Last Updated on October 24, 2021 by Julia Wilson
- Origin: Myanmar (Burma), Thailand
- Energy: Medium to high
- Temperament: Friendly, playful, easygoing
- Weight: Males 5 kg (11 lbs), females 4-5 kg (8.8 – 11 lbs)
- Colours: Brown, chocolate, blue, lilac, red, cream, cinnamon and fawn (solid and tortie)
- Eyes: Golden yellow
- Coat: Short
- Grooming needs: Low
- Amount of shedding: Low
- Hypoallergenic: No
- Good with pets and children? Yes
- How much does a Burmese cat cost? $800-$1,200
The Burmese is a domestic breed of cat which originated in Burma (now Myanmar) and was developed in the United States and the United Kingdom. Their laid-back personality, and ability to get along with children and other pets makes them one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.
Named after their country of origin Burma, the exact origins of the Burmese are shrouded in mystery. There is mention of a copper-coloured cat in the ancient Thai Cat Book which was written during the Ayudhya Period, stretching from 1350 – 1767.
In 1930 Dr Joseph Thompson imported a small brown (sable) coloured female cat by the name of Wong Mau to San Francisco. Wong Mau was to go on to be the founding cat of the Burmese breed as we know it.
A breeding programme was established in an attempt to produce offspring which bred true. Dr Thompson enlisted the help of Virginia Cobb (Newton cattery), Billie Gerst (Gerstdale cattery), and Dr Clyde E. Keeler.
Wong Mau was bred to a seal point Siamese called Tai Mau in 1932, and the resulting litter consisted of two colours, some just like Siamese kittens and brown kittens with darker points (like Wong Mau). Wong Mau was mated to a son from this litter (Yen Yen Mau), and this litter contained three colours, again, some like Siamese kittens, brown kittens (again like Wong Mau), and dark brown kittens. The dark brown offspring did indeed breed true and became the foundation cats of the Burmese breed. Wong Mau continued to produce kittens with three colour variations, and it is now accepted that Wong Mau was, in fact, a Siamese x Burmese hybrid.
The Burmese were accepted for registration by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1936 although the breed was suspended in 1947 due to breeders mating Burmese with Siamese. The CFA stated that the breed must be three generations of pure Burmese which was achieved by 1956 and the breed was once again accepted for registration in 1957.
All Burmese cats should be able to be traced back to Wong Mau. Dr Thompson authored an article on Burmese genetics in 1943, which can be read here.
There are now two types of Burmese, the European Burmese, and the American Burmese. While they share many common traits, the American Burmese has a rounder face compared to the European Burmese.
The Burmese are strong and athletic with a solid and well-muscled body. The chest rounded in profile and the back is straight from the shoulder to the rump. Burmese are often described as a ‘brick wrapped in silk’ which is very accurate; they feel surprisingly heavy when picked up.
The head is in proportion to the body with wide cheekbones which taper to a blunt muzzle. The top of the head between the ears is gently curved with wide-set ears.
In profile, the head shows a good depth between the skull and lower jaw with a slightly rounded brow. There is a distinct nose break followed by a straight nose, which ends with the tip of the nose in the same vertical plane as the chin. The eyes are a beautiful golden colour, large and widely spaced. Their body is medium in length and well-muscled, and the chest is strong and round. Legs are slender, and the feet are oval in shape and small.
Males can weigh between 5-6 kg (11-13 oz) and females 4-5 kg (8.8-11 oz).
The low-shed coat is short, satin-like and close-lying with almost no undercoat.
- Brown (known as sable in the US)
- Chocolate (known as champagne in the US)
- Red *
- Cream *
- Cinnamon *
- Fawn *
Female Burmese also come in additional colours
- Brown tortie
- Chocolate tortie
- Lilac tortie
- Blue tortie
- Red tortie *
- Cream tortie *
Not all cat councils accept all colours; some only recognise the original four colours of brown, chocolate, lilac and blue.
The Burmese is a laid back, social, intelligent, gentle and sweet breed. They are playful cats, well into adulthood but are not constantly on the go like other active breeds. Once they have worn themselves out, they love nothing more than sleeping on their human companion’s lap. With a dog-like personality, a Burmese will follow you around the house all day long, hoping to get a pat or stroke. This is a breed that gets along with everyone, including children and other pets.
The curious nature of the Burmese can sometimes border on intrusive when they insist on checking out the contents of a visitors handbag or toolkit. But that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem as they can work their charm even on non-cat-lovers.
Burmese cats are an exceptional family pet. They thrive on company and don’t like to be alone for extended periods. If you are out of the house for long periods, consider two cats.
Buying a Burmese cat
Always choose a registered breeder when purchasing purebred cats. Check to see which cat council they are with Where possible, visit the breeder’s premises to meet the cat as well as his parents (if possible). The premises should be clean and the cats all healthy. Be wary of cats with eye or nasal discharge. Cats should be friendly.
I like to buy kittens who have been raised underfoot, which means they are raised in the home with the family. If you are looking for an older Burmese, breeders sometimes rehome former breeding cats. You may also check to see if there is a Burmese rescue group in your area.
Kittens should not leave the breeder until they are at least 12 weeks of age and have had their first two vaccinations as well as regular worming and flea treatment. Many breeders also prefer to desex (spay/neuter) kittens before they go to their new home.
As with all breeds, Burmese can be prone to certain medical conditions than other cats. These may include:
- Kidney disease
- Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis)
- Orofacial pain syndrome
- Inherited hypokalemia
- Endocardial fibroelastosis
- Kinked tail (cosmetic only)
- Flat chested syndrome
- Congenital peripheral vestibular disease
- Periodontal disease
- Craniofacial defect
This list may look long, but a lot of these conditions are rare even in Burmese. It is possible to prevent some (gum disease), and pick up others early so that they can be managed.
I have had three Burmese, two lived into their mid-teens and died of age-related conditions, the third was sadly killed in an accident. When speaking to breeders, it is always important to ask about these conditions and if their cats have been tested for ones that can be tested for. Responsible breeders recognise this, and they will take steps to test, and if necessary, remove breeding cats from the pool if they are at risk of passing on inherited conditions.
Burmese cats are low maintenance. Brush the coat once a week to remove loose hairs. Indoor cats may need to have their claws trimmed every few weeks.
Feed a premium quality food and provide raw chicken necks or human-grade steak 2-3 times a week for dental health.
Annual health checks are a must and increase to once your Burmese reaches seven. Desex by six months of age to prevent unwanted litters. Treat regularly for fleas and worms (including heartworm).
Keep your Burmese indoors, or provide access to a safe cat enclosure; they are too trusting to roam outside.
Everyone, Burmese cats are very friendly and people-oriented. They thrive in the company of others. If I had to recommend one breed, it would be the Burmese.
Burmese cat FAQ
How long do Burmese cats live?
Burmese cats can live up to 18 plus years.
Are Burmese cats affectionate?
The Burmese is an extremely affectionate cat who loves human company. They are a laid-back cat who gets along well with everyone.
Do Burmese cats shed a lot?
All cats shed, however shedding in the Burmese cat is not excessive.
Are Burmese cats vocal?
The Burmese will talk when they have something to say, but they are not overly talkative.
Are Burmese cats hypoallergenic?
There is no evidence to suggest the Burmese is hypoallergenic.