Burmese is a comparatively new breed to Cat Fanciers and came to Britain from the USA. The little brown cat from which the breed derives, ‘Wong Mau’, was taken to the USA from Rangoon, Burma, in 1933. She came into the hands of a Dr Thompson of San Francisco, USA, who was intrigued by the differences between Wong Mau and seal-point Siamese, the previously known breed of cat from the Far East, and in conjunction with a small group of geneticists and cat breeders carried out a programme of experimental breeding aimed at clarifying Wong Mau’s genetical make up. This proved conclusively that she was in fact a hybrid of Siamese with another distinct breed which they called Burmese. The pure Burmese cats produced in the breeding programme had darker coats than Wong Mau, with less contrast in the coat colour between body and points and when these darker cats were mated together they bred true.
We are told that, like Siamese, these brown cats have been bred in Burma and other parts of the Far East for a very long time and were greatly valued, being the prerogative of the wealthy and of the temples. However true this may have been in the past it is hardly likely to be so now.
Brown Burmese (known as sable Burmese in the USA) are not truly self-coloured cats. Their coat colour shades slightly from a rich dark seal brown on the top of the back to a slightly lighter colour underneath and there is a slight intensification of colour of the points. The kittens when born are a cafe au lait colour which gradually darkens until they achieve full colour at nine to twenty-four months, depending on the particular cat. In these respects they differ from Havanas (the only other short-haired breed of brown cats) which are a uniform brown colour (redder in tone than Burmese brown) all over, the kittens being born the same colour as the adults.
The coat of a healthy Burmese is fine, silky, close lying and has a characteristic natural sheen. The cats are of medium size, strong and very muscular. Other distinctive features are the face (which is short, blunt wedge-shaped, with a short muzzle showing no jaw pinch), the ears (erect, wide at the base with the opening well to the front and with the top of the skull nicely rounded between the ears) and large, expressive eyes ranging in colour from chartreuse yellow to golden yellow. The tail is not whip-shape like Siamese and tapers only slightly to a rounded tip.
The cats are alert, active, intelligent and extremely friendly and affectionate, and it is undoubtedly these character traits which have been mainly responsible for their rapid growth in popularity. The kittens are most attractive in appearance, full of character and quite fascinating to watch.
Until 1955 most people thought of the Burmese as the brown cat and it is probably the brown Burmese with its beautiful eyes, which should be any shade of yellow from chartreuse to amber (golden yellow preferred), which is most popular. The Burmese does, however come in delightful colours of blue, chocolate, lilac, red, tortoiseshell, cream, blue cream, and chocolate and lilac tortoiseshell.