Siamese Cat Breed Profile – History and Personality

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At a glance   History   Temperament     Appearance   Colours   Choosing a Siamese cat   Care   Health

Siamese cat breed profile

At a glance

  • Origins: Thailand (formerly Siam)
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Energy: Medium
  • Temperament: Talkative, intelligent, affectionate, dog-like
  • Weight: Males 4-6 kg (8.8 – 13.2 lbs), females 3.5-5 kg (7.8 – 11 lbs)
  • Colours: Seal, blue, chocolate, lilac are the traditional colours, other colours vary depending on the cat council
  • Coat: Short
  • Grooming: Weekly
  • Talkative: Very
  • Cost: $900 – $1,500

About

Siamese cat with blue eyes

Possibly the most instantly recognisable of all cat breeds, the Siamese cat is an ancient breed of cat with a colourful history and many legends surrounding it.

One legend is that Siamese cats guarded the Buddhist temples and were considered sacred. According to Sally Franklin in her book The Complete Siamese Cat, when a high-ranking person died, a Siamese was chosen to receive the dead person’s soul. The cat was removed from the royal household and sent to one of the temples to spend the rest of its days living a ceremonial life of great luxury, with monks and priests as his servants. [2]

The Siamese is a stunning blue-eyed cat with dark points on the face, ears legs and tail, on a light body. Their unusual colouring is a form of partial albinism.

They are a talkative cat, who loves to give you a running commentary, they are highly intelligent, extremely loyal and people-loving.

History

The history of the Siamese isn’t entirely known, although there are plenty of theories as to its origins.

  • Sydney W. France, in his book ‘Siamese Cats‘ claims that the Hon. Russell Gordon gave his considered opinion that the Siamese cat was a cross between the Sacred Cat of Burma and the Annamite cat introduced into the religiously sealed and guarded Burmese Temples, and which were imported into Siam when the Cambodian Empire of Khmer fell to the attacks of the Siamese.
  • German explorer and zoologist Peter Simon Pallas shows a picture of a cat with a Siamese coat pattern which was said to be the progeny of a black cat and had a chestnut-brown body colour, black at the back and paler along the sides and belly, with a black streak running along and surrounding the eyes. [1] This cat was seen in the area of the Caspian Sea.

Arrival in England:

What we do know is that in 1884 Mr Edward Blencowe Gould an Acting Vice-Consul at Bangkok obtained a breeding pair of Siamese cats called Pho and Mia. It is said that  King Chulalongkorn gave them to him, although this story does attract some scepticism. What we do know is that two Siamese cats arrived in England from Bangkok by Mr Gould as a present to his sister, Mrs Lilian Veley. Pho and Mia are recorded as 1a and 2a in the Siamese Cat Register. Mrs Veley went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901.

The following year, Mrs Vyvyan and her sister of Dover imported two Siamese cats. Mrs Vyvyan writes to Harrison Weir ‘The original pair were sent from Bangkok, and it is believed that they came from the King’s Palace, where alone the breed is said to be kept pure. At any rate, they were procured as a great favour, after much delay and great difficulty, and since that time no others have been attainable by the same person. We were in China when they reached us, and the following year, 1886, we brought the father, mother and a pair of kittens to England.’

During the next few years, more Siamese were imported into Britain and are the foundation cats of the Siamese we know and love now.

Why are Siamese cats called Siamese?

Siamese cats originated from Thailand, which was formerly known as Siam.

Why do Siamese cats have dark points?

Siamese cat

Genetically a Seal Point Siamese cat is a black cat; however, Siamese cats carry the Himalayan gene (known as cs) which has a temperature-sensitive expression. This gene causes partial albinism due to a defective enzyme tyrosinase. This enzyme is located in the melanocytes and is responsible for controlling the production of melanin, which gives coat its colour. In Siamese (and other breeds which have the Himalayan gene), the defective tyrosinase doesn’t function as it should at normal body temperature, which means the cat’s true colour (which is reflected in the points) is unable to express on warmer parts of the body.

Temperament

Seal point Siamese cat

The Siamese is an extremely intelligent, loyal and affectionate cat who forms close bonds with their human family. They are often described as ‘dog-like’ in that they enjoy to play fetch.

Siamese cats need to be with their human companions almost constantly; they do not do well on their own. They can form close bonds with one particular member of the household, sometimes at the exclusion of others.

One of most talkative cat breeds, the Siamese love to give their human companions a running commentary with their unique, deep and loud meow.

Appearance

Seal point Siamese

The Siamese coat pattern is striking. The face, paws, ears, and tail (points) have a darker colouring; the body is light in colour. The coat should be short, fine and silky to the touch.

The ears are large; eyes are a stunning blue and almond-shaped.

The Siamese is an elegant animal with a long, muscular and tubular body, long neck.  The legs are long and slender with small, oval feet. The hind legs are longer than the front legs. The tail is long, thin and whip-like.

Siamese cats have changed quite a lot in the past three decades and have become much more slender than their ancestors. Some breeders are continuing to breed the ‘old style’ Siamese under the name Traditional, Thai, Applehead or Old Style Siamese. I have included both the old style and modern Siamese in this article.

Traditional vs modern Siamese cat

Colours

Tabby (lynx) point Siamese cat

The original and most commonly known colours are seal, blue, chocolate and lilac. Different cat associations accept different colours, which include red (flame), cream, fawn, caramel, apricot and cinnamon. These colours may also come in tabby (also known as lynx) and tortie point.

Cat Fancy Association in America only accepts seal, blue, chocolate and lilac in Siamese, and has classed other colours as Colorpoint Shorthairs.

Choosing a Siamese cat

Seal point Siamese

Siamese should be bought from a registered cat breeder to ensure you are getting what you are paying for as well as that; registered breeders have to abide by a code of ethics set out by their registering body. I always prefer to buy purebred cats from a breeder who raises the kittens under-foot, which means they grew up inside the home and are used to the hustle and bustle of a household.

Where possible, visit the cattery and meet the kittens and parents.

Kittens should not leave the breeder until they are at least 12 weeks old, and they should have received at least two of the required three F3 vaccinations. Some breeders also choose to desex (spay or neuter) their kittens before they go to their new homes.

Write a list of questions for the breeder before you visit the cattery.

Always get any guarantees from the breeder in writing.

Care

Lilac point Siamese

Siamese cats are low maintenance, groom their coat once a week to remove loose hairs. Trim the claws every 4-6 weeks.

Dental care is essential for all cats. Your Siamese should have his teeth brushed regularly with a cat toothbrush and toothpaste (never use human toothpaste on a cat). Or you can feed him raw chicken necks or human grade chunks of beef two to three times a week.

Do not let your Siamese cat roam free; there are too many dangers out there. If possible, give him access to a cat enclosure which keeps him safe, but allows him to enjoy the outdoors.

Feed a good quality diet, preferably wet. Find out what the breeder has been feeding him and give him the same, if you would prefer to feed him something different, slowly introduce the new food while feeding less of the old.

Siamese cat
Image courtesy Deann Barrera, Flickr

Health

All cats, purebred or mixed breed can be prone to specific health problems, Siamese may have a higher incidence of the following:

Siamese cat

Suitable for

The Siamese cat thrives on attention and needs to be a part of the family. They are very dog-like in this regard and make an excellent and very loving companion. If you are out for long periods, consider adopting two cats.

Siamese very commonly bonds strongly with one member of the household, and can sometimes become quite jealous. If you want a constant companion, who will follow you around, conversing with you, then the Siamese is for you. Another breed may be more suitable if you want a more hands-off type of cat. Siamese cats do like to be the king or queen of their domain.

Related breeds

Lifespan

The Siamese can live well into their 20’s.

Siamese cat FAQ

Do Siamese cats shed a lot?

All cats shed, the Siamese sheds less than other breeds.

Are Siamese cats jealous?

Siamese cats can bond with one human in the family and display jealousy towards other family members.

Are Siamese cats smart?

Yes, Siamese cats are one of the most intelligent cat breeds.

Is there a hairless Siamese cat?

The Peterbald is a cross between an Oriental (a cat with the Siamese body type but non-pointed) and a Don Sphynx. The Peterbald occurs in all colours, including pointed.

Do Siamese cats make good pets?

Siamese are loyal, affectionate, intelligent, strong-willed and talkative. They make exceptional pets in the right home.