The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognised
exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is believed to be from South-East
Asia, and may be descended from the sacred temple cats of Siam (hence their
name). The breed was first seen outside their Asian home in
1884, when the British Counsul-General in Bangkok, Mr. Owen Gould, brought a
pair of the cats back to Britain for his sister, Mrs. Veley (who went on to be
co-founder of the Siamese Cat Club in 1901). The cats were shown at the Crystal
Palace in 1885, and the
following year another pair (with kittens) were imported by a Mrs. Vyvyan and
her sister. A small number of cats were brought in over the next few years, and
together these formed the base breeding pool for entire breed in Britain.
As a result of thousands of generations of selective breeding and the pressures
of competition there are now actually two subbreeds of Siamese – the modern show
Siamese, and the traditional or "apple-headed" Siamese. Modern show Siamese have
been bred to be extremely elongated, with bodies slender to the point of
emaciation, and a Y-shaped head with an extremely long muzzle and extra-large
"batwing" ears. The traditional Siamese are much sturdier, with a round head and
ears more in proportion to their size. Siamese cats often have a kink in their
tails, because the original breeders saw that as a unique feature of the breed.
In recent years the kinked tail has been considered a "flaw" and breeders have
largely eradicated it from the Show Siamese. Both breeds of Siamese have
almond-shaped eyes and like all Oriental cats they are extremely talkative and
demanding of attention. They often will engage themselves in crazy antics to get
the attention of their people, and often attach themselves to one human in a
household. As they are "wired for sound", they can meow loud enough to compete
with fire and rescue equipment. Siamese cats are generally believed to be highly
intelligent (by cat standards), and their behaviour usually reflects this.
Adult female "apple-headed" Siamese cat
All Siamese have a creamy base coat with coloured "points"
on their muzzles, ears, paws and lower legs, and tails. The darker Siamese have
a darkening of their back and hindquarters as well. Originally Siamese were all
seal-pointed, but now they have been bred in all of the standard cat colours
including red, lilac, blue, chocolate, tabby
and "torty" or tortoise-shell. In the United Kingdom, all pointed Siamese-style cats are considered to be part of
the Siamese breed. In the
United States, however, only four colorations are considered Siamese: seal
point, blue point, chocolate point, and lilac point.
Oriental cats with colorpoints in colors or patterns aside from these four
are considered Colorpoint Shorthairs in the American cat fancy.
The dark coloration on the coat is produced by an enzyme that is
heat-sensitive; it fails to work at normal body temperatures, but becomes active
in cooler areas of the skin (such as the ears, legs, tail and face (which is
cooled by the passage of air through the sinuses). All Siamese kittens, although
pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of
life in colder parts of their body. By the time the kitten is four weeks old the
points should be clearly distinguishable enough to recognise which colour they
Many Siamese are cross-eyed to compensate for the abnormal uncrossed wiring
of the optic chiasm, which is produced by the same albino allele that
produces coloured points.
Siamese cats crossed with Burmese cats are known as "Tonkinese".
Siamese cats crossed with
are known as Serengetis. The
Serengeti is a new breed of spotted cat.
A blue point Siamese cat
Balinese – a longhaired Siamese in the four traditional U.S. Siamese
coat colors of seal point, chocolate point, lilac point, and blue point.
Colorpoint Shorthair – a Siamese with pointed coat colors aside from the
traditional U.S. Siamese coat colors. Considered to be part of the Siamese
breed in the U.K., but considered a separate breed in the U.S. Variations
can include Lynx Points and Tortie Points.
Bucky Katt from Get Fuzzy
Genghis - Growltiger's enemy in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S.
Jason - Seal-point on BBC TV's Blue Peter
Misty Malarky Yin Yang, pet of Amy Carter
Pyewacket, the witch's familiar in the film Bell, Book and Candle
Tao, from Sheila Burnford's novel The Incredible Journey
Sagwa in the children's book Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat by Amy Tan and
animated TV series of the same name
Shan Shein - White House cat owned by Gerald Ford's daughter, Susan
Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp
Syn, who played the title role of "D.C." in the 1965 Walt Disney film That Darn