Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Burmese has been described as a brick wrapped in silk. It is one of the most popular breeds of cat and many owners find them addictive. One just isn’t enough when it comes to these feline masterminds.
Although the sable Burmese is the one fixed in most people’s minds, the Burmese actually comes in a number of different colours including chocolate, lilac, red, cream, tortie, and blue. In young cats the points are quite obvious but as they mature the difference between the coloration of the points and the body decrease until there is very little difference between the two.
The Burmese is a medium sized cat with substantial bone. The body is compact and surprisingly solid. The head is round and small to medium sized. The eyes are wide set and golden or yellow in colour. They are large and round in shape. The ears are also wide set and mid-sized. The tips are slightly rounded and the ears tilt forward, giving the cat an alert expression.
At maturity, the coat is short, silky and soft to the touch although it may not be as short or lie as flat in younger cats under the age of two. It has a satin-like sheen and lies close to the body. Little to no grooming is required. Your hands patting the body will do as much as a brush and keep shedding to a minimum.
The name comes from the historical home of the breed, Burma which is now known as Myanmar. Although its origins are unknown similar cats are described in the Thai Cat Book which dates back to the Ayudhya Period of 1350 – 1767. Similar cats were also imported to England and other parts of Europe during the 1800s but were not popular enough to survive as a breed and gradually disappeared.
In 1930, Dr. Joseph Thompson imported a sable coloured female to San Francisco. Her name was Wong Mau and it is from her that the modern Burmese descends. With the help of cat fanciers like Virginia Cobb (Newton cattery), Billie Gerst (Gerstdale cattery), and Dr. Clyde E. Keeler, Dr. Thompson set out to create a breed that bred true.
So, Wong Mau was bred to a seal point Siamese known as Tai Mau in 1932. She produced kittens of a variety of colours including sable. She was then bred to a sable son from that litter. By continuing on with the kittens that weren’t Siamese in coloration, the breed gradually evolved into a true breeding cat of tremendous beauty and personality. Although Wong Mau was believed to be a Burmese at the time, it is now generally accepted that she was a Siamese – Burmese cross.
Although the original intention was to stay with the sable colour, Burmese of all colours are now considered acceptable by most registration bodies.
The Burmese are healthy cats, generally living 14 to 16 years, but they were developed using heavy inbreeding and there are some inherited health issues to be aware of. Most can be avoided by purchasing your kitten from a responsible breeder.
Meningoencephalocele is also known as Burmese Head Defect. It is a musculoskeletal defect that is present at birth. Affected kittens are euthanized. Also, present at birth is the flat chested syndrome. In mild cases, the kitten may be able to cope and gradually improve but in more severe cases breathing is affected and the cat may be unable to suckle and succumb to the problem. Cats that survive flat chested syndrome will appear normal or close to normal by adulthood but should never be bred to avoid producing affected kittens.
Feline Orofacial pain syndrome affects mainly male Burmese. Although the origins of the disease are unknown an inherited component is suspected. The syndrome generally presents as excessive licking and chewing as well as pawing at the mouth. It tends to happen in distinct episodes.
The Burmese is also susceptible to cherry eye and dry eye. Cherry eye occurs when the third eyelid pops out and it is treated with surgery. Dry eye can be harder to treat and, if there is no underlying infection to be treated, may require drops on a regular basis to maintain moisture in the eye.
Primary endocardial fibroelastosis is a cardiac disease that tends to appear between three weeks and four months of age. The left atrium and ventricle are enlarged and the kitten usually has difficulty breathing. It is usually fatal.
The Burmese are an extremely loving cats that want to interact with their families. They are not a good choice for people who prefer a more independent cat. They are also not a good choice for families who wish only one cat. Burmese do not like being left alone. If they are going to be by themselves for any length of time, it is best to have another cat to keep them company.
That being said, the Burmese will get along with just about anyone. They do well with other pets of all varieties and love children. They are more than willing to join a little girl’s tea party or play dress-up. The Burmese simply loves to be a part of the action. When he can’t be involved, he likes to watch it from high places including your shoulders or your back if you are kneeling down to do some gardening or cleaning. Breakables should be locked away behind cabinet doors. A bored Burmese can get into a lot of trouble. They are naturally inquisitive and intelligent and will create fun for themselves. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to approve of the fun they create.
They will converse although their vocalizations are softer than those of the Siamese. The Burmese will rule his household with a velvet paw and can be demanding if his behavior is not kept in check. You need to be firm but gentle with your kitten.
Their gentle nature means that they cannot be left alone outdoors. They are easy prey for dogs and wild animals if left alone. However, it also makes them an ideal family pet for those who wish a cat that is not content to watch from the sidelines. They will adapt to other pets and make a great companion to children provided that they are not left alone for extended periods of time.