Burmese are compact but heavy, often described as bricks wrapped in silk. That doesn’t preclude them from being active and acrobatic. Their short, fine, silky coat comes in the original dark sable brown as well as dilute colors: champagne (light brown), blue and platinum (lilac). The Burmese is an outgoing and entertaining cat who loves people. When he’s not showing off his athletic skills by leaping to the highest spot in the room, he is snuggling in a lap or carrying on a conversation in a voice that is variously described as raspy, rumbling and soft. He is a willing playmate of children, even submitting to being dressed up and pushed around in a doll buggy. The Burmese thrives on attention and will follow you around when you are home. He disapproves of being left alone for long periods and, natch, he likes to have his own way. Beware the hypnotic power of his golden eyes! Oh, too late. He’s already in charge of your household.
The silky coat of the Burmese does not shed much and is easy to groom with weekly brushing. The only other grooming requires is regular nail trimming and ear cleaning.
The Burmese is well suited to any home with people who will love him and give him the attention and love he desires. Keep him indoors to protect him from cars, diseases spread by other cats and attacks from other animals.
Other Quick Facts
- All Burmese cats descend from a single chocolate-colored cat, Wong Mau.
- The Burmese is a cuddler and loves sitting in a lap.
- Burmese are vocal and have a deep, rumbling voice.
The History of the Burmese
The Burmese descends from a single chocolate-colored cat, Wong Mau, who was brought back from Burma sometime in the 1920s or 1930s by a sailor. He passed her on to a Siamese breeder, Dr. Joseph Thompson, who described her thusly: “a rather small cat, fine boned, but with a more compact body than that of a Siamese, with a shorter tail, a rounded, short-muzzled head, with greater width between rounded eyes.”
Intrigued by the small chocolate-brown cat with the darker brown points, Thompson began a breeding program, using seal-point Siamese since he had no access to other cats of Wong Mau’s type (which was thought by some breeders to simply be a dark variety of Siamese). Wong-Mau produced some kittens that looked like Siamese and others that resembled herself. Another litter, produced by mating her to one of her kittens with brown coloring and dark points resulted in kittens with three looks: Siamese, dark brown with points like Wong Mau, and dark brown with no points. The brown kittens with no markings became the foundation of what is now known as the Burmese.
Later breedings produced kittens with blue, chocolate, and lilac coloring in addition to the original sable. It’s likely that this occurred because Wong Mau carried genes for dilution and chocolate.
The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) began registering Burmese in its studbook in 1936, but it wasn’t until 1957 that the breed became fully recognized by CFA. Partly, that was because the CFA suspended the registration of Burmese between 1947 and 1953 until breeders stopped crossing Burmese with Siamese (a practice that later led to the development of the Tonkinese). Now, however, it’s thought that Burmese matriarch Wong Mau was herself a Burmese/Siamese cross.
The Burmese today is recognized by all major cat registries, but not all of the registries permit all of the colors in which Burmese are produced. And the Cat Fanciers Associations recognizes two types: the Burmese and the European Burmese.
Burmese Temperament and Personality
The Burmese is a sweet and charming cuddler who loves sitting in a lap. He is vocal and enjoys talking to his people about the events of the day.
Burmese are social cats who thrive on the companionship of their family or other pets. If no one is at home during the day, it’s best to get a friend for the Burmese, so he won’t be lonely.
The Burmese is highly intelligent. Challenge his brain by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in her home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure they have nice temperaments.
Warning: life with a Burmese is addictive. If you aren’t careful, he will soon have you wrapped around his velvety paw.
What You Need to Know About Burmese Health
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Burmese are generally healthy, but there are some health conditions you should be aware of. Some Burmese may have cranial deformities, glaucoma or feline hyperaesthesia syndrome, which results in an increased sensitivity to touch or painful stimuli. They may also be prone to calcium oxylate stones in the urinary tract. It’s always wise to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Burmese at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
The Basics of Burmese Grooming
The satiny coat of the Burmese does not shed much and is easy to groom with weekly brushing. Use a rubber curry brush to remove loose hair and distribute skin oils to make the coat shine. Give it a final polish with a soft chamois (not the same one you use on your car, please).
The only other grooming the Burmese needs is regular nail trimming, usually weekly, and ear cleaning if the ears look dirty. Use a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Start brushing, nail trimming, and teeth brushing early, so your kitten becomes accepting of these activities.
Choosing a Burmese Breeder
You want your Burmese to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality, and looks of the Burmese, or to find breeders, visit the websites of the Cat Fanciers Association, Cats Center Stage, the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and The International Cat Association.
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.
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 her 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.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to become available. Many breeders won’t release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Burmese might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
Adopting a Cat from Burmese Rescue or a Shelter
The Burmese is not your everyday shelter cat, but sometimes a pedigreed cat ends up at a shelter or in a foster home after losing his home to an owner’s death, divorce, or change in economic situation.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Burmese in your area in no time. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Burmeses available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with pet pros in your area about your desire for a Burmese. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Burmeses love all Burmeses. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. Start with the Fanciers Breeder Referral List. You can also search online for other Burmese rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
- What is his energy level?
- How is he around other animals?
- How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
- What is his personality like?
- How old is he?
- Is he litterbox trained?
- Has he ever bitten or scratched anyone that they know of?
- Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Burmese, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Burmese to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.