Ever wonder who the royal feline of the cat world may be? The Siamese, of course! The Siamese cat has enjoyed this luxurious and royal status for centuries. In fact, in the early beginnings this breed was referred to as "Royal Cat of Siam", and it was believed this cat was kept only by Siamese royalty. The outgoing, chatty kitten is famous for its remarkable baby blue eyes, strikingly large ears and sleek, muscular body. These cats require a lot of love and care, but in return – they make for the most ideal companion.
The main features: breed development and appearance
The Siamese cat, also commonly known as Meezer, comes in two distinct sub-breeds, both descending from the same distant ancestors. The first one is the modern, standardized or “show-style” Siamese, and then there is the original, traditional or “old-style” Siamese. The modern Siamese actually bears very little resemblance to the original Siamese. As opposed to a much rounder head and body of the original stock, the most remarkable characteristics of modern Siamese cats is extremely elongated and lean body, slim legs, long, thin tail and triangular-shaped head topped with wide-set large ears. The eyes are almond-shaped and come in the most magical, deep baby blue color. The fur is short, glossy and fine.
Both styles share the same, pointed color pattern. The pointed pattern is a form of partial albinism, due to a mutation in tyrosinase (enzyme involved in the production of melanin). The mutated version of this enzyme is heat-sensitive, and it fails to work at normal body temperatures. It activates only in cooler areas of the skin (lower than 33 °C). Therefore, coolest parts of the body will be pigmented darker than the rest, such as extremities and face. These pigmented points were originally very dark in color, almost black, but today they can also be cool grey, light brown or lilac.
This mutation in tyrosinase also results in abnormal neurological connections between the cats’ eyes and the brain. As a result, many early Siamese had a crossed-eye trait. Due to selective breeding, the rate of crossed-eyed Siamese is significantly reduced today.
What exactly resulted in the formation of these distinct sub-breeds? As a matter of fact, many breeders and cat show judges began to favor the slenderer look when the popularity of the breed first grew in the 1950s and 1960s. This resulted in selective breeding which further lead to the change in the appearance. In fact, by the mid-1980s, the original style had largely disappeared from cat shows. However, some breeders, mainly in the UK, continued breeding and registering the old-style cats, which saved them from extinction.
Today, The International Cat Association accepts the old-style Siamese as the less extreme type under the new breed name Thai.
Old-style Siamese cat with King Ananda Mahidol, Princess Galyani Vadhana and King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand
This royal, mystical cat has a rich and long history behind it. It originally comes from Thailand (formerly known as Siam), and it is believed that the breed first made its way to Europe in 1884.
The first data about Siamese cats, including their description and depiction, appears in a collection of ancient manuscripts “Tamra Maew” (“The Cat-Book Poems”). It is estimated that the scripts have been written from the 14th to the 18th century and thought to originate from the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Today these handwritings are preserved in National Library of Thailand, British Library and National Library of Australia. The poem in Tamra Maew describes Thai cats as being as rare as gold, and anyone that owns this cat will become wealthy.
In 1884, the British Consul-General Edward Blencowe Gould bought a breeding pair of cats from Bangkok as a gift for his sister, Lilian Jane Gould. The pair of cats, Pho and Mia, produced three Siamese kittens — Duen Ngai, Kalohom, and Khromata — who were shown with their parents that same year at London’s Crystal Palace Show.
Over the next years, fanciers imported more cats from Thailand, which gradually formed the base breeding pool for the entire Siamese breed in the UK. It is believed that most British Siamese today are descended from about eleven of the original imports. As for the US, the first Siamese cat in America was reportedly given to Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes (the First Lady to the nineteenth president of the United States) in 1878 by the U.S. Consul, David Stickles, living the rest of its days in the White House.
The International Cat Association describes the modern breed as social, intelligent and playful. The Siamese are very affectionate and smart cats, with distinct outgoing nature. They seek and enjoy the companionship of humans and other cats. They will often strongly bond with their favorite human. These kitties are very vocal and will demand your attention with loud, low-pitched voice. This adorable characteristic in the roots of their common nickname – Meezer.
Due to their strong desire for company, it is not rare for these cats to become lonely and depressed if left alone for long periods of time.
On average, the lifespan of the Siamese is about 12.5 years. Siamese and Siamese-derived breeds have higher mortality rate in comparison to the other cat breeds. Most deaths are caused by tumors, especially mammary tumors. They are also at higher risk of gastrointestinal problems, lung infections, feline OCD, vestibular disease and Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.
While the Persian cat is considered to be the celebrity star in the feline world, the Siamese puss enjoys the royal status due to its origin and mystical history. Naturally, there are many famous Siamese cats out there, and we picked and chose the following:
1. “That Darn Cat!” by Disney in 1965 starred a Siamese cat named DC.
2. “The Incredible Journey” by Sheila Burnford featured Tao, the Siamese cat, one of the three pets who journey 250 miles through Canada to return home.
3. “Get Fuzzy” by Darby Conley features the adventures of Rob Wilco and his two friends: a dog Satchel Pooch, and a Siamese cat – Bucky Katt.
4. “The Cat Who…” by Lilian Jackson Braun and G. P. Putnam’s sons is a series of 29 mystery novels starring two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum who solve the mysteries together.
5. “Garfield: The Movie” by Peter Hewitt stars Nermal, a friend and a rival of Garfield.
6. A Siamese cat is featured on the cover art for the Blink-182 album “Cheshire Cat”.
Blink-182 album “Cheshire Cat”
Quick fun facts
1. There are many myths going around about the Siamese. As previously mentioned, these cats were adored by the royalty. It was believed that when a member of the royal family died, the Siamese would then receive the deceased’s soul. The cat would be moved to a temple with servants, spending the rest of its life in pure luxury.
2. There are also myths explaining some of the distinct characteristics of the breed too. Due to some genetic mutations, crossed eyes and kinked tails were often seen among old Siamese cats. One story has it that the cat had a duty of guarding the royal vase. It would curl its tail around the vase and stare at it so intensely that its eyes became crossed. Another myth explains that the Siamese cats developed tail kinks as they were keeping princess’ rings on their tail, and the kinks would keep the rings from falling off.
Breeds derived from the Siamese breed
The Siamese cat is in the foundation stock of several other cat breeds developed by crossbreeding with other cats. Some breeds derived from the Siamese are: Balinese, Bengal cat, Birman, Burmese, Havana Brown, Colorpoint Shorthair, Himalayan, Javanese, Ocicat, Oriental Shorthair, Oriental Longhair, Savannah, Snowshoe, Thai Cat, Tonkinese and Mekong Bobtail.
Balinese, aka Longhaired Siamese, being distinguished by coat length
The story of the Siamese cats is rich and mystical. There is something enchanting and captivating about these felines that cannot be described in words. Their royal and graceful reputation goes a long way, but it is their affectionate and loyal personality that makes all of us here at Basepaws fall in absolute love with them.