Federation Internationale Feline World Cat Federation
A beautiful cat deserves a beautiful legend of origin. The Sacred Cat of Burma, as the Birman is sometimes called, is said to have acquired his striking appearance through the intervention of a blue-eyed goddess, who rewarded a temple cat’s love for and devotion to his priest by turning his white coat golden and changing his yellow eyes to blue. His paws remained white as a symbol of his purity. Ever since, the temple cats have borne the goddess’s marks of favor, and it was said that priests who died were reborn into the cats’ bodies.
How the cats really came to be is unknown. Theories include crosses of Siamese with Angoras or Persians, but when or where those original meetups occurred is unknown. They may have taken place in southeast Asia, between various cats who carried the genes for a pointed pattern, long hair and blue eyes, or the breed may have been created in France from cats imported by two Europeans, a Frenchman named Auguste Pavie, and a Major Gordon Russell, who were given a pair of temple cats in 1919 as a reward for aiding the priests. The cats were shipped to France, but the male did not make it there alive. Before he died, however, he had impregnated the female, and her kittens helped to establish the breed in Europe. It was recognized in France in 1925 as the Sacre de Birmanie, from which comes the current breed name, Birman.
The cats were first imported to the United States in 1959 and were recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1967. They are also recognized by the American Cat Fanciers Association, the Canadian Cat Association, the Cat Fanciers Federation and The International Cat Association.
A cat of mystery and legend, the Birman is a color pointed cat with long silky hair and four pure white feet. It is strongly built, elongated and stocky, neither svelte nor cobby. The distinctive head has strong jaws, firm chin and medium length Roman nose. There should be good width between the ears, which are medium in size. The blue, almost round eyes are set well apart, giving a sweet expression to the face.
Head: skull strong, broad, and rounded. There is a slight flat spot just in front of each ear and a slight flat spot on the forehead in between the ears.
Nose/Profile: the forehead slopes back and is slightly convex, with a slight flat spot on the forehead in between the ears. The nose is medium in length and width, in proportion to the size of the head. The nose starts just below the eyes and is Roman (slightly convex) in shape and profile. The Roman nose creates nostrils that are set low on the nose leather.
Cheeks: full with somewhat rounded muzzle. Muzzle to be neither short and blunted nor pointed and narrow. The fur is short in appearance about the face, but to the extreme outer area of the cheek the fur is longer. JAWS: heavy.
Chin: strong and well-developed, with the lower jaw forming a perpendicular line with the upper lip.
Ears: medium in length. Almost as wide at the base as tall. Modified to a rounded point at the tip; set as much to the side as into the top of the head.
Eyes: almost round with a sweet expression. Set well apart, with the outer corner tilted VERY slightly upward. Blue in color, the deeper and more vivid blue the better.
Body: elongated and stocky, with a good muscular feel. Females may be proportionately smaller than males.
Legs: medium in length and heavy.
Paws: large, round, and firm. Five toes in front, four behind.
Tail: medium in length, in pleasing proportion to the body.
Coat: medium long to long, silken in texture, with heavy ruff around the neck, slightly curly on stomach. This fur is of such a texture that it does not mat.
Colour (exept gloves): Body: even, with subtle shading when allowed on all colors/patterns of more mature cats. Strong contrast between body color and points. Points except gloves: mask, ears, legs, and tail dense and clearly defined, all of the same shade. Mask covers entire face including whisker pads and is connected to ears by tracings. No ticking or white hair in points. Golden Mist: desirable in all points colors is the “golden mist,” a faint golden beige cast on the back and sides. This is somewhat deeper in the seal points, and may be absent in kittens.
Gloves: Front paws: front paws have white gloves ending in an even line across the paw at, or between, the second or third joints. (The third joint is where the paw bends when the cat is standing.) The upper limit of white should be the metacarpal (dew) pad. (The metacarpal pad is the highest up little paw pad, located in the middle of the back of the front paw, above the third joint and just below the wrist bones.) Symmetry of the front gloves is desirable. Back paws: white glove covers all the toes, and may extend up somewhat higher than front gloves. Symmetry of the rear gloves is desirable. Laces: the gloves on the back paws must extend up the back of the hock, and are called laces in this area. Ideally, the laces end in a point or inverted “V” and extend 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the hock. Lower or higher laces are acceptable, but should not go beyond the hock. Symmetry of the two laces is desirable. Paw pads: pink preferred, but dark spot(s) on paw pad(s) acceptable because of the two colors in pattern. Note: ideally, the front gloves match, the back gloves match, and the two laces match. Faultlessly gloved cats are a rare exception, and the Birman is to be judged in all its parts, as well as the gloves.
Easy and smooth.
Weight — 5-6 kg.
If you like the pointed pattern of the Siamese but not the yowly voice, a Birman might be the cat for you. He is a docile, quiet cat who loves people and will follow them from room to room. Expect the Birman to want to be involved in what you’re doing, and be grateful that he’s not as bossy as the Siamese.
Docile doesn’t mean dumb. The Birman is a smart cat and, of course, curious. He likes to explore his environment and has been known to get trapped underneath floors that are being replaced or to accidentally (maybe on purpose) go for a ride on top of a car. It’s a good idea to always keep tabs on where he is.
He communicates in a soft voice, mainly to remind you that perhaps it’s time for dinner or maybe for a nice cuddle on the sofa. He enjoys being held and will relax in your arms like a furry baby.
Despite the length of the Birman’s coat, it has a silky texture that doesn’t mat easily. Comb it weekly to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. Birmans shed their winter coat in the spring, so you may want to comb more frequently then to remove loose hair. A warm bath can also help to loosen and remove the shedding coat. To accomplish a Birman bath, wetting the cat with a hand-held shower nozzle is often preferable to immersing him in a tub of water.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the Birman’s litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene, and a clean litter box will help to keep the coat clean as well.
It’s a good idea to keep a Birman as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Birmans who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Lifespan — 12-16 years.
Good with children, good with household cats and dogs, low-medium shedding, high sociability with strangers.
The breed is easy going and may be kept and bred without any problems.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Problems that may affect the Birman include the following:
Congenital hypotrichosis, which causes them to be born with no hair, and thymic aplasia, an immune deficiency that leads to increased risk of infection and death. Fortunately, these conditions are rare.
Corneal dermoid, the presence of skin and hair on the surface of the cornea (the clear front of the eye) of one or both eyes. It can be corrected surgically.
Spongiform degeneration, a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system causing signs that include hind-limb weakness and uncoordinated movement.
Shaking and trembling in kittens. This condition begins in some kittens when they are about 10 days old and lasts until they are about 12 weeks old. The cause is unknown and recovery occurs spontaneously.
Unusually high concentrations of urea and/or creatinine in the blood, which may or may not indicate kidney dysfunction.