With sapphire-blue eyes that can pierce through your soul, the Birman has all the makings of a wonderful feline pet. Revered in Burma as a gift from one of the temple Goddesses, the Sacre de Birmanie is one of the most loyal, devoted, and affectionate kitties one can ever have. Without a doubt, this is a feline breed that even dog people will want to have.
History of the Birman Cat
Nobody knows the exact origins of the Birman, except that they are temple cats from Burma that found their way to France. If you look at many breed registries today, they cite France as the breed’s origin and not Burma.
One of the most enduring legends about the Birman cat is that they are the descendants of the cats of the Temple of Lao Tsun. The head of the temple, Mun-Ha, had one of these temple cats, called Sinh. An attack on the temple by troublemakers resulted in the death of Mun-Ha. When Sinh saw the lifeless body of its master, it lay down on its master. Soon afterwards, Sinh began displaying changes in its appearance. Its white coat changed into golden yellow. Its limbs, tail, and face became brown. Its eyes transformed from yellow to sapphire-blue.
Legend has it that these changes in Sinh’s appearance were due to the intervention of Tsun-Kyan-Kse, the goddess whom the temple priests worshipped. The Birman’s blue eyes depict the eye color of Tsun-Kyan-Kse. Its golden coat is a reflection of the cat’s devotion and loyalty to its master. The brownish hue on parts of its body signified the Earth. The white paws of the Birman are a sign of the cat’s purity.
No matter how fascinating the story is, it remains a myth. It does not provide clues as to the exact, verifiable origins of the breed. There are several theories, however, as to how the cat arrived in France.
One theory states that the first Sacre de Birmanie cats are those that Burmese temple priests gave to a Frenchman and an English gentleman. These two aided the priests in the defense of their temple. As a token of their appreciation, the temple priests gave Sir Gordon Russell and Auguste Pavie some of their temple cats.
There is also the story about temple cats being stolen from their masters and sold to a wealthy American. A wealthy French woman bought the cats from the American in 1920. Unfortunately, there are several loopholes in this story. For instance, research shows that there is no individual by the name of Madame Thadde Hadisch or that the Laotian Lynx is different from the Siamese.
Regardless of its origins, the Cat Club de France gave its full recognition of the Sacre de Birmanie as an official breed in 1925
During World War II, the breed neared extinction. Only the cats of Baudoin-Crevoisier were left after the war, named Xenia de Kaabaa and Orloff. These cats produced Manou, Lon Saito, Djaipour, Sita 1, and Sita 2. Because of the “rarity” of the breed, the remaining Birmans had to be mated with other feline breeds. It would take a few more years before the breed made a successful comeback.
The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy recognized the Birman as a breed in 1966. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, likewise, gave its full recognition to the breed in the following year. In 1979, both the International Cat Association and the Canadian Cat Association recognized the Birman.
Today, the Birman ranks as one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.
Quick Facts About the Birman Cat
There may be questions about the Birman’s exact origins but there is no doubt when it comes to the following facts.
- Medium- to Large-Sized Kitty
What you should know about the Birman is that it is a medium- to large-sized feline breed. It can weigh up to 15 pounds, although there have been reports of the cat reaching up to 20 pounds. Females often weigh about 6 to 10 pounds, while males have a lower weight limit of 9 pounds. It is not the heaviest or the largest kitty in the world, but it sure can qualify as a huggable cat.
- Sweet Personality
Make no mistake, the Birman has a very sweet personality that can melt the heart of almost anyone who interacts with it. Its affection is often likened to the most affectionate and loving breeds of dogs. They have very calm personalities and a sweet disposition. Very few kitties can match the gentleness of the breed. This makes the Birman a very lovable cat to have in the home.
- Adorable Looks
One of the most striking features of the Birman is its bright, sapphire-blue eyes. It has the colorpoints of the Siamese, but the Birman should always have gloves and socks in white color. This is a very important characteristic of the breed. It can have almost any other color on its body. Its paws should always have white, however. The breed comes in chocolate, seal, blue, and lilac colors. These hues are very fascinating in themselves. And when you add the pointed color pattern of the Siamese, then you have a cat that has one of the most beautiful coats in the world.
- A Dog Inside a Cat’s Body
There are many reasons why many people believe that the Birman is a dog in a cat’s body. They are very loyal to their human owners. Birmans do not display the independent nature seen in many cat breeds. They are affectionate and very intelligent, too. You can teach it many tricks and the Birman will be more than happy to learn. Teach it to play with its toys or help it learn how to play a game of fetch. Sooner or later, the Birman and your dog will be playing fetch together.
This is a breed that is so attached to its human family that it can also develop separation anxiety. Cat fanciers say this is a carryover from the dedication and loyalty of temple cats to their human masters. When Mun-Ha died, Sinh never abandoned its master’s lifeless body. It laid down on its master’s body before joining him in paradise 7 days later. This is a legend that has a storyline that is very common among dogs. There are breeds that display exceptional loyalty to their masters that they will never abandon them.
- Weird Compulsion
This is something that all aspiring Birman parents should know about. Fanciers do not yet know as to why the breed is quite prone to some types of compulsive behavior. Many of these cats display pica. This is a compulsive behavior described by eating non-food items. The behavior is often seen in Birmans that have been weaned very early in their lives as well as those that came from a small litter.
Things You Should Know
Birmans are well-loved for their dog-like devotion to and affection for their respective families. It also has one of the most striking coat patterns in the world – simple yet elegant. Potential pet parents of the Birman cat should always consider the following before they finalize their decision to bring a Sacre de Birmanie to their homes.
One of the cat breeds used in the creation of the modern Birman is the Siamese. Because of this, one would expect that the diseases of the Siamese will also be evident on the Sacred Cat of Burma. But this is not the case. What is very remarkable is that decades of selective breeding practices made the Birman a very sturdy feline breed. It does not have breast cancer, hydrocephalus, eye disorders, and respiratory tract infections unlike its Siamese forebear. This is also one kitty that is ‘quite’ immune to behavioral problems.
Birman fanciers say the health of the cat is a direct result of Tsun-Kyan-Kse’s protection. Some also believe that the cat is Mun-Ha himself but in the form of a cat. Whether you believe this legend or not, the Birman cat remains one of the world’s healthiest breeds.
This is not to say that it is 100% immune to diseases. Scrupulous breeders wanting to make big bucks can introduce defective genes into their cats’ pool. This can lead to the development of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, spongiform degeneration, corneal dermoid, and congenital hypotrichosis. It is, therefore, a must that you get a Birman only from reputable breeders. Having the cat DNA tested can also help identify any potential disease markers in its genes.
Birmans can live up to 15 years, although it is not unusual that some cats can live up to 20 years.
One of the things that pet owners should know about the Birman is that it has the tendency to become obese. Getting the assistance of a veterinarian can help in the determination of the cat’s ideal body weight. This provides the basis on the number of calories that the Birman has to consume in a day. Veterinarians take into consideration the cat’s activity level, life stage, age, weight, and other factors in the determination of the cat’s calorie requirements.
Birmans need premium-quality, whole-prey raw food. This supplies their body with all the nutrients and calories they need. Given that sourcing high-quality raw food is difficult, one can always give well-balanced wet cat food. This type of feline nutrition has a nutrient profile that is almost the same as whole-prey food. However, one has to read the label of the pet food as some manufacturers tend to put unnecessary ingredients.
If there is one specific ingredient that you have to look for in a Birman cat food, it’s animal protein. Plant-based proteins are okay but you will have to supplement your Birman with taurine and other amino acids that are not found in such foods.
Cats do need carbohydrates for energy. Since Birmans are not very rambunctious kitties, they do not need excessive amounts of calories. In most cases, carbohydrates should not comprise more than half of the cat food’s composition. Keep in mind that whole prey raw food only contains negligible amounts of carbohydrates.
Birmans need routine wellness checkups from their veterinarians. It is true this is a healthy cat breed but it does not mean you should already forego with regular vet visits. Wellness examinations can help determine the state of health of the Birman. This is also your chance to learn whether your Birman kitten is growing and developing in a “normal” manner. There are also vaccinations or immunizations that Birmans can only get from the veterinary clinic. These can help protect the cat from certain forms of health problems.
While Birmans are indoor cats, one should still protect them against parasites like ticks, mites, and fleas. These parasites can still get indoors and infest your cat through other means. Flea preventatives are excellent. Controlling environmental variables in your home can also help secure the Birman’s environment.
Clean the litter box every day. Scoop out any soiled litter and add a fresh layer whenever you can. Daily cleaning is not a substitute for a more thorough cleaning every week, however. This will give you a chance to clean the litter box itself and not only replace the soiled litter. Make sure to disinfect the litter box and provide a fresh layer of litter.
Having several pet water-drinking fountains inside the house is crucial. Always observe the “n+1” rule, where “n” refers to the number of cats in the household. As such, if you only have one cat, then you should have at least two pet drinking stations. If you have 4 cats, then you need 5 drinking stations. You can also observe the same rule in litter boxes.
Cats are not very particular about drinking from a bowl because they already derive water from the prey animals that they consume. Given that they do not eat whole-prey animals, you should entice them to drink more. This is where pet drinking fountains can help. Improving the hydration status of the Birman can help keep the optimal functioning of its kidneys.
If you get a Birman from reputable breeders, you may pay about $700 to $1,000 for a kitten. Adopting a Birman cat, however, can cost you anywhere between $75 and $250. Regardless of how much you are paying, know that this is still an expensive feline breed. As such, you do not want it to go outside where there are a lot of dangers.
One of the advantages of having a Birman is its ease of grooming. This is not a shorthaired variety that makes brushing a breeze. However, its dense, long coat does not have an undercoat. The fur is also silky that most cat owners envy them. Birmans have coats that will never form tangles or mats. If you want to retain the silky smoothness of its hair, however, then frequent brushing is an absolute must. Besides, brushing its coat will also serve as a massage. This distributes the natural oils in the Birman’s skin, allowing it to grow healthy.
There is no need to bathe the Birman, although occasional wipes of its coat will help remove any dirt and debris. Cleaning the cat’s ears is important, however. You should do this every week. Brushing the Birman’s teeth is also important to help prevent gum disease and dental problems. Clipping its nails is crucial to prevent nail and paw problems. Don’t forget to clean the corners of the cat’s eyes.
Birmans are people-oriented, affectionate, gentle, and mild-mannered. They are not a nervous wreck like the Siamese cats. They are also not couch potatoes like the Persian. It is a cat breed that thrives well in a family that has children, other cats, and other pets. Its friendliness is always a joy to have in a multi-pet household. For this to work, one should always have cat-friendly dogs and other pets. The breed also shows remarkable tolerance for rambunctious kids. It is never aggressive and will never scratch or bite your kid. It loves them.
This breed is a very adaptable one. It does not care where you live. All it cares about is being with its human family. Like the temple cats of Burma, the Birman shows its dedication to its human masters by being the best cat in the house.
While the breed is very social, it is not like others that will annoy you with their presence. Birmans never demand attention. They will follow you everywhere but they will always make sure to keep their distance. They are content seeing you around. But when they do feel you’re already neglecting them, Birmans will let out their soft voice and rub their body. Do not worry, the Birman will never scratch or bite your leg. It only wants you to pick it up for a few tender moments together.
The Birman has a mythical origin that complements its fairytale looks. It has a temperament that is perfect for dog-loving households. True, this is one kitty that all animal-loving individuals and families deserve to have.