The Siamese breed is extremely popular, and is one of the few breeds that are instantly recognized by cat lovers, even those who are not affiliated with the world of cat fancy. According to the Cats Fanciers Association’s registries, the Siamese breed is one of the top ten most popular cat breeds. Siamese cats were shown in some of the earliest cat shows on record, both in the UK and the US.
If you come across a pedigreed Siamese in a cat show, it’s very different looking from its historic ancestors in ancient Siam (Thailand). This is the result of intensive breeding programs which throughout the Twentieth century, worked towards creating a very specific look. Modern Siamese cats have svelte elongated bodies and wedge-shaped heads to match, complete with slanted eyes and large ears. They share this form with Oriental Cats, a breed developed from the Siamese, in the attempt to retain body
shape and temperament, while allowing for different coat colors and patterns.
Some breeders objected to the creation of what they considered to be an “extreme” form. They continued to breed cats that had a traditional body and head shape. These are sometimes known as Traditional Siamese or Apple-Face Siamese. The large cat associations do not register them as Siamese cats. In 2009 The International Cat Association (TICA) recognized these cats as a new/old breed and named it Thai. Breeders of these cats import cats from Thailand and aim at preserving these Thai cats traditional looks.
All Siamese cats share one coat pattern. They are all “colorpoint”, meaning their tail, paws, ears and face are darker than the rest of their bodies. Their eyes are always deep vivid blue. The most common shade for the points is called “Seal”, a type of deep dark brown. The Cat Fanciers Association recognizes three other possible colors: chocolate, blue and lilac. The International Cat Association (TICA) allows for more variation in color, including color patches and tabby markings in the points. They do require a clear marking of points and a contrast between the overall color and that of the points.
Biologically, these markings are created in a unique way. All colorpoint cats carry a genetic mutation in an enzyme involved in the production of the pigment melanin. The mutation causes the enzyme to become heat-sensitive, so that it fails in normal body temperature. Thus, pigment (melanin) is produced only in cooler body parts, such as the tail, paws, ears and tip of the face.
Siamese kittens are born pale all over, in effect a form of albinos, because their entire body was kept inside the warmth of the Momma cat’s womb. Only as they mature and new hairs are formed in their coat, does the colorpoint pattern begin to show.
This breed boasts a special personality too. Siamese cats, affectionately known as Meezers, are famous for their talkative social nature. They are generally active and curious and often bond with one person in particular.
All colorpoint cats originated from Thailand (formerly known as Siam). The earliest record of such a cat is found in a Thai poem describing several types of cats, one of them pale-colored with dark tail, ears, feet and lower face. To the foreigners visiting from the west, this type of cat stood out in the crowd and thus became known as “the Siamese cat”. Towards the end of the 19th century, Siamese cats were imported to the UK and the US. In the UK they were shown in the world’s first cat show, held at the crystal palace. By the early years of the Twentieth century, Siamese cat clubs were established on both sides of the Atlantic, and breeding programs were put in motion.
Siamese lore, while unsubstantiated so far, suggests that these cats were sacred in Thai culture. They were supposed to be kept by royals only, or in temples. One tale claims that Siamese cats were considered to be vessels of reincarnation. According to that particular legend, when a member of the Royal Family died, its body would have been entombed with its favorite Siamese cat. The tomb had convenient escape routes (convenient for a cat, at least) and once the cat made it out, it was believed that the dead person’s soul had been reincarnated in that cat.
The genetic mutation in charge of the colorpoint pattern can also effect the connections between the eye and the brain. When that happens, you get a cross-eyed Siamese cat, a look that used to be fairly common in the past. Ethical selective breeding has pretty much eradicated this feature from today’s breeding stock.
Is a Siamese for you?
If you consider adopting a purebred Siamese, make sure you provide her with a safe yet stimulating environment, and enough company during the day. As with all pedigreed cats, you will need to keep your Siamese indoors-only (this is usually a clause in the sales contract of every registered breeder), so make sure your home is fully suited for an active, intelligent and inquisitive feline. We suggest you visit our Breeders Forum on the site and ask questions before you buy or adopt a Siamese. Owned by a Meezer? Share your experience and any special tips you may have in a comment to this article!
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!