Section 2 – SEMI LONGHAIR – Group 1
The Birman – also called the “Sacred Cat of Burma” – is an incredibly gentle, loving cat. They can best be described as bewitching with their striking blue eyes and distinguished appearance. A Birman is an extremely beautiful semi-longhaired cat.
This pointed breed has a silky, soft coat which is light in colour. Their bodies and white paws offer a stark contrast with their point colour which develops on their face, ears, tail and legs. They are solidly built medium to large cats with powerful muscles for play! The defining features of the Birman are their wonderful blue eyes and four pure white feet – the front gloves covering only the feet but the rear socks extending up behind the leg to form a long pointed gauntlet.
There is an intriguing legend to explain the origin of the Sacred Cat or Burma. The Birman cat is said to have acquired his stunning appearance through the intervention of a blue-eyed goddess who rewarded a temple cat’s love for and devotion to his priest by turning his white coat golden and changing his yellow eyes to sapphire blue. His paws remained white as a symbol of his purity. Ever since, the temple cats have borne the goddess’s marks of favour and it was said that priests who died were reborn into the cats’ bodies. The Birman breed was first recognised in France in 1925 and then in England by the GCCF in 1966.
Like all colourpointed breeds, Birman kittens are born white and begin developing their points after one week if a dark colour (i.e. seal point) and 14 days or more if the points are lighter-coloured (i.e. lilac point). Their coat does not reach full development until the cat is two years old. The Birman has a silky, medium-length coat in the pointed pattern of the Siamese (meaning that the colour is darker on the face, ears, legs and tail), a broad, rounded head topped with medium-size ears, bright blue eyes that give him a sweet expression, and four white feet that give him the appearance of wearing little white mittens. This is a medium-size to large cat with a stocky, powerful body that belies his gentle demeanour. The head is broad and rounded with well spaced medium size ears, the nose is medium in length with a slight dip in the profile but without the stop seen in Persian cats. The Birman’s chin should be well developed and the eyes not round but with a slightly flattened top. The medium-long to long coat has a silky texture and little undercoat which means that it rarely mats. It forms a heavy ruff around the neck and is wavy on the belly. Birman cats come in 20 different colours so there is bound to be at least one or two or even more for you to fall in love with. Coat colours include seal, blue, lilac, chocolate, red and cream and then all the associated tortie and tabby colours.
Above all else, this breed is best known for its personality or temperament. They are wonderful companions with a lot of love to give. Birmans adore being around people and use a soft chirp-like mew to get attention. Eager to love and play but less inclined to hunt, Birmans make perfect family pets and are highly suitable for elderly people. They will also happily share their lives with other breeds of cats and dogs. Birmans take an intelligent interest in everything their human families do – they will often follow you from room to room and want to be involved in what you are doing. With a constant response from his owner when the cat meows, the Birman will become quite a talker (although nowhere near as vocal as its pointed cousin, the Siamese). If you prefer just the quietness of his purr, lack of response will discourage the cat from talking but not from purring!!
Typically females weigh between 6 to 10 lbs and males average between 10 to 15 lbs. Life span is 12 to 16 years. Despite the length of the Birman’s coat, it has a silky texture that does not mat easily. It should be combed weekly to remove stray hair and distribute skin oils. The thickness of the Birman’s coat will vary with seasonal conditions; Birmans shed their winter coat in the spring so you may want to comb more frequently then to remove loose hair. A warm bath can also help to loosen and remove the shedding coat.
The most severe threat is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) which is the most common heart disease seen in cats. In Birman cats it is thought to be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. HCM is a progressive disease and can result in heart failure and sudden death. Breeders are, of course, aware of this and, with the help of screening, do all they can to eradicate problems and not breed from cats with any genetic problems.