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Colours of the Burmese Cat
The Burmese in its native Thailand is an ancient breed. An illustrated poem from the Ayutthata Kingdom (1351-1767) showed three types of cat in the country; the Vichien Mat Siamese, the Si-Sawat (Korat) and the Thong Daeng (Burmese). The breeds all began to spread from Thailand when soldiers took them home after invasions in the 18th century.
In 1871, Harrison Weir organised a cat show in Crystal Palace, London and there on show was a pair of cats that closely resembled the modern American Burmese. In Britain, the first deliberate effort to breed these cats took place in the late 19th century when they were known as Chocolate Siamese, rather than being a breed in their own right. This breed was heavily crossed with the Siamese and died out in later times.
In 1930, Dr Joseph Cheeseman Thompson imported a brown female cat named Wong Mau to San Francisco and realised that she was sufficiently different from the Siamese to be a breed in her own right. He bred her with a seal point Siamese called Tai Mau and then with their son to produce dark brown kittens that were the foundation of the new Burmese breed. By 1936, the breed was recognised by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) but this was stopped a decade later due to extensive outcrossing with the Siamese. By 1954, the breed was back on the lift and in 1958, the United Burmese Cat Fanciers compiled a breed show standard that is still the same today.
In the UK, the breed was also gaining interest with some cats imported from the US. By 1952, three generations of true Burmese had been bred and the breed was recognised by the UK’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). This popularity led to the exporting of the cats to Europe and across the Commonwealth countries, so these all still have the British type of cat.
The main different between the British and US Burmese is in the shape of the body and the head. The British breed tends to be a long-bodied cat, more slender in size with a wedge shaped head, pointed ears and a long, tapering muzzle. The American version, also called the contemporary Burmese, is stockier with a broader head, flattened muzzle and wider ears.
Either way, the Burmese is a medium sized cat breed at around 4-6kg in weight. They are well built and muscular who feel heavy when picked up.
Platinum or Lilac Burmese Kitten
Colours of the Burmese
Regardless of the colour of the Burmese, the coat should be short, fine and have a satin-like, glossy finish. The colour should be uniform across most all of the body, apart from light shading underneath. Colourpoint markings are visible but only faintly and barring or spotting is considered a show fault. Eye colour is green or gold and dictated by the coat colour.
The original rich brown colour of the Burmese is known as sable in the US, brown in the UK and Australia and as seal in New Zealand. It is caused by the same genetic series as causes albinism and results in a reduced amount of pigment that makes black into brown and other colours paler. It also produced a colourpoint marking that is most visible when kittens.
Blue Burmese were first found in the UK in 1955, with red, cream and tortoiseshell colours being discovered in the following decade. Champagne was found in the US while platinum, or lilac, was the last new colour to emerge in 1971. The British GCCF currently recognised solid brown, chocolate, blue, lilac, red and cream along with tortoiseshell pattern on brown, chocolate, blue or lilac.
In the US champagne, blue and platinum were considered a separate breed at first, called the Malayan in 1979 but by 1984, this was abolished. The CFA still place sable Burmese in a different division to the rest of the colours and only recognises sable, blue, champagne and platinum.
Around the world, other colours have developed in more recent times. These include a cinnamon variation in the Netherlands, cinnamon, fawn, caramel and apricot colours in New Zealand along with tortoiseshell of each and finally, also in New Zealand, a russet colour.
What is your favourite colour of Burmese?
Living with a Burmese
Burmese are very people-orientated cats, according to breeders. They remain energetic and playful into adulthood and also have a number of traits associated with dogs; playing tag, fetch and such. They bond strongly with their humans and are also vocal cats like the Siamese, though their voice is softer and sweeter. They are not the most independent breed of cat and are unsuitable to be left for long periods of time alone.
Short, satin feel
Less than average
Burmese are predisposed to Diabetes mellitus, which affects cats in much the same way as humans and is a result of either insufficient insulin response or resistance. It effects 1 in 400 cats and Burmese are a breed that is high among the numbers, though with proper treatment, the condition doesn’t affect life expectancy.
Certain bloodlines of the British Burmese have shown a tendency to have a condition called hypokalaemia, a low serum potassium level. It is recessive genetically and both parents must have the gene for a kitten to inherit it but it leads to skeletal muscle weakness in the neck. With a potassium supplement, cats can usually live a normal life and a DNA test is now available to see if a cat carries the gene before considering breeding.
For Burmese and more
- The Cat Fanciers' Association - The World's Largest Registry for Pedigreed Cats
Website for the Cat Fanciers Association
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