The Birman cat is one of the more rare cat breeds in the U.S. but it’s becoming more popular among pet owners as they are found in shelters. The Birman cat breed is a domesticated cat breed, originating from Burma – it’s even called “The Sacred Cat of Burma”.
The name “Birman” comes from the French Birmanie, meaning “Burma”. The breed was first recognized in Europe by the French Cat Club de France in 1925. Later on it was subsequently recognized by other European organizations such as the UK Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1966 and the US Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1967.
The Birman is a longhaired breed with a color-pointed coat. It is distinguishable from other longhaired cat breeds by a lack of undercoat (drastically reducing shedding) and contrasting white paws. The color patterns of the coat include seal, chocolate, blue, lilac (a softer silver-grey), red, or cream, as well as tabby and tortie variations in seal, chocolate, blue or lilac. Their eyes always have an enchanting deep blue color.
As a pet, the Birman is docile and friendly, but not dumb – they are also quite intelligent and curious.
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Birman Cat Breed Information
Everything Future and Current Owners Must Know
General Birman Cat Breed Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about the Birman cat breed that most future and current cat owners may be curious about.
1. What does “Sacred” mean – are we talking as sacred as cows are in India, or?
No, not to that level. Birman cats were and still are often kept as pets in temples in Burma. As such, they are very much treasured by religious people in Burma and are viewed as a special breed.
However, they are not worshipped. It’s said that some of the first Birman cats to get to the Western world were given as gifts by monks as a gratitude towards westerners that helped them defend their temples.
Two names are mentioned in particular – the Frenchmen Auguste Pavie, and a Major Gordon Russell, who brought two Birman cats in 1919. While this is very much possible, most of the first recorded Birman cats in Europe were simply stolen and smuggled by people such as Thadde Haddisch or members of the Vanderbilt family.
2. Birman cats seem quite similar to other Asian breeds – are they connected in any way to some of them?
The exact point of inception of the first Birman cat isn’t really clear, so no one can say for sure. Yet, it is highly possible that initially they were a crossbred between Siamese and Angora cats.
History of Birman Cat Breed
With the general questions about the Birman cat breed out of the way, some pet owners are often curious about the history of this breed of cat. Here’s what to know.
1. What more can you say about the Birman’s history? How does a cat become “sacred” exactly?
It is not difficult for a beautiful animal to be dubbed sacred in a highly religious country. Especially when that animal shares the deep blue eyes of a goddess.
It is said that the origin of the Birman cat was a simple white temple’s cat with yellow eyes; however, the goddess decided to reward the animal for its devotion to the temple and its monks and gifted the cat with a golden coat and blue eyes like hers. The goddess kept the cat’s paws white, as a symbol of purity.
It is also said that ever since that day, all priests that died were reincarnated in Birman cats.
2. What about the actual origin of the cat? Is it that much shrouded in mystery?
Quite so, yes. It is said that the breed was created in Southeast Asia by crossbreeding Siamese, Persian and Angora cats, but this is mostly speculation. The modern breed as we know it was basically created in France by the cats that were brought from Burma.
The original two cats are exactly the cats brought by Auguste Pavie and Major Gordon Russell – one was male and one was female, and she arrived in France already pregnant from the male.
From there on the breed was recognized as Sacre de Birmanie in 1925, and later on – the rest of Europe and in the United States.
3. So, the rest of their history is a smooth progression towards popularity, correct?
Sadly, no. As was the case with many other cat and dog breeds, the Birman cat was almost completely wiped out in Europe after the Second World War.
It is recorded that only two Birman cats survived the war – a pair named Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa, both belonging to Baudoin-Crevoisier. Orloff and Xenia are the foundation of all European Birman cats today, strongly crossbred with Persian, Angora and Himalayan cats.
Personality of Birman Cat Breed
Here are a few things that pet owners need to know about the personality of Birman cat breeds, because they certainly differ from many other domesticated cats.
1. How about the Birman’s personality? What are they like?
Birman cats are notorious for being exceptionally good and well-behaved pets. They are quite docile and calm, as well as very obedient. They are not as opinionated and bossy as a Siamese, despite their likely common ancestry and color-pointed coat. A Birman cat will always follow you around the house and will love to quietly observe your actions when you are busy.
When it wants your attention, it will alert you in a soft, quiet and pleasant voice. The Birman is a very gentle cat and almost never plays with its claws out. It is a great lap cat as it enjoys cuddling and sleeping in your lap where you can gently pet it, while doing whatever it is you are doing. Birman cats also enjoy being carried around – they will just relax in your arms like a baby and let you be their chariot if you please.
Do not mistake being docile with being stupid, however. Birman cats are highly intelligent – they understand better than most other breeds and can be taught a lot of different tricks or games.
A Birman cat also loves exploring new places and things – Birmans are known for getting trapped underneath floors that are being replaced, for slipping out through the front door in the couple of seconds it was left open, or for even hitching a ride on the top of cars. And while this might not sound “intelligent” at first, it is a curiosity that you need to keep in mind if you are to keep your Birman cat safe.
Fortunately, it is also a very fun trait, as it leads to a lot of fun games and activities you can have with your cat.
2. What actions should I take to ensure that my Birman cat becomes the perfect pet?
Cats are quite different than dogs in many ways, with training and communication being at the top of the list.
Still, there are 3 basic pillars that should be followed if you want your Birman cat to grow up into a well-mannered and well-behaved pet:
1. Parents. Guessing a young kitty’s future character is not easy. For this reason a lot of people even avoid getting young cats altogether and go for fully grown-up ones. Still, if you want to get a young kitty, there are some things to pay attention to, in regards to its future personality.
First and foremost, you should look at the cat’s parents. Mostly, pay attention to its mother, but if given the chance take a look at its father and older siblings as well. Their behavior will give you a good clue on what your little Birman might grow up into.
If you’re give the choice between lots of different cats from the same litter, it is advisable to pick a kitty that’s neither too big and aggressive towards its brother and sisters, nor too small and evasive. Picking a “middle-of-the-road” kitty will give you the best chance of getting a nice, well-behaved cat once it grows up.
2. Training. As we mentioned above, cats’ behavior is quite different from dogs, and as a result training and even just getting along with your cat requires a different behavior from you. Still, it is essential – both in terms of training your cat how to play and do tricks, as well as of teaching it what it can and what it cannot do in the house.
When training your cat, the first and foremost thing to remember is to never use negative reinforcement – never hit, yell at, or punish your cat. This is important not only because it’d be cruel, but also because it’d be futile – you’ll only destroy the bond and the trust between you and the cat. Instead, focus in positive reinforcement – petting, treats, gentle words, and so on.
3. Socialization. It is one of the more underrated aspects of properly raising your cat. Since people view cats as antisocial animals, they don’t bother to socialize them at all and as a result – they grow into antisocial animals.
A cat needs socialization, however – not just with its family, but with outside people as well. That doesn’t mean taking it outside, but it means that you should make sure to have guests and visitors at home, relatively frequently, especially when the cat is still young. This will teach it that outside people are not something that’s to be feared. If you skip on your Birman’s socialization, it will grow into a scared and fearful animal that hides under the bed every time someone knocks on the door, or let alone – enter.
Health of Birman Cat Breed
One of the most important parts to cover is the health of Birman cat breed.
1. If the Birman was developed and redeveloped so recently from such a small sample of cats, does that mean that they are prone to genetic and non-genetic diseases and defects?
The Birman cat is recognized as a breed with an extremely low level of genetic diversity.
A study from 2008 called “The Ascent of Cat Breeds: Genetic Evaluations of Breeds and Worldwide Random-bred Populations” by Lipinski et al. concluded that the Birman breed has one of the lowest levels of genetic diversity of all the studied breeds. It is not surprising that, as a result, the Birman cats are more prone to genetic and non-genetic health problems.
Here is a quick list of some of the things to keep an eye for:
- Congenital hypotrichosis – a rare condition which can cause cats to be born with no hair.
- Kidney dysfunction.
- Spongiform degeneration – a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system.
- Shaking and trembling in kittens – this sometimes happens between the 10 days and 12 weeks period. The cause for this condition is unknown but, fortunately, it recovery is spontaneous.
- Thymic aplasia – a rare immune deficiency.
- Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – a highly common heart disease in most cat breeds, but is viewed as an inherited dominant trait in Birman cats.
- Corneal dermoid – the presence of skin and hair on the surface of one or both eyes. It requires surgical intervention.
2. If Birman cats have a relatively high amount of health issues, how do I ensure that my Birman is as healthy as possible?
This may sound as something unnecessary, but acquiring your cat from a trustworthy breeder is essential, because they will provide you with health clearances for the cat’s parents. If the breeder or seller refuses to give you such health clearances, do not get a cat from them – parental health clearances will guarantee that a large number of possible health problems will most likely not happen to your cat.
Once you’ve made certain of that, make sure to find a trustworthy veterinarian as well – one that’s near you and works 24/7. Consult with him/her regularly on all manners of possible problems and prevention – no amount of online preparation can compensate for a professional’s help.
Care of Birman Cat Breed
Caring for Birman cat breed is similar to your regular cat care of other domesticated cats, but there are a few things that pet owners should know.
1. How should I best take care of my Birman cat?
As with other cats, there are several things to pay attention to:
- Thankfully, despite its great length, the Birman’s coat doesn’t shed easily. Because of that, unlike other breeds that require daily combing, a Birman can be perfectly fine with a light weekly combing, to help the cat remove the dead hair out of its coat. Birmans shed a bit more excessively during the spring, so you can comb your Birman cat more regularly then.
- A nice, warm bath once every couple of months can also go a long way to helping your cat’s coat (A hand-held shower is much preferable to actually dipping your cat into a bathtub).
- Daily dental hygiene in the form of brushing your cat’s teeth is strongly recommended. If you don’t have the time or the nerve for something like that on a daily basis, make sure to do it at least once per week.
- Trim your Birman’s nails twice per month.
- Observe your Birman’s eyes. If you notice a wet discharge out of the corners of the eyes, wipe it carefully with a clean cloth. Use two separate cloths for both eyes, to avoid spreading a possible infection.
- Check your cat’s ears regularly. If they look dirty or dry, wipe them with a dampen cloth.
- Keep your cat’s litterbox very clean. All cats are very particular about the hygiene of their litterbox, but this is even more important for longhaired breeds, since excrements can easily get stuck in their fur.
- The Birman cat is a strictly indoors animal. It is not fit to deal with the outside city world, it can easily become victim of other cats and dogs, infections and diseases, cars, as well as to be stolen for its distinguishable coat.
- Birman cats don’t have a need for a particular diet – just feed your pet with high-quality cat food, while alternating dry and wet food. Put an accent on the dry food, as it is important for their teeth.
Children and Other Pets for Birman Cat Breeds
Finally, how does the Birman cat breed deal with other pets, animals and in particular children? For any family with kids or dogs wanting to adopt this breed, note the below.
1. Is the Birman cat a good choice for a home with small children?
The Birman cat is an excellent choice for a kids’ pet. Birman cats are very docile and well-mannered. They love playing, almost never take their claws out, and even enjoy dress-up. They have a great deal of patience towards even the smallest of children. They are also intelligent enough to get out of the way of toddlers.
As long as you make sure that your children understand how to treat the cat, any Birman will be happy to join your household. Teach your kids not to pull the cat’s long hair and limbs, not to carry it in an inadequate manner, or to torment or hit it in any way, and the Birman will be a great addition to your family.
2. How about other pets? Does a Birman deal well with other cats or dogs?
Just as with kids, the Birman cat is quite happy to live with other pets as well. All cat breeds are welcome in its habitat, as well as all cat-friendly dogs (meaning – dogs that are not overly active and not too invasive).
The only thing to keep in mind is to make sure to introduce the pets to each other in a slowly manner and in a controlled environment – just as you would with any other cat breed.
Conclusion on Birman Cat Breed Profile
If you are looking for a family cat to make your kids happy, or just for a little, furry friend to keep you company – the Birman cat is one of the best choices. Docile and kind, it will not irritate you when you are busy, and it will happily play with you when you want some entertainment.
The Birman loves its people and will always wait for you by the door and gladly sleep with you in your bed. A great lap cat and a curious explorer, the Birman cat is one of the most well-rounded breeds out there.
Take good care of your Birman friend and it will bring you a lot of years of happiness.
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