Birman Cat Facts

Birman cat with blue eyes looking upwards

There's no denying that Birman cats are a strikingly beautiful breed, which only makes sense when considering that, according to legend, they received their good looks from the goddess Tsim-Kyan-Kse. Read on to learn more about the history, personality, and care-taking needs of this breed.

History

When it comes to the history of the Birman cat breed (not to be confused with the Burmese cat), much is left unknown, yet many stories, tales, and legends exist about the origins of this breed. Although many people agree that the Birman breed most likely began in Burma (present-day Myanmar), that is about as far in agreeance as some stories go.

One of the more common origin stories surrounding this breed is that Birman cats are descendants of Burma temple cats. Being loyal companions of the priests, these cats would follow the priests around the temple.

One day, the temple was raided, and one of the priests was slain during the attack. Showing true devotion, one of the temple cats placed his paws on the priest and kept him company for his last breaths. With this occurring in front of the statue of the goddess Tsim-Kyan-Kse, she decided to reward the cat for its devotion and love to the priest.

On the spot, the goddess changed the cat's coat color from white to golden and its eyes from yellow to blue. The cat's paws, which were touching the priest, were left all white as a symbol of purity. Soon after the priest's passing, his temple cat too passed away, and it is said that this feline companion carried the priest's spirit to a forever peace.

Another story about the Birman involves the same temple but has a much different tale. As some believe, in the early 1920s, this same Burma temple was once again attacked, but this time help was not far behind. Two Westerners named Major Gordon Russell and Auguste Pavie provided aide to the priests and their cats. Wanting to thank these gentlemen for their service, the priests gifted them two Birman cats, which joined them on their return to France.

Yet still another tale about the Birman cat exists. Depending upon who you ask, you may also be told that the Birman breed was brought to France by none other than the famous Cornelius Vanderbilt. Supposedly, he purchased two Birman cats from a servant at the temple of Lao-Tsun.

In both tales, the female Birman became pregnant during the voyage, shortly before the male Birman cat passed away.

Throughout the following decades, the Birman became more widespread, and their numbers continued to grow, that is, until World War II. The war severely affected this breed, and their numbers plummeted, practically to the point of extinction. Thankfully, the few Birman cats left were outcrossed to other cat breeds, and their population began to rebuild slowly.

In the 1950s, Birman cats finally made their way to the United States, where they remain a relatively popular pet to this day.

Birman cat resting on her back on a window sill

Attributes

The typical Birman cat personality is affectionate, friendly, gentle, and curious. Because they have such an easy-going and kind demeanor, these cats are a wonderful choice for families with children or households with other cats or dogs. Overall, these cats adore spending time with their family and basking in a ray of attention.

Besides a charming personality, Birman cats are also quite intelligent. They enjoy learning and often respond well to training—who doesn't want a cat that can do tricks? To help your cat continue to exercise their mind, try playing various puzzle games with them. Even when cats don't catch on the first time, you may be surprised how quickly they can learn.

Before adopting a Birman cat, most pet parents have some questions concerning the breed they first want to be answered. Common questions include:

What Are Common Birman Cat Colors?

The coat for Birman cats is always pointed, which is when their extremities are darker than their body, which is typically a pale color. While this breed always has a pointed coat, they have a unique exception in that their feet are all white. Standard colors include seal, cream, lilac, blue, chocolate, or red for their coat.

How Long Do Birman Cats Live?

The expected lifespan for a Birman cat is anywhere from 9-15 years. However, it is not unheard of for a Birman cat to live past 15 years. The average life expectancy for a cat can be affected by numerous factors such as their diet, exercise, environment, and health issues.

How Big Do Birman Cats Get?

Birman cats are considered medium to large, and their average weight is between 7-12 pounds. That said, all cats are unique, and the possibility exists that your feline friend could weigh outside of this average.

Are Birman Cats Hypoallergenic?

Unfortunate news for cat-allergy sufferers, but Birman cats are not a hypoallergenic cat breed. If you are considering adopting a cat but are unsure if you are allergic, it's recommended that you first spend some time around your friend's or family's cat to ensure you won't be having any itchy eyes or sneezing fits.

Between their adorable appearance, with their beautiful blue eyes, and their lovable personality, it's no wonder so many people want a Birman of their own.

Grooming and Care

Although these cats have a medium to long coat, the necessary Birman cat grooming routine is still quite low-maintenance. Because their silky-textured coat is only single-layered (instead of a double coat), they are less prone to matting. Usually, just a quick brushing or combing about once or twice a week is enough to keep their coat healthy and clean. Plus, a weekly brushing can help collect the hair that would otherwise be shed on your furniture or clothes.

Weekly, you should also brush your cat's teeth, which can help prevent issues such as bad breath and periodontal disease. Be sure to use cat-safe toothpaste and an appropriate toothbrush.

Every few weeks, it is recommended that you check your feline's ears. Any unusual redness or poor odor could be a sign of an ear infection. If you believe your pal does have an infection, it is essential that you take them to their veterinarian as soon as possible for a check-up.

In order to reduce the chances of your cat developing an ear infection, it can be helpful to clean their ears regularly or whenever they appear dirty. Be sure to use a cat-friendly ear cleaning solution and cotton balls or a soft cloth—never use cotton swabs.

Although a good grooming routine is a key to keeping your Birman healthy, their daily diet is equally important. Your cat not only requires a nutritious and age-appropriate diet, but they also need to be fed the correct amount. Overfeeding can quickly lead to weight gain or even obesity, which could be a catalyst to many other health problems.

A great way to keep your cat at a healthy weight is to encourage them to be physically active. This can be achieved through playing games with them, teaching them tricks or commands, providing a climbing tower, and various other toys.

birman cat resting under a white bed sheet

Common Health Issues

Like any other cat breed, Birman cats can also be susceptible to developing some health issues throughout their life. According to our claims data,** the most common Birman cat health concerns include constipation, urinary conditions, vomiting, hyperthyroidism, and inappetence. Though these conditions may be the most common in the Birman breed, there is no guarantee that your cat will develop any or all of these listed.

One of the best ways you can monitor your cat's health is to take them for yearly check-ups with their veterinarian. These annual appointments provide you a time to ask any questions or bring up any concerns you may have about your cat's health. Plus, these appointments offer a time for your veterinarian to be informed on your cat's well-being, monitor any previously diagnosed conditions, and allow your cat to be updated on any necessary shots or vaccines.

Fun Facts

Why not learn some more fun facts about these fantastic cats?

Before welcoming a Birman into your home, you may want to consider first pet-proofing your house.

Name Suggestions

When it comes time to choose a name for your newly adopted cat, you may quickly become overwhelmed with choices. To help narrow down your options, check out our list of flower-inspired cat names.

  • Fleur
  • Iris
  • Poppy
  • Azalea
  • Cosmos
  • Caspia
  • Clover
  • Viola
  • Phlox

Like all proud pet parents, chances are you will want to show off photos of your Birman to all of your friends. Check out our tips and tricks for photographing your pet.

**Internal Claims Data, 2015-20

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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