The Siamese is not only one of the most ancient breeds but also unique with the fact that its dark coat markings change based on its temperature. This is the result of a temperature-sensitive enzyme that paints the cooler parts of the cat’s body dark – a real masterpiece of Mother Nature!
Famous with its piercing eyes and striking color points, this breed is also incredibly social and intelligent. Now, let’s learn more about the unique feline.
History of Siamese cats
It’s believed that Siamese cats first appeared in Siam's ancient Asian land (nowadays Thailand) and that’s how the breed got its name. According to The International Cat Association (TICA), manuscripts from Siam's ancient capital first mentioned the Siamese around 1350.
Apparently, in Siam, the stunning cats were exclusive to the royal family and the higher class. It was a great honor to receive a Siamese cat and the theft of one was punishable by death. It’s also said that the Siamese cats guarded the sacred Buddhist temples.
At the time, the Siamese were noted for their crossed eyes and kinked tails. The legend goes that this happened because the cats of Siam – pets of the king of Siam himself – had to guard the royal goblet. The felines stared at the goblet and wrapped tails around it with such intensity that their eyes crossed and their tails bent.
These Siamese features were selectively bred out with time although some Siamese cats still have crossed eyes and kinked tails. Unfortunately, today Siamese cats with crossed eyes and visible tail fault are disqualified at TICA's shows.
The beautiful felines lived in Siam for hundreds of years before being transported to Great Britain in the late 1800s. According to the New York Times, in 1871, Siam's King Chulalongkorn sent some Siamese cats to Europe as emissaries presenting his kingdom. Other sources say that one of the first to take Siamese cats to Europe was the British consul in Bangkok, Mr. Owen Gould, who brought a pair of cats for his sister – Mrs. Veley. She later co-founded the Siamese Cat Club.
It’s also known that in 1871 Siamese cats made their European debut at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in London. In 1879, the first Siamese arrived in the United States as a gift to the wife of President Rutherford Hayes from a US diplomat in Bangkok. For a while, in the western hemisphere, Siamese cats were known as “The royal cats of Siam” or the “Temple cats.”
Unique coat and colors of Siamese cats
The Siamese coat is known as “pointed” because it has darker points on the ears, mask, legs and tail – in other words, on the extremities. These points may come in different colors, including seal, lilac, red, silver, chocolate and blue. Thus, chocolate-point cats are those with light brown markings on the extremities, and blue-point cats have blue-grey extremities.
These unique coloration points are actually temperature-sensitive and are the result of the mutation of the enzyme tyrosinase. This enzyme is essential to the production of melanin, which is responsible for our hair and skin color.
In Siamese cats, the mutated enzyme tyrosinase is less active when the cat’s body temperature is higher – so in the warmer parts of the body, the fur color is lighter as melanin is not produced. On the opposite, in the cooler parts of the body – the extremities such as the ears, tail and paws – the enzyme is active and melanin is produced, so the coat is dark.
It’s interesting to note that Siamese kittens are cream or white at birth. They develop visible points in the colder parts of their bodies with time. Usually, when a kitten is four-weeks-old, the points are distinguishable and a person could recognize the kitty’s color.
Physical characteristics of Siamese
The most noted characteristics of the Siamese cats are the expressive eyes (blue or emerald green) and the contrast between those eyes and the “pointed” coat.
Today, however, two kinds of Siamese cats exist due to the years of selective breeding. The first kind is the traditional (apple-headed) Siamese and the second – the modern (wedge-headed) Siamese.
The first one has a round head and looks like the Siamese cat originally imported from Siam. This cat has a sturdier build and eyes shaped like almonds in the top half and rounded in the bottom half. There is a slight break in the nose, the ears are medium-sized and the muzzle is blunt but not short.
The wedge-headed Siamese result of the breeders’ intent to encourage an elongated look, which began to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s. The modern Siamese has a triangular or wedge-shaped head, from which the breed gets one of its nicknames – Wedgies.
The modern Siamese cats have large, triangular ears that are set far apart and slightly slanted blue eyes. They have a long, slender, tubular body with long legs, a graceful neck and a long, whip-like tail.
Both of these Siamese types have striking eyes and a great personality.
Personality of Siamese cat
The Siamese cats' personality is one of the breed’s most praised characteristics – these cats are very intelligent and affectionate.
The Siamese can also be described as outgoing, extroverted or energetic. They love to interact and play with people or animals and are perfect for those who want a lively pet.
Be prepared, though – the Siamese are super smart and need to be kept amused. They will follow you around and demand to be part of your activities. The Siamese don’t like to be ignored either, so offer lots of toys. Perches and scratching posts would be helpful, too, and the Siamese can be easily trained to use them.
The Siamese can also learn to play fetch, walk on a leash and do tricks. They are social and will do anything to spend time with you. These felines not only crave human companionship but also can get depressed if left alone for too long.
We have to mention that the Siamese are also known as demanding cats, who often voice their opinion loudly, using a wide range of meows and chirps. As the Cat Fanciers’ Association points out, The Siamese voice is legendary – this cat speaks both with voice and body.
All in all, these cats are very loving, talkative, amusing and social, and make great pets.
Siamese breed group
The Siamese is the parent breed for the group that includes the Balinese (a long-haired Siamese), and the Oriental Shorthair and Longhair. The coat of the Siamese cat and the Oriental Shorthair is very short and fine-textured. Balinese and Oriental Longhair cats have semi-longhair coats with a slight undercoat and silky texture.
The Cat Fanciers' Association refers to the red-, tortoiseshell- and lynx-point cats as Colorpoint Shorthaired, but, in all other respects, these cats are the same as the traditional brown, chocolate or black Siamese cats.
The Siamese breed has also been used to develop other breeds such as Birman, Burmese, Havana Brown, Himalayan, Javanese, Snowshoe, Tonkinese and others.
How to take care of a Siamese cat
The Siamese cat craves company and affection, so a person interested in this breed only because of its beauty should think twice before getting a Siamese pet. If you are the type of person who travels often and is away all day, you should at least get two cats. This way, these active creatures can entertain each other.
It’s important to note one more time that the Siamese are high-energy cats that bond strongly. They enjoy the companionship of humans and other animals. Of course, each cat has its own personality.
Overall, Siamese cats:
- Are good with kids and other animals.
- Have a low-maintenance coat.
- Need daily play sessions that stimulate their natural desire to bond and explore.
Shedding and allergies
Even though they don't shed excessively and do it only twice a year, the Siamese enjoy being combed or brushed. Grooming is easy due to the short coat, and brushing twice a week would be appreciated by these felines, who crave attention.
The Siamese cats are a good pick for someone who is usually allergic to cats. Although no cat is truly hypoallergenic, some cats shed less and produce less of the allergen that causes trouble. It's good to know that most people are actually allergic to a cat’s dander – a mixture of proteins found in the skin glands, saliva and urine.
Also, Siamese toms secret more allergens than female cats, so if you are concerned about allergies, choose a female cat that is lightly colored, with lilac or blue points.
Siamese cats are hardy cats with a good appetite. They like to keep active and it's best to offer them high-quality food recommended by a vet or a breeder. This type of cat is opinionated and will soon tell you how much food it requires each day. As with all other cats, excessive weight could be a problem and free feeding should be avoided.
Sexual maturity comes at an early age for most Siamese; therefore, it is recommended to have them spayed or neutered 6 months. The Siamese is a medium-sized cat, with the males a bit larger than the females. Males weigh from 10 to 15 pounds and females weigh between 8 and 12 pounds. The average litter size for Siamese is about six kittens, but larger litters are not uncommon.
Siamese cats live on average around 13 years but can live up to 20. It’s believed that they have a higher mortality rate because, as with other pure breeds, the Siamese have some genetic predispositions. For example, the Siamese are at higher risk of gastrointestinal problems, lung infections, feline OCD, vestibular disease and Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.
It’s advisable to regularly visit the vet after your Siamese feline reaches the age of 8 years.