Birman: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Birman cat
The Birman cat's origins are shrouded in mystery.

Getty Images/Vadimborkin

The Birman cat is a medium-sized breed with long, silky hair. The Birman is color pointed, which means it has a light-colored body with darker “points” of color on the face, ears, legs, and tail. The points come in a rainbow of shades, including seal, blue, lilac, chocolate, and red, and may be solid or include subtle tabby or tortoiseshell patterning. Regardless of color, all Birman cats should have four white paws and blue eyes. The Birman cat history is obscure, but it’s possible that the breed originated in Burma, where they may have been considered sacred. Today’s Birman is cherished as a sweet and affectionate companion.

Breed Overview

OTHER NAMES: Sacred Cat of Burma.

PERSONALITY: Gentle, quiet and loving.

WEIGHT: About 7 to 14 pounds, with males slightly larger.

LENGTH: About 15 to 18 inches. 

COAT LENGTH: Medium-long to long. Silken in texture, with heavy ruff around the neck.

COAT COLOR: Seal point, blue point, chocolate point, lilac point, seal tabby point, blue tabby point, chocolate tabby point, lilac tabby point, red tabby point, cream tabby point, seal-tortie tabby point, chocolate-tortie tabby point, blue-cream tabby point, lilac-cream tabby point, seal-tortie point, blue-cream point, chocolate-tortie point, lilac-cream point, red point, cream point.

EYE COLOR: Blue.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12 to 16 years.

HYPOALLERGENIC: No.

ORIGIN: Unknown; possibly Burma.

Characteristics of the Birman Cat

Amiable and social, the Birman is a sweet and gentle cat that gets along with almost everyone, including other cats and dogs, too. In fact, Birmans are so social that they hate to be alone. It’s recommended to bring home two Birman kittens, especially if you work outside the home, so they always have a friend to cuddle and hang out with. Birmans are patient and tolerant cats, making them wonderful playmates for children who handle them gently and with respect. They are playful and inquisitive, and tend to follow you from room to room so they can “help” with whatever you happen to be doing. 

Affection Level  High
Friendliness  High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  High
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Vocalize Low
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Birman Cat

The history of the Birman cat breed is not well known. Although the breed is sometimes referred to as the Sacred Cat of Burma, we don’t know for sure if the Birman in fact originated in Burma. It’s possible the breed developed in Burma (present day Myanmar), but no documentation exists to support this theory. The Birman cat breed found its way to France and England in the early 1900s, and many of today’s Birman cats can trace their origins back to cats from these countries. The Birman cat was eventually brought to the United States, and the Cat Fanciers Association formally recognized the breed in 1967. 

Birman Cat
The Birman is known for its brilliant blue eyes.

Getty Images/Leadinglights

Birman kittens
Birman kittens are born all white, then gradually develop points of color on the extremities.

Getty Images/Vadimborkin

Birman kitten
Birman kittens are playful and active.

Getty Images/Nynke van Holten

Birman Cat Care 

Looking at the Birman’s long coat, you might think that the breed requires a lot of grooming. In reality, the coat is quite easy to care for. It is a single coat, so no undercoat to brush out and the texture of the silky coat helps it to resist matting and requires only weekly brushing with a soft slicker brush. Keep your Birman’s nails trimmed short and look inside the ears weekly. If you see a small amount of dirt or wax in the ears, use a pet ear cleaner and cotton balls to clean the ears (never use a cotton swab). If your Birman’s ears look red or very dirty, schedule an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Birmans love to follow you all over the house and are always up for a play session. Bring out a few fun toys, such as feather wands, balls that jingle and toy mice to engage your Birman in play sessions a few times a day. Things to climb and perch upon like cat trees, cat-friendly bookshelves and kitty condos also help encourage exercise. Set up a few scratching zones in the house, with vertical scratchers (like tall posts or cat trees) and horizontal scratchers (like cardboard or sisal scratchers that lie flat on the ground).

Common Health Problems

Birman cats are an extremely healthy breed, with no known breed-specific diseases or other health concerns. That said, any cat of any age can become sick or injured or develop a health problem. Bring your Birman cat to your veterinarian at least once a year for a complete physical to ensure your cat is healthy and so you can identify any developing health concerns. 

Appearance

The Birman is a medium-sized cat with an elongated body and A stocky, muscular build. The Birman’s head is broad and rounded, with heavy jaws, a firm chin, full cheeks, a somewhat rounded muzzle and a medium-length Roman nose. All Birman kittens are born white; the color points on the face, ears, legs and tail develop later as they mature.

Diet and Nutrition

Because the Birman cat generally has a healthy appetite and has a stocky build, the breed has the potential to become overweight if Birman owners do not properly manage nutrition. Keeping your Birman cat lean is healthier for the cat, and can prevent the development of obesity-related health issues like diabetes and arthritis. Rather than keeping the food bowl filled all day (called free feeding), serve your adult Birman cat two measured meals a day (young kittens should eat multiple times a day). Serving measured meals helps prevent overeating. Ask your veterinarian or breeder for advice about the best food for your Birman cat.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Birman Cat

The Birman is somewhat less common than some other cat breeds, but it’s still possible to find a reputable breeder with kittens available. The Cat Fanciers Association and The International Cat Association both list active Birman breeders on their respective websites. A fun way to meet Birman breeders and see many different cat breeds in one place is by attending a cat show. To find a local cat show, search the internet for “cat show near me.” Purbred Birman cats rarely end up in animal shelters, but you can ask local Birman breeders if they know anyone looking to re-home their adult Birman.

Breed Overview

The Birman cat is an easy-going breed that fits in well into almost any household and family. Medium-sized and sturdily built, they are not too delicate for children to handle. Birmans are sweet and affectionate cats, happy to warm your lap or crawl up onto your chest for a hug. They are generally quiet, vocalizing only when necessary with soft chirruping meows.

Pros
  • Calm and gentle                                                         

  • Affectionate and friendly                                           

  • Gets along well with children and other pets

Cons
  • Sheds moderately

  • Prefers an animal companion

  • Doesn’t do well if left along long periods

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Birman cat, you might also like these cat breeds: 

·      Burmese

·      Himalayan

·      Ragdoll

 

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. https://cfa.org/birman/

  2. https://www.tica.org/birman-breeders?view=article&id=826:birman-breed&catid=79