European breed standard
The European breed standard which describes a more typically angular Oriental look is followed in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well, of course, in Europe. But ultimately it is down to the cat association that is followed and TICA guidelines are used all over the world.
The head – an area of greatest difference between US and European standards
The European Burmese’s head is the area which most different from the American type. It is a short wedge with a blunt muzzle with widely-placed, rounded, and slightly slanted eyes (Dr Fogle in Complete Cat Care).
History tells the story of the change from regular appearance to compact
The Burmese cat breed originates in the early 1930s in San Francisco, USA. Dr. Joseph C Thompson brought back a chocolate-coloured cat from Burma (Myanmar) named Wong Mau. This cat was bred to a Siamese which resulted in some kittens being pointed. Gloria Stephens (breeder and cat show judge) believes that Wong Mau was the first Tonkinese in the country. She was not genetically a Burmese. After several generations of selective breeding the Burmese in North America became more foreign i.e. slenderer in type than it is today. The head was not rounded as we see today. And the body and legs were longer.
During the 1960s changes took place in the shape of this cat breed which resulted in the head being more rounded and the muzzle shorter. There was a break in the nose and the body became quite compact. This appearance is now described as the ‘Contemporary Burmese’.
One individual cat helped shape this change to a more cobby appearance which is synonymous with the American Burmese: Theebaw. He caused a sensation in the cat fancy. He was born at the cattery of Gladys de Fleron in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. She liked the look of this kitten and she kept him for herself rather than selling him. He became the ACFA Cat Of the Year in the 1960s. He helped to change the breed standard for this breed which evolved, as mentioned, from the semi-foreign type of years before to the contemporary cobby appearance.
There are other famous Burmese cats which also helped the breed to develop to the appearance of today. And the word “round” is one which fits the appearance of this breed according to Gloria Stephens (Legacy of the Cat). What she means is that the head, eyes and the muzzle (which is short) and even the chest should be round. I stress that in cat fancy language this is a cobby cat which means stocky in layperson’s language. The body should be short and it should not be long and rangy.
This is quite a small cat but they are said to be heavy. The males can be quite large and powerful. The females, in contrast, may be daintier than the males. The head should be rounded. There should be no flat planes. The eyes should be yellow-to-gold in colour. The ears should be medium-sized and set well apart. They say that the Burmese does not need assistance in grooming themselves. They are “self-cleaning”. People showing the Burmese a cat show simply need to wipe the coat down with a damp cloth, Gloria Stephens states.
They are shown in the sepia category, solid and tortoiseshell divisions. The solid colours are seal sepia which is sable, chocolate sepia, cinnamon sepia, blue sepia, lilac sepia, fawn sepia, red sepia and cream sepia. The tortoiseshell colours are: sable, chocolate, cinnamon sepia, blue sepia, lilac sepia and fawn sepia.