23 facts about the Birman cat

Here are 23 facts about the Birman cat which you might find useful to quickly understand more about this popular cat breed which is not, however, in the very top echelons of popularity for people who are aficionados of purebred, pedigree cats.

Birman cat by Helmi Flick
Birman cat by Helmi Flick
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  1. This is a solid, substantial and medium-long, longhaired, particolor, pointed cat with striking blue eyes and white gloves (front) and laces (back) on her feet 👌. That pretty well sums up the Birman.
  2. This is a solid, pointed cat but the pointing is interrupted with white fur caused by the white spotting gene (piebald gene). The white feet are called gloves and laces. The cat fancy also refers to this as “gloving”.
  3. The difficulty is in ensuring the placement of the white fur on the feet. Birman breeders have worked very hard to achieve this.
  4. In the past the gloving has extended up the legs when it is called “runners”. Modern show cat Birman’s don’t have this problem because it’s been weeded out through selective breeding over many years.
  5. This cat has large blue eyes and an inquisitive appearance.
  6. The Birman probably originates from Myanmar formerly Burma and in about 1919 a couple of Birman cats were shipped to France from Burma as it then was. One was female and one was male. The male failed to survive the trip but the female survived. Her name was Sita. She was pregnant. Some believe that this was the first Birman in Europe.
  7. It is also thought that all Birmans are descended from a small population of French Birmans.
  8. In 1925 the Birman was recognised as a separate breed by the French cat registry. This is not a French cat, however.
  9. At the end of World War II there were two Birman’s left in Europe. A programme of outcrossing was started to re-establish the breed. They achieved their goal in 1955.
  10. The first Birman to be exported to the United States occurred in 1959 and to the UK in 1965.
  11. The CFA recognised the Birman as a cat breed in 1967. It is now very popular cat breed although not in the top 10 cat breeds (CFA as at 2020).
  12. There is a legend surrounding this cat which you might have heard about. Birman cats in Burma were honoured guests at temples because it was believed they carried the souls of priests to heaven. A priest, the High Lama, lay dying and his cat companion, Sinh climbed onto him and faced the goddess Tsun Kyan-Kse at the temple and appealed for the transmutation of the priest’s soul. He took his last breath and his soul entered Sinh’s body which transformed. His golden eyes turning a sapphire blue like those of the goddess. His white coat took on a golden mist and his ears nose and tail turned dark like the earth but his paws touched the silk of his master’s garments and they turned white. This reflected the purity of his master’s soul. The cat kept vigil by his deceased master and then died carrying the priest’s soul to heaven. On Sinh’s death the other cats of the temple were also transformed and they too acquired sapphire-blue eyes and pure white feet with coats “misted with gold” in the words of Gloria Stephens in her book Legacy of the Cat (I couldn’t say it any better).
  13. This is an imposing, muscular and powerfully built cat with a stocky (cobby) body.
  14. The hair does not easily matt.
  15. The Birman has a medium-sized, broad, strong and round head. The ears are also medium-sized while the eyes should be almost round, blue, large and wide-set.
  16. You will find the Birman in all colours of the pointed category particoloured division and mitted pattern only.
  17. In recognition of the precision of the selective breeding of this cat, the forepaws should have white gloving covering them with an edge on an even line across the paws at the third joint.
  18. The hind feet also have white gloving which extends up the back of the legs ending at a point which is about halfway up the hock. Gloving on the hind feet is called “laces”.
  19. Gloves and laces should be evenly matched.
  20. The coat has a golden tint.
  21. Birman’s are easy-going, relaxed and well-balanced with nice personalities. They have a peaceful nature and adapt well to homes with children or other cats and dogs.
  22. They are described as a robust, hardy breed by Gloria Stephens and I thank for the information.
  23. Dr. Ross D Clarke DVM states that hip dysplasia and patella luxation can be found occasionally in Birman cats. My impression is that this is a cat with little in the way of inherited diseases which is a big positive.
Birman cat by Helmi Flick
Birman cat by Helmi Flick

RELATED: Burmese and Birman cats have the longest life expectancy of purebred cats (2024)

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