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Colorpoint Shorthair

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An example of an "apple-headed" Siamese cat
An example of an "apple-headed" Siamese cat
Country of origin
Breed standards (external links)

The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognised breeds of Oriental cat. The 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 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 will be.

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 Bengal cats are known as Serengetis. The Serengeti is a new breed of spotted cat.


A blue point Siamese 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.
  • Javanese a longhaired version of the Colorpoint Shorthair.
  • Oriental Shorthair a Siamese-style cat in non-pointed coat patterns and colors, including solid, tabby, and tortoise-shell.
  • Oriental Longhair a longhaired version of the Oriental Shorthair.

Famous Siamese cats

Bucky Katt from Get Fuzzy
Genghis - Growltiger's enemy in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot
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 Cat!

External links

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