The Burmese is a cat breed originating from Thailand. This medium-sized cat is characterized by its short-haired coat with a sepia pattern. It should not be confused with the Birman, better known as the Sacred of Burma.
The Tamra Meow or Book of Cat Poems is a richly illustrated Thai collection of verse written between 1350 and 1767 that describes seventeen different cats, some lucky and some not. The manuscript lists and poetically describes the breeds of cats existing at that time and describes the burmese. It is possible that Burmese cats competed in England in the 19th century as Siamese cats.
In 1930, an American sailor brought back to San Francisco a Burmese cat: Wong-Mau, whose hazel-colored coat showed slight variations in the intensity of the color, stronger at the extremities (legs, tail, head) without, however, wearing the spiked pattern. Wong-Mau was purchased by Dr. Joseph Thomson. Another version of the story considers that Joseph Thomson brought Wong-Mau directly from Burma. The doctor made several crosses with cats of Thai origin and in particular a Siamese sealpoint in order to reproduce the coat of Wong-Mau. The Cat Fancier Association (CFA) recognized the breed in 1936 under the name “burmese” which means “Burmese” in English. The first burmeses were imported to the United Kingdom in the early 1950s and recognized by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1952.
In the United States, the breeding program with the Siamese stopped at the end of the 1950s, and American burmese breeders considered that their breed allowed only one color: the seal sepia, also called sable or sable in France, that is to say genetically the black sepia4. In the 1970’s, the American Burmese type became stronger: the face became rounder, as did the eyes and forehead, and the body became cobby4. Until 1984, blue, chocolate and lilac burmeses are listed in a separate breed by CFA, the mandalays, while TICA recognized them as burmeses3.
British breeders continue the breeding program with Siamese longer than in America and develop their own type of burmese, more oriental than the American burmese and accepting a greater number of colors. The blue color is registered within a few years. Red, cream and tortoiseshell – an accidental cross, as these colors do not occur naturally in Burmese, were accepted in the 1970s. The English Burmese is very popular in the United Kingdom where it is one of the top 10 most popular breeds.
The differences between the American and English burmese types became too great and two breeds were now recognized: the English burmese and the American burmese.
American burmese cats
The American Burmese is more compact and heavy than its European cousin. The bone structure, as well as the musculature, are robust and when carried, the weight can be surprising compared to the size of the cat. The legs are of medium size as well as the feet, which are also round. The tail is of medium length with a rounded tip.
The head is of medium size, very rounded, without flats. The forehead is rounded, the nose marked with a stop, the muzzle wide and round. The eyes are also round, well-spaced one of the other, in colors which go from the golden one to the coppery one, with a preference for this last. The ears are of medium size, well-spaced at their base with a rounded tip. As for the eyes, they are placed well spaced on the head and in profile, they point forward.
The coat is short, fine, satin-like and should emphasize the musculature of the cat. All burmeses have a sepia pattern, in the colors seal (sometimes called sable), blue, chocolate and lila.
British burmese cats
The English Burmese is an elegant, medium-sized cat with a muscular body. The legs are slender but of a size proportional to the body, with hind legs slightly higher than the front ones. At the end, the feet are oval. The tail is only moderately thick at its base and tapers to a rounded tip.
The head is of medium size but rather high, between the chin and the top of the skull. From the front it forms a short triangle that tapers towards the rounded muzzle. The top of the skull is broad, rounded and the forehead is rounded. The nose is marked by a stop and ends straight. The ears, of average size, are placed well spaced on the skull. They are broad at the base and round off at the end. In profile, they point forward. The eyes are large, expressive and well-spaced one from the other. The underside of the eye is rounded, while the top is straight and leans slightly toward the nose. Accepted colors range from yellow to amber orange, although golden eyes are preferred. In the European Burmese, however, it is the expression of the eyes that is more important than their color.
The coat is fine and almost without an undercoat. It is shiny and soft to the touch. It must also lie flat on the body. The only pattern allowed is sepia, in any color. Tabby markings are accepted. Cats with silver or silver shaded are called burmilla. Depending on the federation, the breed has its own standard or is judged on burmese or asian criteria.
The following crosses are allowed: Asians and Siamese (only to give Tonkinese).
Burmese cats personality
The Burmese is generally described as a stable, affectionate cat (sometimes called a “dog-cat”) and full of energy. It would be very extroverted, having a strong personality. It is also said to be a tireless player. They are said to be quite talkative, but their voice would be softer than the Siamese. However, these character traits remain perfectly individual and are a function of the history of each cat.
The Burmese cat can be affected by various diseases, here are the diseases by which it is most likely to be affected:
- Aqueous humor lipemia
- Corneal dermoid
- Orofacial pain syndrome
- Congenital peripheral vestibular disease
- Craniofacial anomaly
- Flat-chested kitten syndrome
- Bent tail
- Osteoarthritis of the elbow
- Endocardial fibroelastosis
- Dilated cardiomyopathy, cardiac hypertrophy
- Diabetes mellitus
- Its life expectancy is 10 to 16 years