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Burmese Breed Description

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Breed Organization

TICA Executive Office

The Cat Fanciers' Association

Native Country
Myanmar (Burma)

Other Names
American Burmese

Coat Length

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12+ Years

General Description

The Burmese is a breed of domesticated cats split into two subgroups: the American Burmese and the British Burmese (and are not to be confused with "Sacred Cat of Burma," in respect of which, see Birman). Most modern Burmese are descendants of one female cat called Wong Mau, which was brought from Burma to America in 1930. Most cat registries do not recognize a split between the two groups, but those that do formally refer to the type developed by British cat breeders as the European Burmese.

Originally, Burmese cats were exclusively dark brown (sable), but years of selective breeding have produced a wide variety of colors. Different associations have different rules about which of these count as Burmese. Burmese cats are known for being sociable and friendly with humans, as well as very intelligent. They are also very vocal, and often call to their owners.

As a result of these separate breeding programmes, British Burmese are different from American Burmese. The British build tends to be more Oriental, with a more triangular face, while the American Burmese is stockier and rounder in the body, head, eyes, and feet. It has markedly full cheeks and a short muzzle, sometimes called "pug-like". In the British type, both the American Burmese's "cobbiness" and the obvious Siamese influence long seen in the breed are today considered grave, even disqualifying faults.

Ever since varieties other than sable/brown have existed, there have been conflicts in the world of cat fancy as to which varieties are considered Burmese. In Britain, all the colors listed below are recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, Britain's ruling cat association. In the USA, which colors are acceptable depends on which cat registry the cat is registered with. For example, the Cat Fancier's Association only recognises the first four colors below. All varieties should gradually shade from darker backs to lighter underparts. There should be no barring or spotting.

Brown (UK, AUS)), Sable (USA), Seal (NZ)
Blue (grey)
Chocolate (UK) or Champagne (USA)
Lilac (UK) or Platinum (USA)
Brown Tortoiseshell
Chocolate Tortoiseshell
Lilac Tortoiseshell
Blue Tortoiseshell

Varieties with more limited recognition:
Cinnamon Tortie
Fawn Tortie
Caramel Tortie

Experimental varieties
A new color mutation has arisen in Burmese lines being bred in New Zealand and an experimental breeding programme began in 2007 to reproduce the new color Burmese and learn more about them. The color is called russet and dark pigment in the cats' coats fades as they grow while orange pigment remains.

Breed Standard

American version:
Rounded and broad without flat planes. Round skull, forehead, and cheeks. Short, round muzzle. Nose break. Round, firm chin. Strong jaws.
British version: Short, blunt triangle with a broad, slightly rounded skull. Prominent cheekbones. Pronounced nose break. Jaws broad at the joint.
Eyes: Large, round, and wide set. Slanting upper line, with rounded lower line. The darkest, most vivid colors are preferred, with gold being the most favored color.
Neck: Well-developed, short neck.
Body: Medium in size, moderately compact and rounded. Broad, ample chest. Solid bone structure and good muscular development. Slender, less compact, but muscular and surprisingly heavy for its size.
Paw: Length in proportion to body. Paws medium in size, round; small and oval.
Tail: Medium in length, straight, thick at the base; not thick at the base, tapering slightly to a rounded tip.
Coat: Very short, fine, silky, glossy, and close-lying. Lustrous, satinlike texture. Almost complete absence of undercoat.
Color: As dark as possible at the points (mask, paws, tail), slightly lighter on the back and flanks, and a lighter hue still on underparts. No white or tabby markings. Definitive color appears by the age of two and one-half months. The gray-blue eye color turns to yellow at the same age.

There are four main varieties:
1. Sable (Brown in Great Britain): Dark brown.
2. Blue: Silvery blue.
3. Chocolate (Champagne): Milk chocolate color.
4. Lilac (Platinum): Silvery gray, pale lavender pink.

Other more recent varieties recognized only in Europe: Red, Cream, and Tortoiseshell. In the United States, these varieties are considered Malayan.
Fault: Almond-shaped eyes. Blue or green eye color. Overly fine bone structure. Overlong or excessively oriental body type. Kinked or abnormal tail. Tabby markings or white spots.


Manuscripts from Ayuthia, former capital of Siam, dating to the sixteen and seventeenth centuries depict cats that resemble today's Burmese. In the 16th century, brown cats similar to Burmese, called "Rajahs", roamed the halls of Buddhist temples in present-day Myanmar. In 1930, a military physician named J.C. Thompson was accompanied from Burma to San Francisco by a cat named Wong Mau, who was probably a Burmese/Siamese mix, what is today called a Tonkinese. Wong Mau was dark brown, almost mahogany, and had yellow eyes. Thompson mated her with Tai Mau, a Seal Point or Chocolate Point Siamese. One of the kittens (dark brown) was mated with its mother, Wong Mau. The result of that mating was a litter of solid brown kittens, the first specimens of the modern Burmese breed. The breed was recognized by the C.F.A. in 1936. The most recent T.I.C.A. standard was published in 1994. Burmese arrived in Great Britain in 1949 and were shown for the first time in London in 1952. The G.C.C.F. recognized the breed in 1954. Though the Burmese has only recently been recognized, it is worth recalling that brown cats with yellow eyes were brought into England as early as the late 19th century.The Burmese was officially introduced in France in 1956. The standard for the breed identifies an American version (compact, stocky, round head) and a British version (longer body and slightly triangular face). Originally, only sables were recognized. Blue was introduced in 1955, chocolate and lilac in 1959, and tortoiseshell varieties in the 1970s. The Burmese contributed to the development of the Bombay when it was crossed with the American Shorthair in 1981, the Burmilla (Persian/Burmese cross), the Tiffany (longhaired Burmese), and in the 1960s, the Tonkinese (Burmese/Siamese cross). Though uncommon in France, this breed is popular throughout the world, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries.


This particularly extroverted, energetic, exuberant cat has a strong personality and fears nothing. This little "talker" has a loud voice, though it is less husky than that of the Siamese. The Burmese expresses dominance with other cats. A social creature, this cat loves company and detests solitude. The affectionate Burmese is a tireless playmate for children. He is so devoted to his owner that he has been nicknamed the "dog-cat". The wildness of kittenhood diminishes over the years. Females reach puberty early (around nine months) and bear slightly more offspring than average. Care is simple. Weekly brushing is sufficient.


Cherry Eye, Cleft Palate, Psychogenic Alopecia, Skull, Jaw, and Tooth Malformations (In Contemporary-Type Breeds Only), Vestibular Disease, Hypokalaemia, Diabetes Mellitus.

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