The Birman cat is distinguished by its long, silky coat, its striking blue eyes, and the white “socks” on each paw. They are a breed with “pointed” colour (darker fur on their extremities) so their legs, face, ears and tail will often start darkening after a week of age, with the final coat colour reaching full development at around 2 years of age.
The Birman is believed to have originated as a temple cat in Burma and once they had spread to France, they were officially recognised as a breed in 1920’s.
However, no-one is really sure how they arrived in France from Asia! In World War 2, the breed was almost wiped out, and it’s thought there was only a single pair remaining in Europe by the end of the war. The breed was steadily rebuilt by dedicated breeders, using both the offspring of this pair and outcrossing with Persian and Siamese cats, it’s assumed.
As a gentle, loving breed, the Birman makes a wonderful companion cat. They will try and get your attention with their soft, chirping meow, and will even talk back to you! Even if you stay silent, when a Birman is around their purring will fill the silence.
A loving, gentle cat, the Birman will adore a quiet home and an attentive owner.
- Size: Medium-Large
- Weight: 2.5 - 6Kg
- Life expectancy: 12-16 years
Exercise and nutrition
Birman cats are playful and friendly by nature and adore to explore the outdoors. However, they will also happily live as indoor-only pets. If kept as an indoor pet, they should be given plenty of toys to play with and furniture to enrich their lives. This could include vantage points so they can see outside and survey a room, climbing areas, hiding places to sleep during the day, and scratching posts.
Birmans should also be groomed on a weekly basis. A quick brush once a week should keep their long coat under control, but more frequently brushing in the spring and autumn to help them cope as they molt will help them stay in tip top condition! Despite their long fur the Birman is a low-maintenance cat, due to the breed’s silky coat which makes it easy to keep sleek.
If you buy your Birman from a breeder, they will usually give you a feeding schedule and type of food to use. It is important to stick to the same type of food and schedule to avoid upsetting the kitten’s tummy! If you do decide to change their schedule, it is important to do this gradually. Please consult your vet if your kitten’s stomach becomes upset during this process.
When older Birmans are not particularly fussy eaters, but should still be given a good quality, well rounded and nutritional diet, and be twice a day. You should also keep a close eye on your cat’s weight, as obesity can have a serious impact on their wellbeing.
Common health problems and illnesses
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of heart disease in cats. It is more common in Birmans due to a dominant genetic trait caused by the lack of genetic diversity in this rebuilt breed. It can often result in “silent” heart disease and sudden deaths in cats.
The condition causes the heart walls to become too muscular making the main heart chamber, the left ventricle, too small. This has the effect of reducing the volume of blood that can be pushed with each heartbeat, as well as abnormal blood flow within the heart and an abnormally dilated left atrium.
These consequences can cause a variety of heart conditions. Due to the subtle nature of this condition, it can often go undiagnosed. A heart murmur, or arrhythmia, may be the first signs of this disease, however, there are several other warning signs. Rapid, laboured breathing, extreme lethargy, blood clots, and collapsing can be indicative of this condition. Naturally if you notice any of these symptoms you should consult you vet immediately.
In order to diagnose this condition, your vet may run chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram to see if there is an abnormal rhythm, blood tests, blood pressure monitoring, and an Echocardiogram to pinpoint the issue.
Treatment of this condition may require hospitalisation for several days in order to treat the effects of congestive heart failure. Other treatment might include oxygen therapy, diuretics, medication and blood pressure monitoring. Treatment will typically focus on lowering the impact of the condition via medication in order to give your cat the best quality of life possible. With the proper support, care, and medication, some cats with this condition can live for years.
Talk to your vet if you have any questions and for advice on what to do if you think your cat is suffering from HCM.
Corneal dermoids are the unusual growing of hair on or around the cornea, or the whites of the eyes. This condition is rare but can seriously and permanently affect a cat’s eyesight, so it is advised that you seek the advice of your vet as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms: hair growth on the eye, excessive tear production, “worrying” at the eye or other signs of irritation and discomfort, or an opaque cornea.
If your vet diagnoses corneal dermoids the condition can be treated with the prescription of tear drops in mild cases, or surgery in more severe cases.
Talk to your vet immediately if you believe your cat is suffering from corneal dermoids.
- There is a myth behind the colouring of the Birman cat! The story tells of the loyalty of the cat Sinh to its master, Mun-Ha and the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse, and the beautiful colouration the cat was rewarded with as a result of its devotion.
- The Birman cat will quite happily talk to you! Many will softly mew for your attention and respond to you when you talk to them.
- Purebred Birman cats are born entirely white! They will slowly darken with age, only reaching full colour maturity at around 2 years of age.
- The late Karl Lagerfeld's Birman, called Choupette, must be the wealthiest cat in the world having inherited a huge fortune from Largerfeld's estate. Her fortune will surely ensure she continues to be looked after by her own assistants and bodyguard!