Do you like unusual cats or cats that are unique in any way? I always thought colorpoint cats were unique and interesting. Something about their appearance is so majestic and royal, yet mysterious and mesmerizing. One of those cat breeds is the Birman cat, a breed with a truly interesting history that tells us a lot about the cultural significance of cats. Keep reading to see what I am talking about!
Birman Cat Characteristics
|Fur color||Seal point, blue point, lilac point, and chocolate point.|
|Fur length||Medium to long.|
|Eye color & shape||Blue, rounded, slightly slanted, and widely set apart eyes.|
|Weight||Males 10-12 lbs|
Females 6-10 lbs
|Expected lifespan||9-13 years|
|Temperament||Affectionate, gentle, loyal, intelligent, curious, outgoing, and friendly.|
|Kids and other pets||Friendly towards children and other pets|
|Sociable and cuddly||Sociable and likes to cuddle|
Requirements & Traits
|Feeding||Adult Birmans should eat 2 times a day, while kittens and juveniles need to eat 3-4 times a day. Both wet and dry commercial cat foods are recommended.|
|Grooming||Brushing the fur once a week, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental hygiene.|
History and Origins
The exact origins of Birman cats are a bit unclear. It is believed that these cats were initially the priest companions in temples of Northern Burma in the Mount of Lugh. Eventually, several of these cats were taken to France, becoming quite popular.
However, their origin story and the story of how exactly they arrived in France remained shrouded in mystery. There are several legends touching this subject, so let’s take a closer look at some of them:
The Story of The Cats in The Temple of Lao-Tsun
The Temple of Lao-Tsun was built to worship the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse, a golden goddess with sapphire-blue eyes. One of the priests in the temple, Mun-Ha, had a white cat named Sinh. Together with his cat, Mun-Ha kneeled in front of the goddess’ statue every day and prayed.
However, their routine was violently interrupted one night when the group of raiders entered the temple and killed Mun-Ha. While Mun-Ha was dying, Sinha put his paws on his body and faced the statue. Miraculously, Sinha’s white fur turned to gold, and his eyes became sapphire-blue, just like the goddess’ eyes.
Sinha’s legs turned brown, and they only remained white where they touched Mun–Ha. All the other cats in and around the temple underwent the same transformation. Sinha remained by Mu-Ha’s body for the next seven days, when he died too, carrying Mun-Ha’s soul into heaven.
Since then, it has been believed that each time one of the temple cats dies, the souls of previous priests help it go to heaven.
The Second Raid and The Second World War
Unfortunately, the temple was raided again in 1919. Two Europeans, Auguste Pavie and Major Gordon Russell helped the temple priests, and they were generously rewarded. They received a pair of Birman cats, and they took them back to France.
There, the cats thrived, with their number constantly increasing. However, World War 2 had devastating consequences not only for people but also for various cat breeds, including the Birmans. By the end of the war, only two Birman cats were alive.
Efforts To Save The Breed
The remaining two cats were Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa. Both cats belonged to Baudoin-Crevoisier. Their offspring was the foundation of the modern Birman breed. To save the breed from extinction, breeders had to outcross these cats with Persian and Siamese breeds.
In the early 1950s, breeders began to produce pure-bred Birman litters, and the breed was finally saved. The Birman cat breed was officially recognized and registered in Britain in 1965 and one year later in the United States.
Birman Cat Personality
Birman cats have truly beautiful personalities. They are affectionate, gentle, sweet, loving, and loyal cats that enjoy the company of either their owners or other pets. They are intelligent and curious cats who follow their owners around the house. Birman cats aren’t quite vocal, so if you want a pet that won’t be too loud, these cats might be a perfect choice!
Since being highly revered temple cats is basically in their genes, Birman cats crave attention, love, and adoration. If they feel like they aren’t getting that, they can become jealous. Additionally, Birman cats can be slightly territorial, but they aren’t aggressive.
Birman Cat Appearance
Apart from their nice temperaments, Birman cats also have a unique appearance that makes them popular among cat owners and breeders. Some of their most distinctive physical features are the following:
It is impossible to properly describe a Birman cat without talking about its gorgeous fur. Birman cats have their bodies covered in cream-colored fur, which is much darker on their faces, ears, tails, and lower legs. Their paws have white “gloves,” i.e., they are covered with white fur, which is quite in contrast to the rest of the body.
The fur is medium long to long, but there is no undercoat, so there is also no matting. It is silky to the touch, slightly curly on the belly area, and heavily ruffed around the neck.
Another striking feature of Birman cats is their eyes. Birman’s eyes are always sapphire-like blue, and they look even more striking in contrast with the dark fur on the face. These eyes are large, round, slightly slanted, and widely set apart.
Birman cats are large and stocky cats, with males being larger than females. On average, male Birman cats grow to be 15-18 inches long, and they usually weigh 10-12 pounds. Female Birmans can also grow up to be 15-18 inches long, but they are more slender, so their weight ranges between 6 and 10 pounds.
Other Body Characteristics
Biran bodies are elongated, stocky, and muscular. The legs are medium long and strong. The paws are large, round, and strong, with pink pads that can have dark spots. Front paws have five toes, while back paws have four toes. The tail is proportionally long to the rest of the body.
The head is broad and rounded, with a distinct Roman nose. The cheeks are full, the muzzle is rounded, and the chin is strong and well-developed. The ears are rounded, medium-sized, and widely set apart.
Daily Life With Birman Cat
Just like most other cat breeds, Birman cats aren’t too demanding, but they still need you to take good care of them. To do that, you will need to follow some basic requirements.
Birman cats are cats that can be prone to obesity, so keeping an eye on what and how much they eat could be crucial for their health. These cats should eat the usual cat food, a combination of dry and wet commercial cat foods that are based on meats and rich in animal protein.
For adult Birmans, two meals per day will be enough, while kittens and juvenile Birmans need to eat more often, 3-4 times per day. For the exact portion size, you should consult your vet. Occasional snacks and treats are allowed and recommended but in moderate amounts.
When they see long-haired cats, most people assume they are high-maintenance. However, in many cases, that’s not true, and such is the case with Birman cats. They don’t possess the undercoats which are responsible for fur matting.
These cats also don’t shed a lot, which is another factor that makes their grooming needs minimal. Fur brushing once or twice a week will be more than enough to keep their fur shiny, pretty, and knot-free.
Nail trimming is also important, and you should trim your cat’s nails every two weeks. Use wet cotton pads to clean its ears if you notice they get dirty.
Regular dental hygiene is also important for your cat’s well-being, and if you can’t get your cat to put up with teeth brushing, buy it some teeth-cleaning snacks instead.
If you can’t handle an overly active cat, I have some good news for you! Although Birman cats are curious and moderately playful cats, they prefer to spend their time napping or being somewhere close to you. They aren’t as active as many other cat breeds, so it is easy to give them enough activity.
Provide several toys, a scratching tree, and a climbing tree. This will be enough to keep your Birman cat entertained, although it will be more interested in you than in its toys. That shouldn’t be a problem either, take a few minutes of your day to play with your Birman, and allow it to stay close to you even when you don’t have time to play.
Most Common Birman Cat Health Issues
A study from 2008 showed that Birman cats are among the least genetically diverse cat breeds in the world. When we consider their history, that’s hardly a surprise. But what does that mean for their health?
Fortunately, these cats are healthy in general, despite the less diverse genetics. Still, they can get sick just like any other cat, and here are some of their most common diseases:
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic disorder that occurs in cats and results from the overgrowth of the heart muscle. The disease, which causes the thickening of the heart muscles, usually does not show any sign until it worsens.
However, when it does appear, symptoms can include difficulty breathing, frequent vomiting, and loss of appetite. There are two types of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – restrictive form and hypertrophic form.
The restrictive form is caused by the distortion of tissues or blood vessels, while the hypertrophic type involves heavy growths on the middle layer of the heart muscle walls. Both forms have similar treatment options, but their outcomes may differ greatly depending on how long they undergo medical intervention.
In either case, when you notice any of the symptoms that might point to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, you should take your Birman to the vet as soon as possible.
Chronic Kidney Disease
This is a chronic and irreversible kidney disease that is common in cats, especially those who are between 10 to 15 years of age. If not properly treated, this condition can greatly reduce the life span of your cat. It begins slowly with a decrease in appetite, increased thirst, and urination.
The exact cause of feline chronic kidney disease is unknown, but certain risk factors are evident such as high blood pressure and toxins from diet or environment. When the kidneys become damaged, waste products that should be filtered out accumulate in the bloodstream, causing organ dysfunction and possible failure.
There is no cure for feline chronic kidney disease, but treatment can help manage symptoms and slow the condition’s progression. Once diagnosed, your vet will work with you to determine an appropriate treatment plan that may include a prescription diet, medication, and fluid therapy in order to maintain good kidney function and overall health.
Peritonitis is a general term for inflammation of the peritoneum or lining of the abdominal cavity. Inflammation may be caused by infection, injury, and other inflammatory conditions such as pancreatitis, poisoning, or fluid imbalance. It can affect cats of any age.
Symptoms depend on the cause of peritonitis and what part of the peritoneum with which it is irritated. In acute cases, symptoms include anorexia (loss of appetite), nausea, vomiting, depression, and abdominal pain. Some cat breeds are more prone to developing this condition than others.
However, regardless of the cat breed, this condition should be taken seriously because many diseases have similar symptoms that may lead to the unnecessary suffering of your cat if they are thought to be caused by peritonitis.
Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures
The feline audiogenic reflex seizure syndrome (FARS) is a genetic disorder that affects the brain of some older cats. It may appear suddenly or develop over time and affect both sexes equally. This neurological disorder has been seen in certain breeds, such as Siamese, Abyssinian, and Birman, but can occur in random-bred cats as well.
Symptoms of FARS include intense shaking or jerking muscles that could lead to injury for your cat. Other symptoms may include head bobbing, facial rubbing, drooling, and vocalization during the spasms. The cause of these seizures is unknown, but studies are underway to determine if there is a hereditary component to this disease.
It is important to work with your vet to develop a treatment plan that best suits your cat’s condition. Treatment options may include medications such as anticonvulsants or anti-anxiety drugs, dietary changes, environmental enrichment (such as puzzle feeders or games), and physical therapy.
This condition affects many cats, and some cat breeds are simply more prone to being obese than others. Sadly, Birman cats are among those cat breeds that are relatively prone to becoming overweight. While being overweight can lead to other medical issues, it can cause many problems on its own, such as joint pain and difficulty breathing.
After treating your cat with the right course or regimen of weight loss medications, your vet may suggest changing their diet to maintain their optimal weight once they have reached a healthy level. This includes ensuring that your cat is getting enough exercise and playing with them regularly to get them moving more often. In extreme cases, surgery and/or bariatric procedures may be recommended to help lower the risks associated with this condition for both you and your pet.
Birman Cat Name Suggestions
When they name their pets, most owners simply choose the name that sounds the best. But what if I told you there is a specific convention when naming Birman cats? There is a French tradition of naming all kittens born in a particular year with names that begin with the same letter.
Some of the countries with breeders using this convention include Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. For example, Birman kittens born in 2020 were given names that start with “R”, in 2021 – they were named with names that start with ”S,” and so on…
Still, although this convention is quite cool, and you can totally try to follow it and name your Birman kitten accordingly, rules and conventions exist to be broken. Let’s take a look at some name suggestions that, although breaking the convention, can still be perfect for your Birman cat!
- Zsa Zsa
Buying or Adopting a Birman Cat
Birman cats are common enough to be found in shelters. If you decide to adopt a Birman cat from one of those shelters, you will have to pay $75-$150 to take the cat home.
If, on the other hand, you decide to buy a Birman cat directly from a breeder, it will cost you $600-$1200. The price can vary depending on the cat’s features, age, purity of bloodline, and how reputable the breeder is.
Although not so cheap, Birman cats aren’t too expensive either, especially when you keep in mind that they are an exotic breed with a legendary past.
Birman Cat Alternatives
Birman cats are well-known for their color-point furs, but it can be hard to find this particular cat in the US. So, if you want a cat with similar features, why don’t you find another breed that has color-point furs?
Of course, the first breed that comes to mind is a Siamese cat. The second is definitely the Balinese cat breed. Both these breeds have a striking resemblance to Birman cats, so it is safe to say they are the closest alternatives.
Additionally, you can get yourself a Ragdoll cat, as these cats are often color-point, and they are absolutely adorable. Finally, consider getting yourself a Himalayan cat, as these cats look similar to Birmans, but in my opinion, they look even cuter!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Birman cats are cuddly, and they are one of the cuddliest cat breeds in the world.
Apart from being cuddly, Birmans will also tolerate being picked up or handled in any other way as long as it is gentle.
Birman cats love having company, and you shouldn’t leave your Birman cat alone, especially if it is for more than several hours and too often. If you have no other choice, maybe you should get a second cat so that your Birman has company.
Yes, all Birman cats have blue eyes. This is one of their defining features, so any cat that doesn’t have blue eyes isn’t really a Birman.
White paws, often called “gloves,” are a recessive trait carried in the KIT gene. If you prefer a less boring explanation, white paws on Birman cats emerged when the Birman cat named Sinha stood on its owner’s body and prayed to the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse.
Birman Cat Fun Facts
- Oftentimes, Birmans are confused for another cat breed – the Himalayans. Both breeds have color point long furs, and Himalayans sometimes have blue eyes. However, Birmans don’t have flat faces such as Himalayans, and the Himalayan’s fur has undercoats and mats easily, which doesn’t happen with Birman cats.
- One of the most famous fashion designers, Karl Lagerfeld, owned a Birman cat named Choupette. This cat had a more luxurious life than most people could ever imagine. She flew all around the world in a private jet and even served as an inspiration to the late designer. Additionally, when Lagerfeld died, some rumors said that Choupette inherited a part of his vast fortune!
- Birman kittens that breeders wean too soon can later develop some compulsive behaviors and ticks, such as sucking, chewing, or swallowing items that aren’t food.
Birman cats are certainly beautiful cats, but their personalities and their fascinating history make them even more interesting pets. The temple priests in Northern Burma adored these cats for centuries, and today, countless cat breeders and owners from all over the world are the biggest fans of Birmans!
If you want a cat that will look absolutely gorgeous while still being low-maintenance, quiet, gentle, and generally undemanding (except for your love and attention), consider buying a Birman cat. You won’t regret it!