Modern Siamese Cats

Modern Siamese cat
Modern Siamese cats photo ©copyright Helmi Flick

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Contents

Introduction

This is one of the most recognised and yet most controversial cat breeds3. It is the breed of the stars! People such as Jean Cocteau and Anna Pavlova lived with Siamese cats although then they were not of the modern type. Jean Cocteau kept a traditional Siamese cat called Madeleine. Other stars who kept Siamese cats (pre- 1960s or so these would have been traditional Siamese cats):

  • Vivien Leigh
  • Ava Gardner
  • Errol Flynn
  • Carole Lombard & Clark Gable
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Jayne Mansfield and more..

Of the modern Siamese, Angelica Houston apparently lives with one3.  It is almost surprising to recall that the original Siamese cats had naturally kinked tails – now outlawed under breed standards. Cross eyed cats were not uncommon. Selective breeding over about 50 years and evolving breed standards have altered all that.

The US cats are breed to greater extremes than UK modern Siamese cats3.

The modern Siamese cat is sleek and elegant with slender legs. The body type is oriental in cat fancy language. It shares this body shape with the Balinese (modern), Oriental Shorthair and Oriental Longhair (these are related cat breeds). The ears are large and the head wedge shaped. Lets not forget the long whippy tail1.

If you go to a big cat show such as the GCCF Supreme Cat Show or for example the National Cat Club annual show in London, you will see Modern Siamese cats. Their appearance catches the eye. To a person who might keep cats but who is not a cat fancier, they might not be the kind of Siamese cat with which you are familiar. They look a little fragile and have small heads to the untrained eye.

If you search for photographs of Modern Siamese cats on the Flickr website (which has tens of millions of photographs on it and is the biggest photo site on the internet), the search results produce about 90% Traditional Siamese cats and 10% Modern Siamese cats with a small number in between on my reckoning (at 2008). The ones in between I call classic Siamese cats or Thai cats.

The people who upload photographs to Flickr are “ordinary” people. The people who exhibit and compete at cat shows are cat breeders and serious cat lovers (cat fanciers). I conclude that the Modern Siamese has been bred (some would say to a slightly extreme level) for the breeders and cat fanciers (and not for the general market) and the extreme look has been gradually developed over decades in partnership with show judges in interpreting the breed standard, which is open to a fairly wide interpretation.

Until recently cat fanciers couldn’t show Traditional Siamese cats. Now the breed is gaining recognition and has been renamed the Thai on the insistence, it seems, of the Modern Siamese cat breeders and recognized by TICA. As I understand it, some Thai cat breeders do not consider their cats to be a form of Siamese cat but a new breed. I disagree with this. TICA breed standard supports me. You can see the comments of one Thai cat breeder on the Thai cats page (link above).

I don’t know if the renaming will work for or against the Traditional Siamese cat breeders. Click on the following link, if you’d like to read about the History of the Siamese Cat (in some detail and with illustrations). Tell me your preference and vote here. When you vote you are taken to a results page:

Voted for Traditional or Modern Siamese cats?

Traditional vs Modern Siamese cat

People prefer the traditional Siamese cat. Long standing poll of 4 years.

Appearance

The Modern Siamese cat is still currently very much in favor over the Traditional in respect of the cat fancy (but see above). The Modern has a slender rather athletic, elongated silhouette and a wedged head shape (a weggie). As mentioned, the head is very small, almost unnaturally so (seeing these cats in person is more informative). The ears are exaggeratedly large and flare out and lean forward slightly1. The ears must not be on top of the head under the breed standard. The flare outward creates the overall wedge shape of the head. This cat breed is one of extremes and the TICA makes that point in saying it “is defined by extremes”. The coat is fine and close lying.

Breeders preparing for a show may trim the ear hair to make the ear look bigger and more prominent. The breed standard repeats the adjectives such as “slim”, “slender”, “long and straight”, “fine” and “dainty”. These give us the clue to a look that the breeders would call more refined and elegant than the Traditional Siamese.

The CFA allows the same restricted 4 point colors, seal, blue, lilac and chocolate. The pointing produces a stunning contrast with the background colour. And the only eye colour, as you no doubt know, is blue. The CFA standard calls the color: “deep vivid blue”. This is caused by the gene that produces the pointing. One writer has called the pointing the “mask”. It should cover the whole face3.

TICA allows all colors and patterns of the pointed category for show. This includes tabby points, red and cream points, silver tabby points, smoke points and particolor points2.

The torso should be “tubular” on fine boned long limbs. The wedge appearance of the face starts at the tip of the nose and extends to the tips of the ears. This forms a triangle. In profile (as can be seen in Helmi’s photograph below), there is a straight flat line extending from the tip of the nose to the top of the head. It is important that the nose is straight in profile.

The eyes are almond shaped and of medium size. They should be about one eye’s width apart. Siamese cats can develop cross eyes, which is understandably penalised in competion.

The rangy appearance is not dissimilar to the Cornish Rex greyhound look. There are clearly cat lovers who love this fragile look. But the modern Siamese is not fragile. These cats should be hard and muscular, in fine fettle with no flab1.

The modern Siamese is very vocal. Going back to the 1960s I hadn’t heard of or seen the Modern Siamese.

You might like to read about Siamese cat history. I feel that it is a bit of a shame that there are 2 or perhaps 3 (there is also the classic look, in between the Traditional and the Modern) types of Siamese. Things are more complicated these days. The cats illustrated here by Helmi are very good looking cats but I have seen more extreme looks than these. Clearly a very wide spectrum from the robust Traditional to the most extreme appearance exists. As usual it depends on the breeders. Seal points are the best known color point. The wedge shaped head is accentuated by the large ears. The eyes are a deep blue almond.

Modern Siamese cat

Modern Siamese cats – photo ©Helmi Flick notice the straight profile

Personality

The personality of the modern Siamese cat has to be mentioned as it is quite distinct, being vocal to the point of being plain loud1! This is perhaps the most chatty of all cat breeds3. Siamese cats like to be near their human companion and that translates to sleeping in their human companion’s bed or near and on their pillow or on their lap. Is this desire to be close in part warmth related? The TICA breed description mentiones t3hat they love warmth. Is this related to their slender flab free bodies?

The modern Siamese is known to be intelligent (see cat intelligence). They are also inquisitive and more.

In short it could be said that the Siamese (modern or traditional) is quite a demanding cat but that is a good thing as it means more interaction and that means plenty of love in the form of stroking and general contact1.

See Siamese Cat Personality for more.

Health

The Modern Siamese cat is a great companion. Before your adopt be careful about health issues. There is a website on the internet written by an obviously very caring and educated (and concerned) women who bought several Modern Siamese from a breeder who was nice to her. She noticed urinary tract infections when she collected her cats but none lived to 10 years and the majority died very young of a wide range of illnesses. Apparently upper respiratory infections (URIs) in kittens is also a problem.

She concluded that the underlying cause was a defective immune system (inbreeding depression?). It seemed to her that breeders of the Modern Siamese cat do not expect their cats to live to what I would have thought is a normal age for a cat meaning between say 13-20 years. Ten years of age being considered old. I am not saying that this is necessarily typical, however. I have not seen the same said about the Traditional Siamese. I have discussed Siamese Cat Health in more detail, which discusses briefly the potential cause of an impaired immune system, namely inbreeding, to achieve the extreme elongated appearance and unusually straight profile. See below, Genetics for a bit more on health.

Modern Siamese cat

Modern Siamese Cat photo ©copyright Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton. This profile is classic breed standard it seems. A nice flat line in profile.

Communication

As mentioned, modern Siamese cats are very social and vocal cats. And lets remember cats also talk with body language. Siamese being great socializers and not knowing the English language :) need to communicate with us in different and subtle ways. They also communicate with other animals with body language.

A useful tool for the Modern Siamese cat is its tail. You can tell a lot about what is going on in the head by watching the tail.

  • Straight up means your are favored
  • Raised and curved means they are being inquisitive
  • widened by the hairs going on end and the tail arched means “I want to look bigger and watch out”
  • when they are agitated and watching for a developing “incident” (i.e. alert) the tail swishes from side to side
  • if they are sleeping (dozing) and you talk to them they talk back with the tip of their tail making small movements (just acknowledging that they are receiving your monologue)

Modern Siamese cat

Above: Modern Siamese cats – great profile – Elegant – this would please breeders – photo copright Deannster. This photo has been reproduced under a creative commons license fully complied with.

Then you’ve got the whiskers, eyes, ears and her general demeanor.

  • Whiskers to the front means that the whiskers are at readiness to be used to sense what is in front of her
  • eyes narrow and blinking and ears upright and alert means she is happy
  • eyes wide open and fixated and ears upright means she is curious
  • pupils dilated and ears flattened means she is being defensive and under threat
  • annoyed cat looking at you with doe eyes means she wants more food :)
  • eyelids lowered and pupils dilated, ears flattened means annoyed
  • eyes wide and dilated and ears flat and pulled back means angry

Over a long period of living with the same cat, any cat (but Siamese are more vocal) you can have a converation with her. You use a language that seems as natural albeit restricted as the English language.
Genetics

Here are some basic modern Siamese cats genetics. Of course it applies to traditional Siamese too.

The phenotype is a form of Himalayan albinism4

The body is shaded and the eyes blue and thus shows more pigmentation than is typical of Himalayan albinism.

The new born Siamese kitten has no pigmentation. It develops with a few days. Pigmentation in a Siamese cat’s hairs is temperature dependent. This explains why the points (extremeties – nose, face, ears, end of limbs and tail) are darker. These areas are colder and at lower temperatures pigmentation forms. The body temperature is too high for pigmentation to be produced in modern Siamese cats. It varies in colour from pale to medium sepia. There is a variation from individual cat as to how temperature affects colour and pointing.

The “albinism allele” also causes eyesight problems in that the Siamese is prevented from having full binocular vision4 (binocular vision helps with distance judgment). This is compensated for. But it can cause the classic Siamese cross eyed look. Pointed cats can also have eye tremors.

The classic seal colour points (the original pointing, a dark seal brown) has a non-agouti black plus the Siamese allele cs.

There is a range of points, for example: blue pointing, chocolate, lilac, seal tabby (seal lynx), red pointing, tortie pointing, red tabby pointing etc. These extra types of pointing over and above the classic colours mentioned above are recognised by TICA.

Seal point Siamese cat

Seal Point – Traditional Siamese
Photo ©copyright Helmi Flick

Red point Modern Siamese cat

Red Point – Modern Siamese
Photo ©Helmi Flick

Blue pointed Siamese cat
Blue Point – Modern Siamese
Photo ©Helmi Flick


Lynx point Siamese cat
Lynx Point – Traditional Siamese
photo copyright jade-rabbit

Links to lots more

Siamese cat behavior
Most of know a bit about the Siamese cat’s behavior. This page might add something.

Siamese cat personality
Is this the same as behavior? Not quite. This is a nice personality, which is why this breed is in the top three most popular.

Siamese cat rescue
We owe it to the cats to start here. If we value the cat and the character more than the pedigree and the appearace, this is where we will start.

Siamese cat history
This is fascinating and quite a long read. The views are mine and the research is not copied from other sites.

Balinese cat history
This overlaps with the Siamese

Siamese cat names
I’ve not chosen the usual names but Thai names for humans, which can be modified and shortened.

Siamese cat health
Interesting. My research indicates more health problems with the contemporary Siamese. Dr Ross D. Clark who edited Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Apsects of Purebred Cats, list more genetically transmitted diseases with the Siamese than other purebred breeds.

Siamese Cat Song
Peggy Lee’s famous song for the Walt Disney film “The Lady and the Tramp”.

Types of Siamese cat
It’s not just seal points. This is a general discussion. I conclude that there are an infinite number of types.

Thai cats
A new breed or a renaming of one of the oldest breeds. This is controversial and political.

Albino Siamese cat
A special kind of appearance. Balinese
A long haired Siamese cat

Oriental Shorthair
A Modern Siamese with a wider range of coat colors and types

Tonkinese
A cross between a Traditional Siamese or Classic Siamese cat and the Burmese cat

Snowshoe
A cross between the Siamese and American Shorthair bicolor

Ocicat
A combination of Siamese, Abyssinian and American Shorthair

Javanese
A Balinese with an extended range of coat colors and types

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

SIAMESE ROSE
For the past 20 years I have owned Siamese,and have also bred two litters just to have the pick of the litters. I am Siamese through and through. I understand …

Tails of the Riverbank!!!
I was found by our beautiful little Sealpoint, near a little café shack on a river beach not far from our house here in Portugal. She just appeared….and …

My Blue…I think he’s a modern Siamese but he’s all MINE
I adopted a Siamese kitten in March, his name is Blue, he was born in January and is only 4 months old. I had originally ordered a “traditional” Siamese …

PEPPER ADDS SPICE
I got Pepper… a tuxedo Siamese…when she was 5 weeks old for company for my other cat, Misty a tuxedo Himalayan mix. At first I was afraid Misty was …

Who trains whom?
My Mum has a 7 year old Siamese named Skeeter. When he was younger, we also had a tuxedo tabby who loved to go out and prowl the garden. Skeeter wanted …

My Siamese Cats Koko and Mandesa
I adopted both of my Siamese kitties from a local shelter in 2004 and 2005 and I couldn’t be happier despite the “yelling” as I like to call it. Koko is …

Modern vs Traditional Siamese Cats
I am not sure where you get the stat that there are no breeders of modern Siamese that come up when you Google Siamese (first three pages). I googled and …

Albino Siamese
Albino Siamese cat…. Lyndsey Thanks Lyndsey for the picture. If it is alright by you I’ll see if I can add some words…. Michael Oafie has a modern …

Mekong Bobtail – the real legendary Royal Siamese
These days the Mekong Bobtail is seen in Thailand, China, Cambodia – in some of the states, through which the Mekong River flows. The short, broken tail …

Flame Point Balinese?
We were given a beautiful long haired cat which we were told is a flame point Balinese. She is white with a muted flame color tail and ears, her fur …

PITA My Siamese Cat
I love animals and I was on “Craigslist” one day, I found an ad that said “Siamese cats”. I saw the picture that she had posted and there was a beautiful …

The lost one
I once had a Siamese cat. Kitty, she was usually called. I was very young at that time, crawly child. I had Kitty and another lot of cats. Kitty was like …

Breeders + Standard

Of great interest to me is the fact that there are no Modern Siamese Cat Breeders listed independently on the first 3 pages of a Google search. This is in stark contrast to a search for Traditional Siamese Cat Breeders when many (mainly US) were listed. Is this an indication of a shift back to the good old Siamese?

However, Google can work in slightly mysterious ways for people who aren’t expert. This website is written in the UK and a Google search goes through Google.co.uk, which distorts the search results in favor of UK breeders, of which there are more traditional cat breeders than modern, it seems.

I’d recommend a Siamese Cat rescue Center and there is one very good one in the USA. From Modern Siamese cats to Traditional Siamese cats.

Breed standard
CFA standard
TICA standard
ACFA standard
ACF standard – link broken May 2013
CCA standard
Cat (Felis catus)

 
References:

1. Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephenson – pages 148 – 151

2. http://tica.org/public/breeds/si/intro.php

3. Encyclopedia of the Cat – Dr Bruce Fogle

4. Robinson’s Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians 4th ed.


Comments

Modern Siamese Cats — 4 Comments

  1. I live in Long Beach MS and I can not find a breeder in Mississippi of Siamese. I want another one and want to find a good breeder that has reasonably priced kittens. I would not be opposed to a older kitten up to 6months. Anyone out there that can send a website or phone number of a breeder please I need all the help I can get..thanks so much

  2. Pingback: Cat Tail Types | Pictures of Cats

  3. Pingback: Name These Five Cat Breeds | Pictures of Cats

  4. Pingback: What I know about Charlie, my cat | Pictures of Cats

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