What Is A Burmese Cat
The first Burmese cat to be brought to the USA was Wong Mau, who was brought from Burma by Dr Joseph Cressman Thompson of San Francisco in 1930. While the authorities at first considered Wong Mau be a brown variant of the Siamese breed, Dr Thompson viewed her distinct build as an indication that she was a different breed. Since there were no other cats like her in the USA she was bred with a sealpoint Siamese and then with one of her sons to produce dark brown kittens. Burmese was accepted as a breed by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1936.
Other colors began to appear but were not at first accepted, with brown (sable) being the only recognized color for many years. Blue, champagne and platinum are now also recognized.
Many Burmese cats in North America today carry a recessive gene for what is known as the ‘Burmese head fault’ inherited from a prolific ancestor called Good Fortune Fortunatus. This causes a fatal defect in the head formation of affected kittens, who have to be euthanized. It is hoped that genetic screening will enable this to be bred out.
In the UK, the breed was built up from cats brought home from Burma by returning soldiers in the 1940s. The gene pool was enriched by Burmese cats imported from Canada in the late 1960s. Nevertheless the British variety of Burmese retains a different, more oriental look and a greater variety of accepted colors, including cream and several tortoiseshell shades.
The Burmese is a medium sized cat with a muscular, compact body.
The coat is short and sleek. The color gradually lightens from the back to the underside. There should be no bars or spots. No grooming is required.
Eye color is gold or yellow, although the Siamese ancestry sometimes produces blue or green eyes.
The American Burmese has a short, wide-cheeked face with a ‘pug-like’ look to the muzzle. However, in the British variety this look is seen as a sign of Siamese heritage and is viewed very negatively. At the same time, the ‘traditional’ British Burmese is not accepted in the US. Therefore the two types of Burmese are rarely crossed these days, as breeders in each line try to ‘breed out’ the characteristics of the other.
Burmese are friendly cats toward humans, although they do not shrink from a fight with other cats if provoked and can defend themselves well against larger cats. They enjoy being with people and will usually stay close to people in the house. They will try to get involved in what you are doing, for example sitting on your computer keyboard and sleeping very close to you at night.
They are athletic and playful and will often continue to play like kittens through their adult life. They adapt well to large, noisy households.
Like the Siamese they are vocal, but they have softer voices that many people prefer. A Burmese cat will often call to its owners, using its voice to get attention.
David M Peterson
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