Meet the Cat Breed: The Siamese
I asked for a Siamese cat when I turned 12, which is a logical birthday request, since a doll and makeup just weren't quite appropriate (at least back in the old days.) The tween and teenage years can be awkward, but sharing them with a beautiful, playful, friendly cat made that season of life much more enjoyable. My mother was able to find me a kitten from a breeder at a fairly remote location in Colorado. I'll never forget driving to their home and seeing several curious, beautiful, blue eyes staring at me from the woods as the sun filtered through the leaves. It was stunning and almost magical to my imaginative young mind. When I saw my new kitten, I knew she must have the most beautiful name imaginable: Jessica!
Jessica was a beautiful, robust-looking cat. After viewing Lady and the Tramp, I knew the modern sleek style wasn't for me, since the twin tormentors in that cartoon were so mean. It's funny what shapes our thinking. Plus, being of rounder, fluffier stock myself, I related to that appearance more than the long, lean, modelesque appearance favored by some breeders. Though I have to say that these guys are pretty cute: Tom and Jerry, Siamese twin cats. Photo courtesy of Jerry Pank. History of the Breed The Siamese is one of the oldest breeds of domestic cat. The breed originated in Thailand (formerly called Siam, hence the name.) They were treasured by members of royalty and eventually made their way into Western culture as gifts of diplomacy in the 1800's. When they appeared at a cat show in the UK, they were described as "an unnatural nightmare of a cat." Despite the bad press, the breed made a strong impression and became quite popular world wide. The desirable coloring and personality became the foundation for other breeds including the Himalayan (Persian x Siamese), Burmese, Snowshoe, and Tonkinese, as well as Oriental-style cats such as the Oriental Shorthair, Oriental Longhair, Colorpoint Shorthair, Colorpoint Longhair, Balinese, and Javanese. Appearance The most striking feature of Siamese are their beautiful blue eyes. There are several color point variations including Seal (very dark brown), Chocolate (lighter brown), Blue (cool gray), and Lilac (pale warm gray). Crossing the Siamese with other breeds have developed other point colors including Red, Cream, Lynx, and Tortoise-shell. All Siamese kittens are born white or cream and develop their colors as they grow. The point coloration is due to partial albinism where color develops at the cooler areas of the body (the extremities.) Thus, Siamese in cooler climates tend to be darker. The Debate Over Body Style As touched on before, there are two camps of body style advocated by Siamese cat fanciers. There are those that prefer the Oriental-style of sleek, skinny, tube-like appendages with wedge-shaped heads and large ears. This style is favored in the show ring. These cats are often referred to as the Modern or Extreme Siamese. The other style appears more sturdy with a rounder head. These cats may be referred to as being Traditional, Apple-heads, Old-Style Siamese, or moderate style. The International Cat Association has started calling the traditional style of Siamese "Thai" to differentiate between the body styles and encourage the continued breeding of this ancient version. Interestingly, breeders from the Modern/Extreme Siamese camp believe their favored look was the true original of royal stock, and the more cobby style reflects the cat of the common people. Jessica, the mother and survivor I first became aware of the debate over body style when I made my first foray into cat breeding with Jessica. My mother and I were able to locate another male Siamese of sturdy stock at a nearby farm. When I placed an ad in the local paper, advertising my kittens, a woman called and interviewed me about my cat's appearance. When I confirmed that she was the apple-headed style, she implored me to please keep breeding, because she had concerns about the traditional style being bred out by these new "hideous skinny types." Unfortunately, someone shot my cat through the uterus during a later pregnancy. Amazingly, my cat and some of the kittens survived, but the damage required spaying. Regardless, I enjoyed this glimpse into genetics and the wonder of this breed. And I enjoyed many years of Jessica's antics and verbosity. Health The Siamese are considered a healthy breed, especially the traditional body style cats. The modern style tends to be more delicate health-wise as it has been selectively bred for appearance. Temperament Siamese are outgoing, vocal cats. They can be demanding when it comes to getting treats and affection. They are very smart and capable of learning several tricks, including training their people! They love active households and often do well with other pets. Some would even say the Siamese has more of a dog-like personality. Watch this video to see if the Siamese might be the right cat for you! But note that the color descriptions didn't exactly match up with the photos. See above for clarification on color point descriptions. Please be sure to visit Petfinder to find an adoptable Siamese cat available near you! Traditional Siamese cat photo by Cliff1066. Have any great Siamese cat stories?