A breed with a colourful history, the Burmese developed from a distinctive cat arriving in San Francisco from Burma, gifted to Dr. Joseph Thompson, a Siamese breeder. Curious about this unusual cat, named Wong Mau, with dark points and a chocolate coat, Thompson undertook to selectively breed the cat and preserve its unique characteristics. By crossing Wong Mau with a Siamese, and then breeding Wong Mau with one of her offspring, Thompson established a variety of coat types, with the solid brown kitten becoming the Burmese’s foundation stock. Later colour variations of blue, lilac and sable emerged. In England, the Burmese was known originally as the chocolate Siamese, and not particularly favoured across Europe, the breed began to diminish. Today, the Burmese is recognised by all leading cat registries.
A small to medium sized cat, the Burmese is both compact and athletic in appearance and structure, with a close-fitting coat. The breed is further characterised by a rounded head, expressive and wide-set eyes, a tapering tail and high-set, triangular ears. The coat is typically glossy and easy to manage, requiring little in the way of grooming. Besides this, the Burmese looks very similar to the Siamese, one of its original forebears, with nimble legs, oblique eyes and a short muzzle. Coat colours vary, although some of the major cat registries do not acknowledge all colour variations in the breed.
Many describe the breed’s tendency to gravitate around family members in the home, enjoying plenty of attention and interaction rather than being left to its own devices. The Burmese is a vocal cat, communicating softly when it wants to be heard, and is highly affectionate to all those it is familiar with. Due to their relatively sedentary lifestyle and their natural love of people, the Burmese is best suited to indoor living where it can benefit from interactive toys, scratching posts and plenty of human interaction. Many owners and enthusiasts describe the Burmese as behaving more like a dog than a cat, remaining loyal, playful and vigilant from an early age. Generally speaking, a healthy Burmese will weigh 8-12 pounds, with a long life expectancy of 16-18 years.
The Burmese is generally a very healthy breed, although it is susceptible to certain health conditions. These range from mild to more serious. Eye disorders including glaucoma, as well as severe cranial deformities and hyperaesthesia syndrome, a condition that causes increased sensitivity, are all prevalent in the breed.