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What is a Birman Cat?

By Deborah Walker
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A Birman cat is a large, long domestic cat with a stocky build and silky fur. Each Birman cat has golden or egg shell coloring, white gloves, laces, and one of several recognized color points. They tend to be more sociable than most other felines and dislike being left alone. They are very intelligent and friendly. Native to Burma, the Birman cat breed is known as the "Sacred Cat of Burma" and keeps company with kittah monks. Modern Birmans in the western world can be traced back to a single pair of cats in post-war France.

A Birman cat's fur is medium thickness and length. Its silky texture prevents the fur from matting. These cats are fairly stocky with roundish faces and round, blue eyes. Their ears are somewhat smaller than the ears of other cat breeds, and the nostrils are set low on a Roman-style nose. The overall look of a Birman cat is one of balance, with each feature in proportion to the size of the body.

Each Birman cat is born pure white, gaining its gloves and points as it ages. Acceptable point coloring on the legs, face and tail are seal, blue, lilac, seal tortie, cream, red, blue cream, chocolate tortie, red tortie, and lilac tortie. Tabby versions of these colors are also acceptable.

Symmetrical gloves on the front paws ideally extend to the second or third joints. The symmetrical gloves on the back paws should cover the toes, but are allowed to be longer than the gloves on the front paws. White coloring on the leg, or hock, is referred to as the laces. The ideal length of the laces is between 1/2 and 3/4 of the way up the leg.

Cats of this breed are very social. They are happiest when in the company of people and/or other pets in the home. They should have a companion if the owner spends a lot of time away. Birman cats are docile, very intelligent, and quite affectionate. They are devoted to their owners, often following them around the house like a dog.

After World War II, only two Birman cats remained in Europe. These two cats were the heart of rebuilding the breed. Offspring of this pair were bred to other long-hairs and to breeds with Siamese heritage. Today, the breed is thriving in both the western world and in Burma, where the cats still live with the monks.

Birman cat breeders have a somewhat quirky tradition, at least in the U.S. and France. Breeders in those countries traditionally name each year's kittens with a specific letter of the alphabet. For example, all kittens born in 2010 were given names that begin with the letter h. Kittens born in 2011 receive given names that begin with an i. Each letter of the alphabet is used, and every 26 years the cycle begins again with the letter a.

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