Burmese cats are medium-sized felines with strong, muscular bodies, rounded heads, and expressive gold eyes. These affectionate, intelligent and loving kitties were proposed to the CFA as a new breed in 1934, and were accepted for registration in 1936. The Burmese and European Burmese are the two types of this breed recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), who sets standards for cats in the UK, recognized the Burmese in 1952. The International Cat Association (TICA), an organization at the forefront of keeping genetic registries for cats, accepted the breed in 1979.
Size: Males usually weigh around 11 to 14 pounds, with the females ranging from six to nine pounds. Height is typically 10 to 12 inches.
Coat and Colors: Sable, champagne, platinum, and blue, but as mentioned below, several organizations recognize a wide range of colors.
Life Expectancy: 16 to 18 years
The CFA recognizes four colors: sable, a rich dark brown; champagne, a warm beige; platinum, a pale gray with fawn undertones; and blue, a medium gray with fawn undertones. GCCF acknowledges 10 colors: brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, cream, brown tortoiseshell, blue tortoiseshell, chocolate tortoiseshell, and lilac tortoiseshell, with complementary colors for the nose and paw pads. TICA notes a variety of colors: rich, dark sable brown; a medium, warm blue; a warm, honey beige chocolate with pink or fawn tints; a lilac that ranges in tone from a bright pinkish grey to a silvery platinum with pink tints; reds of a light, golden apricot with melon-orange overtones; rich, warm deep creams with hints of apricot; and the soft mingling of red or cream with sable, chocolate, blue or lilac found in the tortoiseshells. Their coats are short, fine, and silky and require minimum grooming.
Characteristics of the Burmese Cat
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History of the Burmese Cat
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. In Burma, legend has it that cats of this breed were viewed as sacred and celebrated in temples and monasteries. They were discovered in England in the late 1800s, but were not as popular as Siamese. According to the GCCF, “the breed gradually died out in England and Europe. It was revived in 1930 using the first true Burmese, and it is said that a wartime sea voyage of three Burmese cats from Burma into America in the 1940s lasted five months, during which time they survived attacks by bombers.”
Wong Mau was described as being walnut brown with darker points, having a more compact body than a Siamese, and possessing a shorter tail. Her unique appearance led Dr. Thompson to a breeding program in which Wong Mau was mated to Tai Mau, a Seal Point Siamese. Some kittens more closely resembled the Siamese breed and some looked more Burmese. Wong Mau was then bred to a son and kittens of a few different colors resulted, some brown, some dark brown. The dark brown kittens became the foundation of the Burmese breed.
According to the CFA, “this work demonstrated that these Burmese cats were a distinct breed and ultimately led the breeders to request championship recognition … Along the way, the other colors seen in the Siamese breed were also seen in litters. Over time and with much controversy, these other colors were accepted by CFA.”
Back in England, the first blue Burmese cat was born in 1955, Sealcoat Blue Surprise. Other colors had appeared earlier, but were overlooked in favor of the sable varieties. According to TICA, “it is now believed that Wong Mau also carried the genes for dilution and chocolate that resulted in the appearance of chocolate, blue and lilac kittens. The red factor was added later in Europe.” It was accepted into the TICA registry in 1979.
Burmese Cat Care
The coats of Burmese cats are glossy and really don't 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's also important to keep your cat active. Burmese are energetic and do best in active homes with families who are willing to play and interact with their pet. Unlike some breeds, these cats yearn for attention from humans and can become upset if separated for longer periods of time. Burmese grow 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.
Common Health Problems
Burmese are generally healthy, but there are some health conditions that can occur. Some Burmese may have cranial deformities, glaucoma, or feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which results in an increased sensitivity to touch or painful stimuli. They may also be prone to calcium oxalate stones in the urinary tract. It’s always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
According to the GCCP, a simple DNA test for an inherited disease called hypokalemia has been developed, thanks to the identification of the genetic mutation responsible for the disease. The clinical presentation of the genetic disease, Familial Episodic Hypokalemic Polymyopathy, is skeletal muscle weakness, which is episodic in nature and can affect the whole animal or may be localized to the neck or limb muscles. As a result, affected cats tend to have problems walking and holding their head correctly. A genetic test for hypokalemia allows cat breeders, owners, and veterinarians to test for this disease. Responsible breeders have tested their lines for such diseases and offer a health guarantee as part of the sale of their kittens.
Breeders place kittens in homes between 12 and 16 weeks of age and should be spayed by six months of age, especially if sold as pets. Pet Burmese cats typically sell for less than show cats.
Diet and Nutrition
Burmese cats are playful and energetic. To keep up with their active lifestyle, they need plenty of protein and nutrients. It's always best to discuss diet options with your vet to ensure all of your cat's needs are being met. A high quality dry food is helpful in maintaining good oral health and can be supplemented with wet food if you prefer. To prevent your cat from becoming a picky eater, the National Alliance of Burmese Breeders mentions that it's important to switch brands of cat food every now and then so your feline friend doesn't become accustomed to just one kind.
Personality of the Burmese Cat
The playful personality of the Burmese cat extends from kittenhood to adulthood. They’re described as being almost dog-like in their devotion to their humans, following them around, cuddling with them while they’re reading or watching TV, and sleeping on their beds at night. According to the CFA, females are more likely to be in charge of the household, while males supervise from the comfort of a lap.
Burmese are compatible with other pets in the household and children as well. They are athletic, playful, and are happiest in an active household. They have a soft, sweet voice and enjoy conversing with their people.
Showing Your Burmese Cat
Each association has specific standards for the Burmese with points assigned to various characteristics. Overall, the head should be rounded and have full eyes that are round and spaced out well. There should also be a visible nose break and well-spaced ears. Eye color is yellow to gold in all coat colors, and depth of color is preferred.
A medium-sized, muscular, and compact body is preferred with proportionate legs and rounded paws. The tail should be straight and medium in length.
According to CFA standards, cats with sable coats have brown nose leather and paw pads; champagne coats are complemented by light warm brown nose leather and pinkish-tan paw pads. Blue coats have slate gray nose leather and slate gray to pinkish-blue paw pads. Platinum coats have lavender pink nose leather and paw pads. Colors are similar, according to TICA standards, with some blotched color in the nose leather and paw pads of the tortoiseshell variations. Coats are solid to the root and slightly lighter on the extremities.
More Cat Breeds and Further Research
Interested in learning about other purebred cats? If you like the Burmese, check out these breeds:
Otherwise, check out all of our cat breed profiles.