All About Birmans

About This Breed

Gentle, active, and playful, but quiet and unobtrusive when it sees you are busy, the Birman is an excellent companion.

Physical Characteristics

The Birman is a stocky cat with a broad head and rounded chin. Its eyes are large and round with a brilliant blue hue. Its ears, meanwhile, are wide.

COLOR(S)

The Birman typically has pure seal, chocolate, blue, and lilac markings. Its feet are traditionally white with tinges of gold.

COAT

The Birman has a medium and silky coat with a sparse undercoat that is not prone to matting.

Personality and Temperament

ACTIVITY LEVEL

Low to Moderate

POSITIVES

The Birman has a sweet disposition and gets along well with children. It also enjoys being handled.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

It likes to bask in adoration and expects a lot of love and attention.

Care

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS

The Birman is a good self groomer; it requires only the occasional bath and brush.

Health

Birmans are not commonly suceptible to any one specific health condition or issue. 

History and Background

The history of this sacred Burmese cat is immersed in legend. The story goes that pure white cats lived in temples dedicated to Lord Buddha in Burma (present day Myanmar). They were considered the sacred carriers of the souls of priests who had departed the earth for their heavenly abode. This process was called transmutation.

The deity Tsun-Kyan-Kse presided over this process, and was symbolized by a golden statue with luminous sapphire eyes. Mun-Ha, who served as a priest, worshiped this goddess in the temple of LaoTsun. He was often joined by Sinh, one of the revered white cats, for his evening prayers in front of the golden statue. One day, miscreants from Siam pillaged the temple and killed Mun-Ha.

As he lay drawing his last breath, Sinh, his faithful companion, rested one of his paws on Mun-Ha’s head and faced the golden statue. A miracle occurred: Sinh was transformed into a golden-colored cat, with legs of an earthly hue and eyes of sapphire blue. His paws, however, retained their original color as a symbol of purity. All the cats belonging to the temple also underwent this magical change. Sinh died after a week grieving for his companion and refusing to eat. According to legend, he carried Mun-Ha’s spirit into paradise.

There is, however, a more scientific story of the breed’s origin, which can be traced back to 1919. Around that time a couple of adventurous Birman cats were being transported to France from Burma. There are two accounts of the story behind their arrival.

According to one story, the temple of Tsun-Kyan-Kse was again attacked. Two westerners, Major Russell Gordon and Auguste Pavie, aided a few priests and their sacred cats to escape to Tibet. On their return to France, they were gifted two Birman cats for services rendered. According to a more prosaic account, these cats were bought by a Mr. Vanderbilt who, in turn, bought them from a dissatisfied servant belonging to the temple of LaoTsun. One of the cats, Madalpour, passed away on the voyage but the female cat, Sita, made it to France. After becoming pregnant during the voyage, Sita is often considered the matriarch of the Birman breed in Europe.

The breed would continue to spread and in 1925, it was official recognized in France. World War II great diminished the number of Birmans in Europe, nearly causing their extinction. However, a few survivors ensured the continuity of the breed. With careful crossings, the Birman once again staged a comeback and was even exported to England in 1955, but did not gain official recognition until 1966.

Birmans were introduced to America in 1959 and were formally recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1966. The breed has since established itself in the hearts of people and is one of the most popular. It has Championship status in all associations.