These beautiful feline creatures are known for their distinctive colouration, gentle personalities and calming presence. Known as the Sacred Cat of Burma, they have a rich history, with many famous faces having owned this breed over the years.
Let’s dive into some interesting facts about Birman cats.
They have a legendary history!
1. Although the origin of the Birman cat is shrouded in mystery, legend has it that these beautiful creatures received their looks from the Goddess Tsim-Kyan-Kse, who had sapphire-blue eyes.
The goddess also had a priest, Lao-Tsun, at her temple in Burma who would kneel before her statue with a white temple cat (Sinh) at his side; that cat had amber eyes.
When the priest was killed by raiders while he was praying, his cat laid its feet on the priest and faced the goddess chanting a sacred prayer – at the moment of the priest’s death, the cat's fur changed from white to gold and its eyes turned to sapphire blue. However, its paws remained white as a symbol of purity and Birman cats today still have white paws.
The next morning, all the other cats in the temple had the same markings as the white cats, thus the Birman breed was born.
2. Another tale is that the Birman breed was brought back to France by the American business mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt, who purchased two Birmans from someone working at the Lao-Tsun temple.
3. The breed became recognised in France in 1925, and in the UK and USA in the 1960s.
4. Today, the Birman is recognised by all major cat associations, including the Cat Fanciers’ Association and The International Cat Association.
They have a unique appearance
5. Birman cats are a medium-sized breed, with a long body. They have blue eyes and a long silky coat which is pale cream/white.
6. Like other colour point cats, Birman kittens are born white and develop their colour point at around two weeks old.
7. Although their paws remain white, they have many colour points on their face, ears, legs and tail including:
- Seal – this is the original colour
- Blue – a blueish grey and a dilution of the original Seal point
- Red – a fiery orange point, grading to an apricot colour
- Cream – a diluted version of the red point
- Chocolate – a warm milk chocolate colour
- Lilac – a diluted version of the chocolate point
- Tortoiseshell – only female Birman cats can be tortoiseshell points
- Tabby – these have beautiful tiger faces, striped legs and ringed tails
- Tortoiseshell Tabby – these colours are sex-related and are all female. They carry both the tabby point and tortoiseshell point genes.
They have great personality
8. Birman cats are often known for their sweet and affectionate personalities.
9. Many like to be around people and will often follow their pet parents around the house.
10. While all cats are different, often Birmans are laid back and friendly cats that fit into most families.
11. As an often curious breed, your Birman may be ever-interested to know what’s going on around them.
12. They can be chatty, have a soft voice and love being trained to do tricks (such as fetch), so make sure their routine includes plenty of play and bonding time.
13. Like most cats, they like a calm, predictable environment, and prefer routine. Understand why cats don't like change in this article!
14. Birmans have been associated with having a calming presence, and have been used as therapy cats in nursing homes.
15. They are not always great climbers, but will be very happy to play with toys and have training sessions with their humans.
Looking after your Birman cat
16. Because a Birman’s coat is only single layered (instead of a double coat), they are less likely to get matted, so grooming twice a week will help to keep their coat healthy and clean. This also helps to reduce the amount of hair that could be shed around the home or on your clothes.
17. Birmans need dental care, just as all cats do. Brushing your cat’s teeth weekly will help prevent bad breath and also enable you to keep an eye on the overall health of their mouth. It can help to start training your cat to accept toothbrushing from kittenhood, but be sure to only use cat-safe toothpaste and an appropriate soft toothbrush like you might use for a baby, or even a finger toothbrush.
18. It is also recommended that you check your Birman’s ears regularly for any unusual redness or odour, which could be a sign of an ear infection.
19. Keep an eye on your Birman’s diet; make sure to give age appropriate food and amounts. Remember that in all cats, overfeeding can lead to other health problems.
20. Keep them active by playing games with them where they have to stalk and chase; and keep them mentally fit with puzzle games.
21. In general, a Birman cat has a lifespan of 12-16 years. However, like all breeds, they are susceptible to certain health conditions, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
22. Birmans may be more likely suck or chew things than other cats – speak to your vet or a behaviourist if this is something you have noticed your cat doing.
23. Although some cats prefer to be more independent, many Birman cats prefer company. While all cats will want affection, Birmans in particular may find it harder to adjust to being left home alone for long periods of time.
24. FELIWAY Optimum will help your Birman feel more calm and serene when they have to spend time alone.
Famous personalities who adopted a Birman
25. As celebrated at the 2023 Met Gala, fashion guru, Karl Lagerfield, was a fan of the breed and Birmans feature in some of his iconic designs. His cat Choupette travelled the world with him and even appeared in two ads (one for Vauxhall Corsa and another for Shu Uemura cosmetics)!
26. Freddie Mercury was a great lover of cats, one of which was Tiffany, a Birman. Paddington (a blue point Birman) appeared in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, as Tiffany.
The difference between a Birman and a Burmese cat
27. Often, a Birman is mistakenly described as a Burmese, and vice-versa – but they are two distinctively different breeds. There are ways to tell the difference:
- A Birman is more stocky than a Burmese.
- A Birman has blue eyes while a Burmese has yellow eyes.
- A Birman has a long coat rather than the short coat of a Burmese.
- Birman cats have white paws, whereas Burmese generally have dark brown paws.
Bonus facts about Birman cats
28. The Birman nearly became extinct during World War II as many breeders had to stop breeding during this time.
29. Their white paws are known as ‘gloving’ and this is one of their most distinctive features.
30. Male Birmans weigh in around 3-6 kg and females come in slightly lighter at between 2.5-3.5 kg.
31. They are notorious for knocking things over with their tails, so make sure any valuable items are in a safe place!
33. Birmanie is the French spelling of Burma, which indicates that the breed was cultivated in France.
34. In France, kittens are named by the letter of that year. So for example, in 2020, kittens’ names would start with R! In 2023, the letter is ‘U’. Some examples of names that could be used in 2023 are: Umtiti, Utopie, Ultra and Uzzi.
Birmans have a unique way of showing just how much they cherish their pet parents. Their lovable character combined with their majestic looks is what makes them so popular among cat lovers all over the world.