Beyond 9 Lives: Understanding Siamese Cats

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This is a sponsored post by Dr. Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Siamese cats are one of the most popular breeds of cat in the United States. Cat fanciers and average feline owners love their sleek elegance and charming vocals. In this article, we’ll discuss the distinct features, personality, and health issues of the breed.

How did Siamese cats first come to the West?

As the name suggests, Siamese cats come from Southeast Asia, more specifically from the ancient kingdom of Siam (located in present-day Thailand).

Siamese cats first came to England in 1871, making an appearance at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in London. They arrived in the United States in grand style eight years later. The first “American” Siamese was a gift that the U.S. Consul in Bangkok sent to the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes.

What do Siamese cats look like?

Siamese cats have perhaps the most distinctive physical characteristics of any breed of feline, making them easily identifiable to even the casual cat lover.

The most obvious “Siamese” feature is its point coloration. Like other felines with pointed patterns, Siamese have pale torsos (usually off-white, light gray or yellowish-brown) and darker fur on their faces, ears, legs and tails. Originally, the Siamese’s darker fur came in only four different colors: seal (an extremely dark brown), blue (a cool gray), chocolate (a lighter brown) and lilac (a pale, warm gray). Though the major U.S. cat registry still considers these the only “true” Siamese colors, crossbreeding with other types of cats has resulted in cats with Siamese features and new colors like red and cream, tabby and tortoise-shell points.

Siamese cats also have other distinguishing features including their very easily recognized heads and unique eyes. Siamese cats typically have elongated noses and wide-set ears. In fact, the heads of champion Siamese cats form nearly perfect triangles when measured from the ends of their noses to the tips of their ears.

The Siamese’s body is similarly long and elegant, with delicate musculature and little excess body fat. Like the Siamese’s coloration, though, its eyes are what truly set it apart from other breeds. Almond in shape and blue in color (even into adulthood), they give the feline its distinctively mysterious and regal air.

Because of its many years of popularity in the United States the Siamese is also a parent breed to a large number of other popular cat breeds, including:

  • Balinese – A longhaired natural mutation of the Siamese.
  • Bengals – A breed created by mixing an Asian leopard cat and a Siamese.
  • Birman – A breed that was reconstructed in part by crossbreeding with Siamese cats.
  • Burmese – Cats descended from a specific cat found in Burma and subsequently bred with Siamese.
  •  Havana Brown – A breed created by mixing a Siamese and a black cat.
  •  Himalayan – A breed created by mixing a Persian and a Siamese.
  • Javanese – A longhaired version of Siamese with nontraditional coloring.
  • Ocicat – A breed created by mixing an Abyssinian and a Siamese.
  • Snowshoe – A breed created by mixing an American Shorthair and a Siamese.
  • Tonkinese — A breed created by mixing a Burmese and a Siamese.

Years of inbreeding led to two unusual traits in many of the Siamese cats that were imported from Thailand: kinked tails and crossed eyes. Though they have largely been bred out of Siamese cats in the United States, these mutations are still seen in many street cats in Southeast Asia.

What kind of personality does a Siamese have?

Despite their appearance, Siamese cats are not at all aloof or enigmatic. On the contrary, they are extremely friendly and social. So much so, in fact, that owners must be careful not to leave their Siamese cats alone for extended periods of time. These cats need attention and interaction (preferably human, though feline will also do) and tend to get depressed without it. This can lead to stress and overgrooming.

Siamese cats are also very vocal. They have distinctive loud, low-pitched meows that they frequently use to get the attention they crave from their human parents.

Like Maine Coons, Siamese cats tend to be playful and “dog-like”, even as adults. They can often be trained to play “fetch” with a little effort on the part of their owners.

What health issues do Siamese have?

As with all purebred felines, certain health concerns are more prominent due to inbreeding passing along congenital issues. Unfortunately, Siamese cats are no exception. The median lifespan of a Siamese cat is somewhere between 10 and 13 years, though certainly some live longer. Less-serious maladies commonly affecting Siamese cats include upper respiratory infections in younger cats and congenital vestibular disease, which causes balance problems.

Siamese cats make wonderful pets and great additions to families of all types. If you are interested in getting one, please visit one of the many Siamese-only rescue foundations in your area, which have lots of beautiful, friendly Siamese cats looking for a loving home.

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