The Birman Cat

The Birman Cat

To appreciate the legend which is about to be told, one must visualize the beautiful temples in the ancient land of Burma. The magnitude of the Buddha idols helps to impress upon us the deep religious faith the people have. Their belief in the reincarnation of souls and their deep respect and love for their priests provide the setting for this legend. Their watchful and loving care of the hundred white cats (Temple Cats) is due to their belief that the priests are returned to the temple in the form of the sacred cats of Burma known as Birman Cats. The origin of the whitegloved feet and the colouring goes back to before the birth of Christ.

Centuries ago the Khmer people of Asia built beautiful temples of worship to pay homage to their gods. The temple of Lao-Tsun housed a beautiful golden goddess with sapphire blue eyes, who watched over the transmutation of souls. Mun-Ha, one of the most beloved of the priests, whose beard had been braided with gold by the great god Son-Hio, often knelt in meditation before the golden goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. Sinn, a beautiful and faithful white temple cat, was always at his side, and shared his meditations. As the holy priest prayed, the sacred cat would gaze at the brilliant goddess. One night as the moon rose and Mun-Ha was kneeling before the sacred goddess, raiders attacked the temple and Mun-Ha was killed.

At the moment of Mun-Ha’s death, Sinn placed his feet upon his fallen master and faced the golden goddess. Immediately the hairs of his white body were as golden as the light radiating from the beautiful golden goddess, her beautiful blue eyes became his very own, and his four white legs shaded downwards to a velvety brown; but where his feet rested gently on his dead master, the whiteness remained white, thus denoting their purity.

The next morning the temple radiated with the transformation of the hundred white cats, which, like Sinn, reflected the golden hue of sunset. Sinh, the golden cat of Burma, never left the throne after his master’s death. Then seven days later he too died, carrying with him into paradise the soul of Mun-Ha his beloved master.

Since that time, the followers of Buddhism guard very carefully and gently the sacred ones within whose bodies live their beloved priests. Only a few (and they must be worthy in deed and manner) are permitted to possess one of these beautiful creatures. The people lived peacefully till the advent of Brahminism. The Brahmins felt that the Kittahs (priests) were practising a false religion, so they raided the temples and killed many venerable priests.

At this time two men, August Pavie and Major Russell-Gordon, two Englishmen who were residing in France at the time, journeyed from France to Burma. They were able to penetrate and bring protection to the lost Kittahs against the aggressive Brahmins. They were then able to see the hundred sacred cats and learn their legend.

Many of the Kittahs escaped and crossed the mountains of Burma into Tibet, taking with them their sacred cats. They then formed a new subterranean temple of Lao-Tsun, the dwelling place of their gods. This temple is a marvel of marvels in Indo-China. Not far from a lake, it is hidden in a mass of immense peaks. .

The two men returned to France, and because of the great love the Burmese people had for August Pavie and Major Gordon-Russell, who had protected them against their enemy, a pair of the sacred cats was sent from the beautiful temple of Lao-Tsun to France, as a gesture of gratitude, in 1919. The ocean trip proved tragic however, for the male died. But it was found that the female was pregnant and thus the breed survived and became recognized in France in 1925.

The French breeders also had troubles of their own as, at the end of the Second World War only one pair of these sacred cats of Burma was left. The name Birman is derived from the French. (Burmese cats are totally unrelated.)

These cats have a wonderful temperament. They are sweet, gentle and very loving with a small voice. And they are very beautiful. They walk with a tiger-like gait. They should have deep blue eyes, long-haired coats and points like the Siamese; but with four white feet, on the back legs ending in a gauntlet-like spur, reaching to the first joint.

There are now blue Birmans as well as seal Birmans.

In the seal-point, the body fur is a clear pale beige, slightly golden, with dark brown points, and in the blue-point Birman the body fur is bluish-white, rather cold in tone with blue-grey points. Chocolate-brown and lilac-point Birmans are also now appearing. The Birman has a longer body than most long-haired cats and its head is not so broad.