.
The real origins of the breed are unknown although many suspect that there is Siamese and Persian ancestors behind the Birman. They were first seen in France early in the 19th century and came to the United States in the mid to late 1950s. Today, they are one of the most popular breeds of purebred cat and have remained consistently in the top ten in popularity for many years now.
The Birman is a fairly healthy breed with no particular health issues associated with it. They generally live 15 or more years. Some breeders cite slightly smaller than normal kidneys although this does not always lead to renal issues and many live to old age with no serious problems resulting from having unusually small kidneys. So, if your veterinarian notes that the kidneys seem small, it is not necessarily time to panic. If blood work reveals poor kidney values in terms of urea and creatinine, you may have a more serious problem on your hands. Even then though, many cats manage well on a low protein diet combined with medication and live with the condition for many years. As with any purchase of a purebred pet, you should receive a written health guarantee that covers potentially genetic problems like kidney failure. Ask the breeder if they have experienced problems in their lines and what they offer should your kitten develop a health issue related to his kidneys. A good breeder stands behind their cats and will assist you in handling the issue.
The Birman is an unusually docile cat. They are quite content to laze about in the sun provided that they are in the same room with you. They are very affectionate animals and enjoy being loved and cuddled. Their easy going personality makes them an ideal choice for a home with children. They are equally amenable to other cats or dogs sharing the home. They can be slightly dominant with the other cat, reminding it of their status as a special temple cat but they are rather peaceful creatures on the whole.
The degree to which they are talkative tends to depend on the owner. If the owner encourages talking and converses with them, they will carry on a conversation. If the owner would rather share some silence, they are equally amenable to that. Their voice tends to be chirping rather than yowling.
Although quiet, they are not dumb and enjoy playing with puzzle toys. They can be taught tricks using clicker training and are more than willing to participate in tea parties and dress up sessions with the kids. They are playful despite initial appearances.
The Birman bonds closely with his family and will stay in the room with them, getting up and following them if they move to another room. They can be somewhat underfoot in their quest to be close by in case you should feel the need to stroke their coat in loving adoration. They are eager to greet visitors and will meet them at the door. What they don’t enjoy is being left alone for extended periods of time. For this reason, they are best suited to homes where someone is frequently home or they share the home with other pets they can play with in your absence.
Between their lovely appearance and peaceable temperament, the Birman is an excellent choice for a family pet. They will quickly bond with all members of the family, young and old, two or four footed. Just remember to give them a brushing once a week to keep the coat shedding in check.