The Siamese is a famous cat breed with a long and interesting history that probably goes back more than 500 years. The Siamese cat originally comes from a country called Thailand in Asia. This country used to be called “Siam”. The Siamese is named after the country they come from. It is one of the first breeds of cat.
Many film stars such as Errol Flynn have cared for a special Siamese cat. Errol Flynn named his cat “Bes Mudi”. Other film stars who have kept a Siamese are: Vivien Leigh (she kept lots of Siamese cats including “Poo Jones”) and Elisabeth Taylor who gave one of her cats to James Dean. The cat was called “Marcus”.
Even people who don’t know much about cats know what a Siamese cat looks like. The Siamese cat has dark fur on the ears, tail, legs and face. In the middle of the cat the fur is mainly a creamy white to a slightly brown color. But when a Siamese cat is born the kittens are pure white all over. Then gradually the kitten changes color.
What is really strange is that it is heat that makes the Siamese kitten change color and which gives this cat its famous coat. The cells in the skin that make the color in the coat are affected by temperature. When they are cooler they make darker fur. When they are warmer they don’t. As the skin of the ears, tail, legs and face are cooler than the middle of the body those parts are dark.
About 130 years ago (from 2012) people from Europe who where living in Siam noticed the unusual Siamese cats. They had never seen cats like this before. They were so special, the King of Siam kept Siamese cats. As a result people called these cats “The Royal Cat of Siam”.
Some people wanted to bring Siamese cats back to Europe. The story is that the King of Siam gave a cat or cats to an important Englishman and he brought the Siamese cat to England when he returned home. Other people also brought this cat back to England. One of these people was Mrs Vyvyan. We think this happened between about 1800 and 1900. On the map above I have decided that they brought the cats back on a ship. This is most likely because at the time there were no airlines.
The first Siamese cats in England were different to the Siamese cats that you see today. A lot of them had a kink in their tail. Some had a squint (the eyes did not look straight ahead). Also these original (first) Siamese cats where less thin that modern Siamese cats. The pictures show the difference.
The reason why the Siamese cat changed shape is because people who like cats a lot and who were part of a cat club decided that they could make the Siamese cat look better. They wanted to make it more beautiful and elegant. So, beginning in about 1950 they made sure that Siamese cats that were a bit thinner and which they liked mated with other cats that they liked. The kittens were thinner and looked nicer they thought. In doing this sort of thing over and over again the shape of the Siamese cat changed a lot. What they did is called “selective breeding“. In the same way they removed the squint and kinked tail.
Some people still prefer the original looking Siamese cat. So now there are many different Siamese cat shapes. It can be a bit confusing. The thinner Siamese cats are called “oriental” in the way they look. The more normal looking cats are called “old-style” Siamese cats. These are what the original Siamese cats looked like more or less.
Not only did the the shape of the Siamese cat change, the color did too. The same people who loved the Siamese cat used selective breeding to create different colors for the darker fur. The original darker bits of fur are very dark brown to black and are called “points”. The other colors are greyish/blue, chocolate and lilac. There are even more but these are the main ones.
Here are some key Siamese cat facts for kids…..
The Siamese cat is also famous for its character and voice. They have loud voices and only Siamese cats make this particular sound. They like people and want to jump on their lap. The Siamese will ask if he wants something, particularly food. You will have to love your Siamese cat, which is an easy thing to do because she will demand it. This cat breed likes to be around people and you’ll find that she is loyal and a great companion.
See Marie Clements page on the Applehead Siamese cat.