The Birman is a domestic breed of cat. Alternatively referred to as “the Sacred Cat of Burma,” these cats are incredibly calm pets that make great companions for all age groups.
While they are not as common as other breeds, you can still adopt healthy Birman kittens from good cat breeders.
People adore these cats for their lush fur coats, royal look, and friendly nature. Further, Birman cats are great for first-time owners since they do not need much care.
Besides their riveting nature and looks, modern Birman cats have an amusing origin and history.
This post discusses everything a cat lover should know about the Birman cat breed. If you already own a Birman cat, we will give you some helpful tips to care for your pet.
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Plenty of myths surround the origin and history of Birman cats. Old notes and records are unclear about the exact roots of the cat.
However, modern researchers have developed some general theories about the Birman cat saga. While most of it is based on verified facts, some views may be mere speculations.
“Birman” comes from the French word for Burma, “Birmanie.” Researchers believe Birman cats originate from Myanmar, which was formerly Burma.
However, there aren’t many concrete facts linking the cats to the country.
While the breed allegedly originated in Burma, it came to France sometime in the 1920s and was eventually recognized by the French in 1925.
There are several other tales and mythical stories about the arrival of the Birman cats in France and their origin. These are just a few of the most popular myths and beliefs:
- Some people believe that some Burmese priests gifted a pair of Birmans to the defenders of their temple. The recipients of the gift were Major Gordon-Russell and August Pavie, two Englishmen who were then living in France.
- Another theory suggests that Vanderbilt, an American tycoon, smuggled a Birman cat out of the country and ran to France. People believe this theory to be the closest to reality. The arrival of the cats and Vanderbilt in France dates back to the early 1900s.
- Some legends also narrate that the Birman cat got its unique exterior as a magical gift from the heavens. These tales depict an ordinary temple cat that remained loyal to its dying master, the Priest, who thieves attacked in an invasion. As a gift for the temple cat’s love, a Blue-eyed Goddess gave the cat stunning blue eyes and golden fur. The progeny of this cat became the modern-day Birman cat.
The Sacred Cat of Burma
In ancient times, people referred to the Birman cat as the “Sacred Cat of Burma” and the “Tibetan Temple Cat” These names result from the cat being considered the feline friend of the Kittah temple priests in Burma.
According to the origin story above, the Goddess Tsun Ksan Kse blessed the Birman cat kind. Kittah priests devotedly adore and worship this blue-eyed goddess. Hence, they extend their devotion to all the temple cats blessed by the goddess.
The next reason for the cat being called “sacred” comes from another legend. Followers of Kittah priests believe that the spirit of a priest flows into his cat partner upon death.
The Kittah priests reside in this world in their cats’ bodies before moving on to their next lives.
World War II
The events of World War II were a critical point in the modern Birman cat species’ evolution. Records and theories after this time are more evident and certain since it is pretty recent.
While people have a rough idea of what these temple cats initially looked like, nobody can picture an exact image. According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, this cat species was nearly wiped out from France during the Second World War.
Breeders could not breed this species further during that time, so it nearly went extinct.
Only two of these pedigree cats likely survived the war, and fanciers used them to re-breed the species. This incident is why Birman cats became rare, and many myths about their origin arose.
Ancient breeders cross-bred the living pair of the Birman species with other similar breeds to carry this unique bloodline.
Siamese and Persian cats were the most common species to cross-breed with them. Hence, modern Birmans hold a striking likeness to the Siamese breed and are often called the “cousins” of the latter.
Some Famous Birman Cats
Since Birmans were so popular and high in value, people kept track of various Birmans throughout history.
Some of these famous cats might be mythical, but plenty of proof backs the existence of others.
Here are a few of the most popular Birman cats throughout history:
- Orloff and Xenia: According to various sources, Orloff and Xenia were the final living pair of Birman breeding cats in the War. So, the modern Birmans are likely to be off-springs of a former couple of temple cats.
- Poupee De Madalpour: This seal point Birman is the only known ancestor of all the Birmans in the West. There are several records of this cat surviving the War.
Madam Marcelle Adam owned this cat, born in 1920 in Nice, France. Further, the Birman’s dam was Sita, a cat supposedly smuggled from Burma to France. Later, Poupee’s litter became the foundation of Birmans in the West.
There are several pictures of the Birman and its kittens.
- Choupette: This blue point Birman was the pet of a famous German fashion designer, Karl Lagerfield. The cat was born in 2011 and surfaced on social media in 2012. Afterward, Choupette became quite famous on the internet and has an Instagram account.
Birman cats have distinct features that might help you tell them apart from other cats. Below are some noticeable traits of Birmans.
Build and Size
A regular Birman cat is an average-sized cat with a slightly longer body. It has a hefty and muscular build with a broad, round head.
The cat appears stocky, with heavy jaws and a soft, circular muzzle. Finally, it has a “Roman” medium-length nose.
Birman kittens are always born white and gradually develop colors as they mature. Their silky fur coats give them a royal look and do not mat. Most of their fur is pale beige or golden.
However, they have some darker color points and unique markings around their faces, paws, tails, and ears. They also have white “gloves” at the end of their paws.
The most common color types are seal, blue, and chocolate point Birmans. Other rare color patterns include cream and lilac point Birmans.
A Birman cat’s most prominent feature is its striking blue eyes. Their glossy, deep blue eyes are the main reason cat fanciers fawn over the breed.
Some may mix up Birmans with Ragdolls, because they look similar in appearance.
But you can easily tell them apart by their size. The Ragdoll is much bigger than a Birman. To learn more, read our post on the Birman vs Ragdoll breeds.
Caring for the Birman Breed
Since the cat is rare to find and so precious, one might think it requires a lot of care. However, Birmans are amongst the simplest breeds that require minimal care.
Here are some tips that every Birman owner should know.
The cat’s smooth and lustrous coat may appear hard to groom, but it takes minimal effort.
While Birmans have thick and long fur, they only have a single layer. The lack of an undercoat makes the pile easier to brush.
Moreover, since the hair is silky, your brush will slide right through it with zero resistance.
The velvety texture also helps to keep the fur from tangling. You can use a soft, slicker brush to care for your Birman’s coat. Also, you must brush your cat companion’s fur weekly.
The next step in grooming a Birman is looking after its nails and other hygiene factors. It’s generally a good idea to keep your pet’s nails trimmed short to prevent it from harming itself, babies, and other pets, intentionally or otherwise.
You should also ensure that the cat does not sit in its litter for too long. It could lead to many diseases and infections.
Lastly, make sure to check your Birman’s ears every week. Clean the insides carefully if you spot any dirt or wax. However, if it appears clean, do not poke the cat needlessly. You can use cotton balls or special pet ear cleaners to perform the task.
Please note that you should avoid using a cotton swab as it might harm the insides of their ears. If the pet’s ears appear red or irritable, you should instantly visit your vet.
One of the most important things that all pet parents must know is how to keep their cat fit. If a cat becomes obese, it could cause some health issues. So, you must ensure that they have enough activities to do.
You can get a playhouse or toy trees for your Birman to play with and climb. This would ensure that they move around enough.
Health and Diseases
The Birman breed is very healthy and does not have any breed-specific diseases so far. Also, since they aren’t particularly difficult to care for, they rarely develop health concerns that would naturally have come up in other cats due to neglect in care.
However, regardless of the breed, cats can grow sick or injure themselves at any age. In such a case, you must immediately schedule an appointment with your vet.
Also, even if there are no obvious problems, you should take your pet to the vet once a year for regular checkups.
Keeping Your Cat Happy
Keeping a cat happy is crucial to keeping it healthy, especially if it is a Birman. Your pets require as much love and attention as a human baby does.
Birman kittens are very playful and love to follow you around the house. So, you must try to hold regular play sessions with your pet to ensure it does not grow lonely.
You can use toys like play wands or jingle balls to entertain them. You can also pet or scratch it to display affection.
Furthermore, it would help if you set up some scratching areas in the house, like posts or cat trees. This might help relieve the cat from time to time.
Birman Breed vs Other Cat Breeds
This article discusses most of the details about identifying a Birman cat. However, people often confuse the breed with other cats due to similar looks or features.
So, this section notes the most common mistakes people make while adopting a Birman and clarifies them.
Birman vs Burmese Breeds
While people believe that both cats come from Myanmar, they are very different. Birmans are larger, fluffier, and have longer fur.
However, Burmese cats are round, sleek, and have short fur. The latter also has a much darker coat than Birmans.
Birman vs Siamese and Persian Breeds
Since breeders likely cross-bred Birmans with Siamese and Persian cats, they look pretty similar.
All three cat breeds have similar color patterns and markings. However, a closer look reveals that a Birman cat has a different build than the other cat breeds.
It is also much calmer and friendlier than the other two, with a long face and a heftier body.
Birman Cat Breed: A Definitive Guide – Final Thoughts
The Birman cat breed is currently very trendy in the U.S. This cat has blue eyes and unique markings on its coat.
Birman cats were on the brink of extinction around the Second World War before they resurfaced.
Further, cat fanciers in the 1900s cross-bred them with Siamese and Persian breeds to preserve their lineage.
Currently, Birmans are not very common, but you can easily find them with reputable cat breeders.
This cat is sweet and playful, requiring minimal care in the form of weekly grooming.
All in all, a Birman cat is a great option for first-time cat owners since they do not create much fuss.