Burmese cats are well-known for their alluring eyes and sleek good looks. They also have a very pleasant, sunny disposition that can brighten up anyone’s day. These favored pets of temple guardians and members of the royalty continue to win the hearts of even die-hard dog-lovers. Burmese cats are curious, playful, energetic, and have a very sweet disposition that very few cat breeds can match. Is this the perfect feline for you? Let us find out.
History of the Burmese Cat
The Burmese cat that the world loves today was a product of an American feline breeding program in the 1930s. However, one of the parents of the original Burmese was a cat that belonged to a breed of temple cats in ancient Burma. These temple cats were also favored by the royalties of Burma and neighboring Siam (present-day Thailand).
Modern Burmese cats trace their origins to Wong Mau. This is a dark-brown, small cat that a sailor was able to bring back to the United States in 1930. Many people think that Wong Mau is a Chocolate Siamese because of its uncanny resemblance to the Siamese cat.
The sailor either gave or sold Wong Mau to Dr. Joseph Cheesman Thompson of San Francisco, California. At the time, Dr. Thompson was also a breeder of Siamese cats. He worked with feline breeders Billie Gerst and Virginia Cobb, together with geneticist Clyde Keeler. They mated Wong Mau to one of Dr. Thompson’s male Siamese cats named Tai Mau. Tai Mau had a seal point coloration. The mating produced kittens with dark brown, beige, and pointed colors. These kittens served as the foundation of the new breed of cat.
In case you’re wondering how the cat got its name, it is not because it is a ‘Burmese’ cat or cat from Burma. Instead, it is a contraction of two different words – Burma and Siamese. This lends credence to the actual country of origin of the cat (Burma) and the breed that served as one of its foundations (Siamese).
The CFA recognized the Burmese as a breed in 1936. Unfortunately, the organization suspended the recognition of the breed in 1946. This is because of the dilution of the genetic characteristics of the original breed brought about by extensive Siamese outcrossing.
Fans of the original breed worked to refine the original qualities of the Wong Mau-Tai Mau kittens. This led to the lifting of the suspension by the CFA in 1954. Two years later, fanciers formed the United Burmese Cat Fanciers. They worked to establish the breed standards that remain to this very day.
Quick Facts about the Burmese Cat
The Burmese cat has a very interesting history. What will fascinate you further are the facts that many people don’t know about this feline breed.
- The “Silk-wrapped Brick”
Burmese cats have a very smooth and shiny coat that gives them a sleek look. However, do not think that these cats are light. Burmese kitties have a muscular, sturdy, and heavy body that can tip the weighing scale at more than 13 lbs. It will not surprise you one bit why people call it the ‘brick that’s wrapped in silk”.
- Only Four Colors Please
The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes only four coat colors of the Burmese. There is the rich, dark brown color of Sable and the warm beige hue of Champagne. There are also the pale gray Platinum and the medium gray Blue. Blue Burmese cats often have fawn undertones, making them very beautiful to look at.
- They ‘Rumble’
Burmese cats are very vocal. You will know if you are not giving them the attention that they expect from you. These cats will never meow. They will produce a guttural, raspy rumble that is sure to get your attention. Once you let them hop in your lap, they will elicit a soft meow. It will be the sweetest, almost-melodic meow you will ever hear.
- The American vs. The British Burmese
Not many people know that there are at least two versions of the Burmese cat. The American version has a stockier, more muscular build than its counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic. The British version has a sleeker, more ‘refined’ appearance. The features of the head also differ. American Burmese cats have round eyes, a short muzzle, and a broad head. On the other hand, the British version has slanted eyes, a long muzzle, and a wedge-shaped head.
- The ‘Forever Kitten’?
One of the fun facts that you should know about these cats is that they tend to age in a very graceful manner. You might think that a Burmese is only 4 years old when in fact it is already 12 years old. Such is the aging process among Burmese cats that people have likened them to the ‘forever kitten’. This is especially true when you also consider their playfulness, curiosity, and friendliness. These traits never seem to wane even when the cat is already nearing its twilight years. Unfortunately, once you see the signs of aging – graying hair and reduced physical activities – you will only need to count several more months before they pass away. Most of these cats reach a very ripe age of 17 years. This is equivalent to an 84-year old human.
Things You Should Know
Every cat that we bring to our homes deserves the best possible care we could give them. From taking care of their health, nutrition, and grooming needs, every pet parent should know the basic care requirements of a Burmese cat.
The Burmese is not one of the world’s healthiest feline breeds. In addition to the diseases that are common to all cats, Burmese kitties are also at risk of developing aqueous humor lipemia, elbow osteoarthritis, and facial and head defects.
Aqueous humor lipemia are fatty lesions that develop in the aqueous humor of the cat’s eyes. These lesions can affect the Burmese cat’s vision and can lead to other eye problems. Facial and head defects are almost often lethal. Deformities of the skull can have a negative impact on the normal development and growth of the cat’s brain. It can also pinch nerves and cut off blood supply to the brain. The risk of osteoarthritis of the elbows is also higher among Burmese cats. This can affect their mobility and quality of life.
American Burmese cats are healthier than their Australian and European counterparts. For example, Burmese cats in these regions are more prone to developing diabetes. There are also British Burmese kittens that can develop Feline Orofacial Pain Syndrome secondary to tooth eruption. The problem is not in the erupting tooth; it is the behavior of the kittens that will try to soothe the pain. In most cases, there is serious self-trauma or self-mutilation.
There is also the issue of hypokalemia. This can lead to episodic muscle weakness. It may be difficult for the Burmese to walk. They may also not be able to hold their head in a steady manner.
Pet parents should always subject their Burmese cats to DNA testing. This will help identify at least three genetic abnormalities that may be present in the cat. These include hypokalemia, GM1 gangliosidosis, and Burmese head defect.
Most Burmese kitties are finicky eaters. They can get bored easily with the same kind of cat food. As such, it is best to switch their meals every now and then. Introducing as many varieties of food flavors while still a kitten should help.
When it comes to food, nothing beats premium-quality cat food. Canned cat food is best. This has almost the same nutrient profile as the natural food of cats. It also addresses the risk of diabetes, since most kibbles contain more calories and more carbohydrates than wet pet food.
Be sure to get a cat food that has omega-3 fatty acids. This will help maintain the health and shine of the kitty’s coat. High-quality animal proteins work best to continue developing and maintaining their muscles. It would be a disgrace to have a Burmese that looks skinny.
Water is an important part of the cat’s feeding pattern. This is regardless of whether you are giving it wet cat food or kibbles. Know that giving kibbles to cats will mean more water that the cat needs to drink. Cat water fountains and flavored water can help encourage the Burmese to drink more.
All Burmese cats should be kept indoors. Their friendliness and trusting personalities can make them easy targets for ‘catnappers’. These cats won’t mind if they get picked up by a complete stranger. Kittens can sell for about $400 to $600. And if you happen to have a Blue Burmese, the price can be higher.
Routine veterinary visits are a must for Burmese kitties. They are not the healthiest feline breeds on the planet. It is best to have a routine wellness exam every year. This can include screening tests and the usual laboratory exams to help make sure that the cat is in top shape. Pay special attention to the eyes as they can develop aqueous humor lipemia. Osteoarthritis of the elbows are quite common, too. Veterinarians can help determine the correct treatment for these conditions before they grow worse.
Vaccination is also important. While there are some pet parents who may argue about the value of pet vaccination, one cannot deny that prevention is always more cost-effective than the cure. If you can prevent a number of diseases, then you should feel a lot safer about the welfare of your cat. There are optional immunization shots, too.
Part of the Burmese cat’s care is playtime. This is a very curious and playful cat. It is a very active feline. It loves to seek its own adventure. That is why it is important for pet parents to cat-proof their homes. Make sure that there are no cleaning agents and other hazardous chemicals that the cat can get in contact with. Be very careful about the plants that you may have in the garden. Some of these can be dangerous to cats.
Litter box training is also crucial. Nobody wants a cat that does its ‘business’ anywhere. The moment the Burmese arrives at your house, you should already start training it to use the cat litter box. It is ideal to have at least two litter boxes for your kitty. This will allow you to clean one litter box, while your cat uses the other one. As finicky as Burmese cats are, they can also be very demanding when it comes to the cleanliness of their toilet.
If you hate grooming a pet, then the Burmese is for you. This does not mean that you can just skip the basics though. One of the most unique things about this feline breed is its coat. It is short and does not tangle or mat. You can run your fingers to ‘comb’ its fur and help remove dirt and debris that may be on the coat. They will not require bathing or brushing either.
However, they will still benefit from a brushing session every week. This will help remove dead hairs, while also promoting blood circulation in the skin. Brushing also helps distribute natural skin oils to help maintain the health of both the fur and the skin. More frequent brushing is ideal during spring. This is a time when these cats are ready to shed the coat that they had in winter.
Check out our guide on the Best Brushes For Cats for more info.
There is one thing that every potential Burmese owner has to understand about grooming this cat. You have to pay attention to eye discharges that can cause staining of the fur near its eyes. Burmese cats have large, adorable eyes. Because of this, they have to secrete a thin film of fluid to help keep the eyes from drying. These secretions can solidify with the addition of particles in the air. They can form a small, clear ball in the corner of the cat’s eyes. Make sure to wipe this clean to help prevent staining. Also, if you notice the ball to have a yellowish or whitish color, bring your Burmese to the vet.
The other grooming tasks for the Burmese are already routine. Clip the cat’s claws once every 2 to 3 weeks. Brush the cat’s teeth every week, if not every day. A visit to a veterinary dentist once every 6 months is ideal. Inspecting its ears for any sign of inflammation or the presence of ear mites is also important. Cleaning the ears once a week should help.
Practically everyone knows that most cats are the diametrical opposites of dogs. They can be aloof, standoffish, snobbish, and sometimes antisocial. Don’t count the Burmese in this list! This is a cat that is famous for being the ‘social butterfly’ in their kingdom. If you ever wanted a cat that had the playfulness and sociability of a dog, then the Burmese is for you.
The Burmese has remarkable cuddling skills. They are the quintessential lap cats. They would rather spend the whole day in their owner’s laps than stay in their crates or cat beds. They can be very clingy. They can get attached to that special person in their lives. As such, separation anxiety can be a real concern for these kitties.
Unfortunately, people attachment is not the only issue. These kitties can also get attached to their surroundings. They do not like sudden changes in their environment. That is why it is best to get a Burmese kitten than adopt an adult cat. Socialization and training can help the cat in this regard. If you have to move to another house, you should dedicate enough time to help the cat adjust to its new surroundings. If you are going to replace any of its items, it is also best to do so in a controlled and gradual manner.
While Burmese cats are known for their affection and attention-seeking behaviors, they do not like getting restrained. They also do not like being forced into doing something they do not like. This is something that you will have to remember when training this cat. If it doesn’t want it, don’t push it. It’s better to train it in a very slow and methodical manner.
Burmese cats love to play. If there is such a thing as a ‘party animal’ in the cat kingdom, the Burmese cat would be it. They are also very curious. They love to jump onto elevated platforms so that they can have a better view of their surroundings. In many cases, they will perch on their owner’s shoulders. They do this to understand what their owners are doing. This is a cat that does not want to be left out in family activities. Wherever you go, the Burmese has to be there, too.
There is a major downside to the lovable temperament of the Burmese cat. Its social and friendly nature makes it very trusting of people. It will ‘meet and greet’ almost any other person that it sees. This can be quite a problem if there are troublemakers in your neighborhood.
The Burmese cat is ideal for people who want a feline pet with many dog-like characteristics. It is a low-maintenance cat that comes with very striking features and an adorable temperament.
- The History of the Burmese Breed – National Alliance of Burmese Breeders
- About the Burmese – CFA
- Burmese – international cat care