The Burmese cat is a popular breed of cat and for good reason. They are the third most searched breed of cat on this site.
Named after their country of origin Burma (now known as Myanmar). The exact origins of the Burmese is shrouded in mystery. There is mention of a copper coloured cat in the ancient Thai Cat Book which was written during the Ayudhya Period, stretching from 1350 – 1767.
In 1930 Dr Joseph Thompson imported a small brown coloured female cat by the name of Wong Mau to San Francisco. Wong Mau went on to be the founding cat for the Burmese breed as we know it.
A breeding programme was established in an attempt to produce offspring which bred true. Dr Thompson enlisted the help of Virginia Cobb (Newton cattery), Billie Gerst (Gerstdale cattery), and Dr Clyde E. Keeler. Wong Mau was bred to a Seal Point Siamese called Tai Mau in 1932 and the resulting litter consisted of two colours, some just like Siamese kittens and brown kittens with darker points (like Wong Mau). Wong Mau was mated to a son from this litter (Yen Yen Mau) and this litter contained three colours, again, some like Siamese kittens, brown kittens (again like Wong Mau), and dark brown kittens. The dark brown offspring did indeed breed true and became the foundation cats of the Burmese breed. Wong Mau continued to produce kittens with three colour variations and it is now accepted that Wong Mau was, in fact, a Siamese x Burmese hybrid.
The Cat Fanciers Association accepted the Burmese for registration in 1936 although the breed was suspended registration in 1947 due to breeders mating Burmese with Siamese. The CFA stated that the breed must be three generations of pure Burmese to be registered as Burmese. This was achieved by 1956 and the breed was once again accepted for registration in 1957 and granted championship status in 1959. All Burmese cats should be able to be traced back to Wong Mau.
Dr Thompson authored an article on Burmese genetics in 1943 which can be read here.
There are now two types of Burmese, the European Burmese and the American Burmese. While they share many common traits, the American Burmese has a slightly rounder face compared to the European Burmese.
Burmese are commonly described as a brick wrapped in silk which is very accurate. They a medium sized cat, with a well-muscled, strong, athletic body, you may be quite surprised by their weight when you pick them up. They are compact but solid, without being chunky. Males can weigh between 5-6 kg (11-13 oz) and females 4-5 kg (8.8-11 oz).
The head is wedge-shaped, with a strong lower jaw and chin, a distinct nose break and medium sized ears which are set well apart. The eyes are a beautiful golden colour, large and widely spaced.
Their body is medium in length and well muscled. The chest is strong and round. Legs are slender and the feet are oval in shape and small. The tail is medium in length.
The coat is short, silky and close lying with almost no undercoat.
Burmese are a well balanced cat with no extreme features.
Burmese cats are laid back, social, intelligent, gentle and extremely sweet natured cats. They are less vocal than their Siamese cousins.
Male Burmese cats are very affectionate, females are too, but a little more independent.
Burmese are playful cats, especially when they are younger but they are not constantly on the go like some other active breeds. Once they have worn themselves out, they love nothing more than sleeping on their human companion’s lap.
With a dog-like personality, they will follow you around the house all day long, hoping to get a pat or stroke and get along with everyone, including children and other pets. If you stop, they may flop down on the floor at your feet in the hope of a belly rub.
Their curious nature can sometimes border on intrusive when they insist on checking out the contents of a visitors handbag or tool kit. But that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem as are able to work their charm even on non cat-lovers.
Burmese cats are an exceptional family pet. They thrive on company and don’t like to be alone for extended periods of time. If you are out of the house for long periods of time it is recommended you get your Burmese a companion.
Always choose a registered breeder when purchasing purebred cats. Check to see which cat registering body they are registered with (most breeders will list these details on their website).
Where possible, visit the breeder’s premises to meet the cat as well as his parents (if possible). The premises should be clean and the cats all healthy. Be wary of cats with eye or nasal discharge. Cats should be friendly. I personally prefer to buy from breeders who raise their kittens under-foot, which means they are raised in the home with the family.
If you are looking for an older Burmese, breeders sometimes rehome former breeding cats. You may also check to see if there is a Burmese rescue group in your area.
Kittens should not leave the breeder until they are at least 12 weeks of age and have had their first two vaccinations as well as regular worming and flea treatment. Many breeders also prefer to desex (spay/neuter) kittens before they go to their new home.
As with all breeds, Burmese can be more prone to certain medical conditions than other cats. These may include:
Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis)
Orofacial pain syndrome
Inherited hypokalemia (there is a DNA test for this disease)
Kinked tail (cosmetic only)
Flat chested syndrome
Congenital peripheral vestibular disease
This list may look long but a lot of these conditions are rare even in Burmese, and others can be either prevented (such as periodontal disease) or managed with annual check ups, and good care. I have had three Burmese, two lived into their mid-teens and died of age-related conditions, the third was sadly killed in an accident.
When speaking to breeders, it is always important to ask about these conditions and if their cats have been tested for ones which can be tested for. Responsible breeders recognise take steps to test, and if necessary remove breeding cats from the pool if they are at risk of passing on inherited conditions.
Burmese cats are low maintenance. A weekly brush will help remove loose hairs but this can also be achieved by regular stroking and petting. Indoor cats may need to have their claws trimmed every few weeks. This, along with grooming should be started when they are a kitten.
Feed a premium quality food and provide raw chicken necks or human grade steak 2-3 times a week for dental health. If you would prefer not to feed your Burmese raw meat, a cat toothbrush and toothpaste (never use human toothpaste on cats) should be used regularly to keep his teeth clean as Burmese can be more prone to developing periodontal disease.
Annual health checks are a must, and once your Burmese reaches 7 years, that should change to twice a year so that senior health related problems can be picked up early.
All non-breeding cats should be desexed by 6 months at the latest and be microchipped, vaccinated and receive regular flea and worming treatment.
Burmese cats should be indoors only, or given access to a cat enclosure. They are too trusting to go outside.
Everyone. Burmese cats are very friendly and people oriented. They thrive on the company of others and make an ideal family pet. If I had to recommend one breed, it would be the Burmese.