By Ruthie Bently
I got a tiny kitten for a Christmas present in 1981, and he was a sable Burmese I named Sam. It has been said that they are “little people in fur,” and I agree. Since then Burmese have become available in four colors that are recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA): sable, platinum, blue and champagne. Sam had an apple head, which is a rounded head; now there is a controversy about the head shape, and the apple head is not allowed to be imported into England. The first Burmese cat, a female from Burma named Wong Mau, was brought into the United States by Dr. Joseph Thompson of San Francisco in the early 1930s.
The British Burmese cat has a more triangular head (like the Siamese) and oriental look, and the available colors are greater than the cats here in the States. The history of the Burmese in Britain is a bit different, and didn’t really get started until after 1945 when soldiers coming home from Burma brought them home. The breed was recognized in 1952 by the Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The colors that are acceptable in Britain are the blue, lilac, chocolate and brown tortoiseshells, and the cream, lilac, chocolate, blue, brown and red. None of the allowed colors should have spots or barring, and all colors should be shaded darker on their backs and lighter underneath.
The Burmese has a short coat that feels like silk, and they are a sturdy cat for their size. They are very playful, even as adults. They will tolerate dogs, they like children, and do well riding in a car if trained early. They love their humans and often act more like a dog than a cat, as they will follow you around the house. Burmese cats are extremely loving, and a free lap is one of their favorite places to be – unless you get them involved in a spirited game of fetch! Sam’s favorite toy was the plastic ring from the top of a milk bottle, and he could play fetch until your arm gave out; his energy never did.
Burmese cats are vocal, like their Siamese cousins, and love to talk if allowed. Their voice (even when complaining) is a softer voice than most cats. They will sulk if they get upset, but don’t stay mad for very long. The males are supposed to be more laid back than the females, but all the Burmese cats I met at the breeder’s were very friendly. Sam loved to cuddle like most Burmese and would sleep next to my head on the pillow unless it was a cold night, in which case he was under the blankets.
Most breeders let their Burmese kittens go between three and four months of age, when they’ve had their first set of shots and have had time to become socialized. You will want to visit the cattery to see the conditions the kitten has been raised in. The kitten should be friendly, easy to handle, curious and energetic. Their coat should be healthy looking, their ears should be clean, and their noses and eyes should be clear.
A reputable breeder should give you a health guarantee with the kitten, and will usually provide you with papers of registration after the kitten has been altered. The breeder should be willing to discuss the health and care of the kitten and provide you with their medical records for your vet if asked. If you are purchasing your Burmese cat to show, the CFA disapproves of declawing. The Burmese was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1936.
If you are interested in getting a purebred cat, a Burmese is a wonderful choice that will bring you years of joy and laughter. They are nowhere as aloof as most cats are accused of being, and truly live up to their reputation as “little people in fur.”
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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