The very elegant, and mysterious Birman cat traces it's origins
back to the country of Burma, and are not to be confused
with the Burmese,which also is a native cat of that region, but
with short hair and yellow/gold eyes.
Birmans are known as the Sacred Cat of Burma, and as legend
has it, were orginally a pure white cat, of which there were one
hundred, to guard the temple of the gold, blue-eyed goddess
Tsun-Kyan-Tse. Mun-Ha, an aged priest, often knelt in prayer
before the goddess, accompanied by Sinh, one of the white
One night it came about that the aged priest lay dying before
the statue, with his beloved Sinh, sitting on his chest. A
turning of the cat's head towards their compound gates
warned of an impending attack, and the priests were able
to save themselves. Mun-Ha died where he lay, and the
cat Sinh, gazing at the goddess above, was transformed.
His fur became as a golden mist, the colour of his ears,
legs, face and tail were the earth beneath the priest, but his
feet remained white where they touched his beard, as a sign
of purity. And his eyes took on the sapphire blue of the
goddess. The next morning, it was discovered that the other
99 temple cats had also become marked as Sinh.
Seven days later, Sinh also died, transporting his master's
soul to heaven.
Charming as the legend is, the "modern" history
in the early 1900s, two Europeans, then living in France,
were sent a pair of Birmans as a gesture of appreciation
by the priests of the temple. The male did not survive the
trip, but the female being pregnant, established the
breed for the first time in Europe.
The modern Birman as we know it, can only be traced
back to one pair, from that era, due to lost pedigrees. It
was recognized as a breed in France, in 1925. However,
the second World War decimated the population, and it is
said only one breeding pair were left at that point.
Outcrossings were then done to Persian and Siamese to
maintain the size and colourpointing.The Birman then
went on to be recognized in Britain in 1966 and in the
United States in 1967.
The first thing someone looking at breeds should know,
is that the Birman is often confused with other look-alike
or sound alike breeds. Birmans are not: Himalayans- A large,
long haired, colour pointed Persian cat with no gloving, and
short face. Ragdolls- much larger, longer, different ear sets
with bi-colour blazes and no laces. Snowshoe - a variation
on the Siamese, also with bi colour blazes, short coats and a
distinctive head type. Burmese- short coats, often dark/sable
brown, with yellow/gold eyes Balinese- long haired Siamese,
with less depth to their coats, and much more wedging to
the heads. No gloves or mitts.
From the Cat Fanciers Association standard, the Birman
is described as: "a color pointed cat with long silky hair and
four pure white feet. It is strongly built, elongated and stocky,
neither svelte nor cobby. The distinctive head has strong jaws,
firm chin, medium length Roman nose with nostrils set low on
the nose leather. There should be good width between the
ears, which are medium in size. The blue, almost round eyes
are set well apart, giving a sweet expression to the face. "
An average male Birman can weigh 8-12 lbs. with females
being smaller at 7- 9 lbs. It is a colour-pointed cat, in the
"Siamese" pattern, having a light coloured body, with a golden
mist, and darker patterning on the legs, ears, face, and tail.
Birmans come in the tradtional colours of seal,blue, lilac and
chocolatepoint, and are now accepted in most associations
in the "new" colours of lynx and red factors, which
includes cream points and tortiepoints.
A Birman's most distinctive feature is it's gloving and laces-
the white on it's four feet, which extends up the hock
in an inverted "V" pattern. There should be no other patches
of white on its body. However, this does appear occasionally
on some Birmans, on the chest and stomach, and is more
noticeable on the darker colours. Many breeders are now
considering whether there is a genetic reason for this,
and if it is in reality, a part of the pattern.
Birmans are an easily maintained cat, since their coats do
not matt. A once a week combing is more than adequate.
I recommend a greyhound comb, medium teeth, 1" long.
Slicker brushes are not adequate for picking up the loose
hairs. Bathing is generally once a season, more to keep
them used to being bathed, than because they will get dirty.
Many breeders have personal preferences in feeding, some
using a "natural" diet of raw meats with ground vegetables
etc. in it. For pet owners, I always tell them to read the side
of the bag/can to see what is in it. Cat foods that are full of
corn, by products and soya, are going to create more stools
and not give your cat the nutrition it needs. A good brand
name chow, with meat, meat meal, rice, wheat, etc. is
preferable to the grocery store brands that may be lacking in
nutrients and higher in magnesium and ash, which are
something to be avoided, particularly with a neutered male
cat, where bladder problems and stones can mean costly
Canned food should not be the major part of your Birman's
diet. A small amount daily is more than enough. A
predominantly dry chow diet is often recommended for their
dental health, however there are conflicting studies that have
shown cats on all canned diets with teeth as healthy or better
than a cat on all dry. The key here is to have your cat's teeth
checked annually when it goes for it's vaccinations.
In our cattery, kittens are given the basic shots. I normally
offer the pet buyer the opportunity to decide whether or not
to continue the leukemia and rabies vaccines. Due to the
controversy over vaccination site sarcomas, I allow them
to make that decision, as the leukemia can be given in a
hind leg. Should a cancer develop, and surgery be
necessary, it is easier done here, than on the back of
Birmans are strictly an indoor cat, for many reasons.
Firstly, they are not of the nature to turn and fight, or run
forever. They will often crouch when faced with a threat.
Therefore, many people do not give the rabies vaccine.
However, depending on your area or location, agriculture
departments are tracking and recording cases of rabies
moving northwards from the U.S; and if there were any
chance of the animal escaping, many people do give this
shot. Our own cats and kittens, which are kept over 12
weeks, are given the full set of vaccinations, including
rabies and leukemia.
Birmans have an incredibly sweet temprament. They are
truly a people cat, and will often follow you around
the house, or greet you at the door, just to be with their
human. They adapt easily to changes in family
circumstances and will blend into almost any home
environment, including those with dogs.
I am always asked whether the male or female is better
natured. And I reply that if altered before sexual maturity,
there is basically no difference in their temperament, since
there will be no hormonal influences at work on whether
they are thinking about breeding, or lap time with you. We
however, have always found our male kittens to have a
particular charm. But then, we find ALL our kittens charming.
Birmans love to play, and can be persistent in getting
something they want. They will occupy themselves for hours
with a piece of cord, or plastic bottle top. And they adore a
big furry mouse, which goes to show that even though
they are indoors and domesticated, their hunting instinct
is well tuned. Owners who permit it, will often find they
have a Birman blanket, at night.
Carraig Birmans was established in 1996, with the aim to
bring back to the Birman, the original size and type that
has sometimes been lost in the quest for perfect markings.
I have always been fond of one judge's pronouncment
that "you build the barn before you put the paint on it".
After working four years with females down from one
bloodline, and a couple of studs, we imported two
females from Europe, to broaden our gene pool, and to
continue focusing on producing the dilute colours
of lilac and chocolatepoint. This has allowed us to bring
back into our breeding program, a great-grandson of our
foundation queen, to continue the tradtion of quality.
Carraig Birmans is the home of: Supreme Champion
Carraig Kandaha Unteag, top bluepoint Birman in South
Africa 1998-99 and top Birman stud, 2001.Grand
Champion Carraig's Vinnie the Pooh of Noazark, the
first CFA grand champion lilacpoint Birman to come
from Canada, and CFA Region 1's Best Lilacpoint
Birman for 1999-2000. Grand Premier Carraig's Xavier
Coolcat, Best Allbreed Kitten (ACFA) 2000-2001, 4th
Best AB Alter (ACFA) 2001-2001, and 18th Best
Birman Alter in CFA, 2001-2002
While we are pleased to have produced some outstanding
examples of the breed, which shows we are on the right
track, our emphasis is primarily on type and temprament
and producing healthy, well socialized pets.
Copyright 2003, Carraig Birmans. May not be reprinted or