His piercing, sapphire-blue eyes stare deep into your soul, and his semi-long coat — ideally misted with gold — is silky to the touch. The white-gloved Birman may look elegant, but his appearance belies a powerful, muscular body and a strong love of play.
The Birman is similar to the Siamese of Thailand, but he has a stockier body, white feet, and a long, silken coat that comes in all pointed colors, including chocolate and lilac. He’s considered a medium to large-sized cat, weighing between seven and 12 pounds.
The Birman is a calm, affectionate feline who enjoys spending time with his family — especially if you lavish lots of attention on this former temple idol. Birmans get along well with children and other pets. If you talk to him, your Birman will respond in a soft, pretty voice, but he’s not as vocal as the Thai Siamese. Although Birmans are less active than some breeds, they have a serious playful side. It’s not unusual for them to fetch or chase a ball — when they’re not curled up in your lap.
The silky coat of the Birman doesn’t shed much; twice-weekly combing keeps it beautiful. Other grooming requirements: regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing. Since the Birman can develop periodontal disease, it’s important to also schedule veterinary cleanings.
Other Quick Facts
- The breed was first imported to the United States in the 1960s.
- Birmans should have four white feet, with a pattern described as “gloves and laces.”
- The Birman has a distinctive roman nose.
- These are intelligent cats who thrive on interactive play, such as puzzle toys.
- Birmans consistently make the top-ten lists in the U.S.
The History of Birmans
The Sacred Cat of Burma, as he’s sometimes called, first appeared in France in 1919. A French cat registry gave it the breed name Sacre de Birmanie, which has since been shortened to Birman. Birmans made their way to the United States in the 1960s, and the Cat Fanciers Association recognized the breed in 1967. It is currently ranked ninth in CFA registrations.
Birman Temperament and Personality
The Birman is a calm, affectionate cat who loves to be around people and can adapt to any type of home. He likes to play chase with other pets, taking turns being the chaser and the one being pursued. Birmans make friends with kids, dogs, and other cats. In fact, unlike most felines, they don’t especially like being the “only pet,” so you may want to get your Birman a companion — he won’t care if it’s another Birman, a different breed of cat or even a dog.
Birmans aren’t demanding of your attention, but they’ll definitely let you know when they need a head scratch or some petting. Then they’ll go about their business until it’s time for you to adore them again. You should also keep your Birman entertained with interactive toys that require him to do some thinking and moving to pop out treats or kibble.
What You Need to Know About Birman Health
Birmans are generally healthy, and they can live up to 15-plus years. That said, you should always buy a kitten from a breeder who provides a health guarantee. Although a guarantee doesn’t mean that your kitten will never get sick, it demonstrates that the breeder is willing to stand behind what she produces.
The Basics of Birman Grooming
The Birman has what is known as a single coat, meaning there’s no undercoat and the cat is unlikely to form mats. To keep his coat healthy, comb it weekly with a stainless steel comb. You should also trim his nails as needed, usually every two weeks or so.
Choosing a Birman Breeder
You want your Birman to be happy and healthy, so do your homework before you bring him home. For reputable breeder recommendations, check out these websites: Sacred Cat of Burma Fanciers, National Birman Fanciers, Cat Fanciers Association, Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and The International Cat Association.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in the home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Once you find the right breeder, be patient. Birmans are popular and most breeders have waiting lists — even for pet-quality kittens. If your heart is set on a kitten in a particular point color or pattern, you may have to wait six months or more for one to become available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they’re between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you decide to buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Birman may better suit your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive. If you’re interested in acquiring an older cat, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat who needs a new home.
Adopting a Cat from Birman Rescue or a Shelter
Of course, a breeder isn’t the only source for an adult cat. Although Birman kittens are almost never found in shelters, adult Birmans (both pedigreed and mixed) aren’t as fortunate. The following organizations are good places to start your search: Cat Fanciers Association, Fanciers Breeder Referral List, National Birman Fanciers, and other respected rescue groups. It’s also worth contacting local shelters, as well as perusing the listings on Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet.com.
Regardless of how you acquire your Birman, make sure that you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group. In states with “pet lemon laws,” confirm that you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Once you’ve found a good Birman match, take your kitten or adult to a veterinarian as soon as possible to detect problems quickly, as well as set up a preventative regimen to prevent future health issues.