Burmese: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

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

Light tan Burmese cat with yellow eyes on brown leather couch

The Spruce / Kristie Lee

Burmese cats are medium-sized felines with strong, muscular bodies, rounded heads, and expressive gold eyes. These affectionate and intelligent kitties may descend from an ancient breed in Myanmar (formerly Burma), but they were officially bred in the United States in the 1930s.

This breed is vulnerable to a genetic skeletal disorder, but it can be ruled out with a simple DNA test, so you should be able to buy or adopt one with confidence in its health. A Burmese will likely get along with everyone in a family, including friendly dogs, so it makes a charming addition to just about any household.

Breed Overview

Personality: Friendly, affectionate, sociable with other animals, playful

Weight: Up to 14 pounds

Length: Up to 18 inches

Coat Length: Short hair

Coat Colors: Sable, champagne, platinum, blue, and variations of each

Coat Patterns: Solid

Eye Color: Gold

Lifespan: Up to 18 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States (but likely dates back to ancient Burma)

Burmese Characteristics

The Burmese cat is a character, full of energy and playful whims. Its kitten-like personality persists into adulthood, and it has also been described as being almost dog-like in its devotion to its human family.

When the Burmese isn't playing, it is probably following its owner around or cuddling for a nap. Females are more likely to be actively in charge of a household, while males supervise from the comfort of a lap. Both sexes have soft, sweet voices and enjoy "conversing" with people. 

Light tan Burmese cat with yellow eyes closeup

The Spruce / Kristie Lee

Light tan Burmese cat walking on brown leather couch

The Spruce / Kristie Lee

Light tan Burmese cat with yellow eyes sitting on brown leather couch

The Spruce / Kristie Lee

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

History of the Burmese

In Myanmar (formerly called Burma), legend has it that cats of this breed were viewed as sacred and celebrated in temples and monasteries. All sources agree that the “founding mother” of the Burmese breed was Wong Mau, a cat who was brought to America from Burma by a sailor in 1930 and given to Dr. Joseph G. Thompson of San Francisco.

Wong Mau was purportedly walnut brown with darker points, having a more compact body and shorter tail than a Siamese. Her unique appearance led Dr. Thompson to engage in a breeding program, pairing Wong Mau with Tai Mau, a seal point Siamese.

Some of the kittens more closely resembled the Siamese breed, while some looked more Burmese. Wong Mau was then bred to one of her sons, and the kittens were varying shades of brown, The darkest brown offspring became the foundation of the Burmese breed.

The Burmese and European Burmese are the two types of this breed recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, which sets standards for cats in the UK, recognized the Burmese in 1952. The International Cat Association, an organization at the forefront of keeping genetic registries for cats, accepted the breed in 1979.

Burmese Care

Burmese cats' coats are short and fine with a glossy, silky shine. They require minimal grooming and do not shed much. Grooming your cat with a rubber brush once a week should be enough to rid the coat of dead hairs and keep it looking lustrous.

It is also important to keep your cat active. Burmese are playful and energetic and do best in active homes with families that are willing to play and interact with their pets. These cats are highly trainable and enjoy interactive challenges.

Common Health Problems

Burmese are generally healthy, but the breed carries an inherited disease called familial episodic hypokalemic polymyopathy, which causes skeletal muscle weakness. There is a simple DNA test to check a cat for this disorder, and responsible breeders should offer documentation showing their cats are free of the offending gene.

Cats affected with hypokalemic polymyopathy experience episodic issues that may affect the whole animal or may be localized to the neck or limb muscles, making it difficult to walk or hold their heads correctly.

In addition to hypokalemia, Burmese may rarely experience:

  • Cranial deformities
  • Glaucoma, high pressure in the eye that can lead to blindness
  • Feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which results in an increased sensitivity to touch or painful stimuli
  • Kidney stones, which are caused by oxalate crystals in the urinary tract

Again, reputable breeders test their cats for these diseases and offer a health guarantee as part of the sale of their kittens. It is always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.


The colors of Burmese cats vary considerably, and different colors are approved by the major cat associations, making the Burmese standard one of the more complex among pure breeds.

  • The Cat Fanciers' Association recognizes four colors in Burmese cats: sable, champagne, platinum, and blue.
  • The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy acknowledges 10 colors: brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, cream, brown tortoiseshell, blue tortoiseshell, chocolate tortoiseshell, and lilac tortoiseshell.
  • The International Cat Association recognizes a variety of colors and variations in Burmese coats, including rich sable brown, a warm blue, a honey-beige with pink or fawn tints, a lilac that ranges in tone from a bright pinkish-grey to a silvery-platinum with pink tints, golden apricot with melon-orange overtones, cream with hints of apricot, and various shades within a tortoiseshell pattern.

Each association has specific standards for other Burmese characteristics, but they generally agree on the anatomy of the ideal breed representative. Overall, the cat's head should be rounded and have full eyes that are round and spaced well. There should also be a visible nose break and well-spaced ears. A medium-sized, muscular, and compact body is preferred with proportionate legs and rounded paws. The tail should be straight and medium in length.

Diet and Nutrition

To keep up with their active lifestyle, these cats need plenty of protein and nutrients. It is always best to discuss diet options with your vet to ensure all of your cat's needs are being met. High-quality dry food helps maintain good oral health and can be supplemented with wet food for added hydration.

To prevent your cat from becoming a picky eater, the National Alliance of Burmese Breeders suggests that it is important to switch brands of cat food now and then so your feline friend does not become accustomed to just one kind.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Burmese Cat

Search for a pure-breed Burmese cat by contacting veterinarians and breeders in your area. If you need to explore a larger area of possibility, check for breeders via the National Alliance of Burmese Breeders.

While it's rare that a purebred Burmese ends up in a shelter, it may happen, and Petfinder is a great site for helping locate a particular breed—or something close to it—across the nation.

Burmese Overview

Burmese are compatible with other pets and children. They are athletic, playful, and happiest in an active household. These cats yearn for attention from humans and can become upset if separated for long. Burmese develop strong attachments to their owners, and while they may need a couple of weeks to adjust to their new home, these deep bonds develop relatively quickly. To keep your Burmese happy, make sure it always has a companion, whether it's a human or another pet.

  • Attentive and loyal

  • Generally long lifespan

  • Enjoys other cats or dogs and gentle children

  • High risk for an inherited muscular disorder

  • Can get depressed if left alone for long

  • Tendency to be demanding or bossy

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

  • Are Burmese cats friendly?

    Burmese cats are very friendly; they enjoy the company of humans and other pets.

  • Do Burmese cats have health problems?

    This breed is susceptible to a genetic muscular disorder that can be detected by DNA testing.

  • How much does a Burmese cat cost?

    A Burmese kitten can cost between $600 and $1,000.

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. How to Care for a Burmese Cat. National Alliance of Burmese Breeders.