The Birman also called the “Sacred Cat of Burma”, is one of the oldest cat breeds.
It is a long-haired domestic cat distinguished by its striking, sapphire blue eyes. In addition to the eyes, a trademark sign of a Birman cat are symmetrical white paws likened to that of gloves.
The Birman has a typical lifespan of 12 to 16 years.
The typical Birman cat has an overall height of 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in) and body length of 33 to 46 cm (15 to 18 in). An average Birman weighs between 4 and 5 kg (10 and 12 lb).
The fur is medium-long and should have a silky texture. Pointed pattern with a cream, buff or tan base, and seal, chocolate, blue, lilac, tortie or red points, much like the Siamese cat.
Birmans have a calm, docile and friendly nature that makes them an excellent choice for almost any household situation.
The breed name is derived from Birmanie, the French form of Burma.
The origin of the Birman cat is not well known, with much of his history tied in with cultural legends.
One popular legend from ancient Burma proclaims that this breed was a favorite cat with Kittah priests. One day, robbers invaded the Khmer Temple in Burma to steal a golden statute in the image of the blue-eyed goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. Mun-Ha, the high priest was injured during this confrontation. As he lay dying, his loyal Birman named Sinh, was said to come to his side and gently rest his paws on his chest, offering him companionship in his final moments. The priest died and his cat was transformed. Sinh’s fur turned golden like the goddess and his eyes took on the color of the goddess. Hiss paws were turn to pure white, symbolizing the feline’s devotion to his dying priest.
The arrival of the Birman in Europe began in 1919 with two Englishmen, Major Gordon Russell and August Pavie, who were living in France at the time. They received a pair of Birmans from the Kittah people in gratitude for their part in saving the temple from being over run by invading enemies.
Birmans were almost wiped out as a breed during World War II. Only two cats were alive in Europe at the end of the war, a pair named Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa, both belonging to Baudoin-Crevoisier. The foundation of the breed in postwar France were offspring of this pair. They had to be heavily outcrossed with long-hair breeds such as Persian and Siamese to rebuild the Birman breed. By the early 1950s, pure Birman litters were again being produced.
In 1959, the first pair of Birman cats arrived in the United States, and in 1967 CFA officially accepted the Birman. Since then, the Birman has flourished in North America and has become a popular and well-known breed. Today, the Birman is one of the most popular longhaired breeds.
Birman kittens tend to be quieter and calmer than other breeds. They may be more inclined to cuddle than explore, and are usually less likely to try out their new claws during play.
Like all color point cats, Birman kittens are born all white and develop their color as they mature. They start developing their colours at the age of 1 week if they have a dark colour (as seal-point) and at the age of 14 days, or more, if they have a clear colour (as lilac-point). The first part which develops the colour are the points of ears, nose and tail. The real colour is complete at two years old and after a wintry season.
Birman kittens can cost, on average, anywhere between $400 and $600.