PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: October 30, 2009

Burmese are extremely people-oriented cats. They are almost dog-like in their tendency to follow their owners to give and receive affection. In fact, many Burmese even learn to play fetch.

Physical Characteristics

The appearance of this breed has undergone great change over the years. The 1953 standard describes this feline as “medium, dainty, and long,” whereas the 1957 standard describes it as "mid­way between Domestic Shorthair and Siamese."

The breed can be broadly divided into two types: European Burmese and contemporary Burmese. The European Burmese possesses longer, narrower muzzles with a less pronounced nose break, and a slightly narrower head; the contemporary Burmese has shorter, broad­er muzzles, a pronounced nose break, and broader, rounder head shapes.

Additionally, the contemporary Burmese bears the brown coat proudly, while the European Burmese sports brighter colors like red.

Personality and Temperament

This is a smart cat that is equally comfortable in a shop, home, or office. It is energetic, playful, and keeps its human companions amused with its antics.

There are certain differences in temperament between males and females: females display more curiosity and are more emotionally attached to their owners; males are quieter, though they, too, are fond of human company. They both display tremendous interest in food.

The Burmese speaks with a hoarse voice as if it has a bad throat from too much chatting. It is quieter than its Siamese counterpart, but will purr when it becomes restless or annoyed.

History and Background

In their country of origin, the Burmese breed is sometimes referred to as the copper cat. Their history dates back thousands of years and the legend goes that the illustrious forefathers of the Burmese were worshiped in temples as Gods in Burma.

Experts agree this breed of domesticated cats descended from Wong Mau, a female feline that was found in Burma (present day Myanmar) and exported to the U.S. in the early 1930s by Dr. Joseph Thompson, a medical officer in the United States Navy.

Thompson, a man of many interests, had served as a Buddhist monk in Tibet and instantly took a keen interest to the short-haired, brown cats that lived there. After acquiring Wong Mau, he decided to begin a breeding program. However, as she had no male counterpart, Wong Mau was crossed with a seal-point Siamese named Tai Mau.

The kittens produced were beige, brown, and pointed in color. The brown kittens were crossed with one another, or with their mother, to produce more Burmese cats.

The Burmese was officially recognized by the Cat Fancier's Association (CFA) in 1936. However, as more breeders began to bring cats from Burma to the U.S., the breed began to become diluted. Soon hybrid Burmese cats were deceptively sold as purebreds. Protests poured in and the CFA withdrew its recognition. Burmese breeders who had faith in the breed continued their work despite the gloomy scenario. At last their efforts were rewarded when the Burmese once again gained recognition in 1953 and was granted Championship status in 1959. A new standard which allowed only solid coat colors unmarred by marking was followed to distinguish this breed. Today, the Burmese has Championship status is all associations.

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