Siamese cat

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Siamese Cat
Siam lilacpoint.jpg
Lilac-point Siamese (Oriental)
Common nicknamesMeezer, Mese
Origin Thailand Flag of Thailand.svg
Breed standards
TICA standard
ACF standard
ACFA/CAA standard
CCA-AFC standard
Domestic cat (Felis catus)

The Siamese cat (Thai : แมวไทย, Maeo Thai; แมวสยาม, Maeo Sayam) is one of the first distinctly recognized breeds of Asian cat. Derived from the Wichianmat landrace, one of several varieties of cat native to Thailand (formerly known as Siam), the original Siamese became one of the most popular breeds in Europe and North America in the 19th century. The carefully refined, more extreme-featured, modern-style Siamese is characterized by blue almond-shaped eyes; a triangular head shape; large ears; an elongated, slender, and muscular body; and various forms of point colouration. Other than colouration, the modern-style Siamese bears little resemblance to the original stock, and the more moderate, traditional, or "old-style" Siamese, with a much rounder head and body, has been re-established by multiple registries as the Thai cat. The International Cat Association describes the modern Siamese as affectionate, social, intelligent, and playful into adulthood, often enjoying a game of fetch. [1] Siamese tend to seek human interaction and also like companionship from other cats.

Contents

The Siamese (sometimes in the traditional form) is among the foundation stock of several other breeds developed by crossbreeding with other cats; some examples are the Oriental Shorthair and Colourpoint Shorthair, developed to expand the range of coat patterns; the long-haired variant most often dubbed the Himalayan; and hair-mutation breeds, including the Cornish Rex, Sphynx, Peterbald, and blue-point Siamese cat. The Siamese cat comes in two distinct variations: traditional, with an apple-shaped head and a slightly chubby body; or the modern Siamese, which are very skinny and have a wedge-shaped head. The long-haired Siamese is recognized internationally as a Balinese cat. Siamese cats are one of the more common breeds to have non-white irises.

History

Suphalak cat, Siamese cat, Korat cat and Ninlachak cat in Tamra Maew (The Cat-Book Poems) thought to originate from the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351 to 1767 AD). Over a dozen are now kept in the National Library of Thailand. Ayutthaya cat 9999.jpg
Suphalak cat, Siamese cat, Korat cat and Ninlachak cat in Tamra Maew (The Cat-Book Poems) thought to originate from the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351 to 1767 AD). Over a dozen are now kept in the National Library of Thailand.

Origins

Thailand

A description and depiction of the Wichienmaat (Siamese cat) first appears in a collection of ancient manuscripts called the Tamra Maew (The Cat-Book Poems), thought to originate from the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351 to 1767 AD). Over a dozen are now kept in the National Library of Thailand, while others have resurfaced outside of Thailand and are now in the British Library and National Library of Australia. In addition to the old Siamese cat, the Tamra Maew also describes other heritage cats of Thailand including the Korat cat (Malet), which are still bred for preservation in Thailand today and have become popular in other countries, and Konja cat (Black cat), Suphalak (a controversy in Burmese cat).

When the capital city Ayutthaya was sacked on 7 April 1767 at the end of the Burmese-Siamese war, the Burmese army burned everything in sight and returned to Burma, taking Siamese noblemen and royal family members with them as captives. Buddha images were hacked apart for their gold, and all the royal treasures were stolen. Thai legend has it that the King of Burma Hsinbyushin found and read the poem for the Thai cats in the Tamra Maew. The poem describes Thai cats as being as rare as gold, and anyone that owns this cat will become wealthy. He told his army to round up all the Suphalak cats and bring them back to Burma along with the other treasures. Today in Thailand, this legend is told as a humorous explanation as to the rarity of Thai cats.

Siamese

The pointed cat known in the West as "Siamese", recognized for its distinctive markings, is one of several breeds of cats from Siam described and illustrated in manuscripts called "Tamra Maew" (Cat Poems), estimated to have been written from the 14th to the 18th century. [2] In 1878, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes received the first documented Siamese to reach the United States, a cat named "Siam" sent by the American Consul in Bangkok. [3] In 1884, the British Consul-General in Bangkok, Edward Blencowe Gould (1847–1916), [4] brought a breeding pair of the cats, Pho and Mia, back to Britain as a gift for his sister, Lilian Jane Gould (who, married in 1895 as Lilian Jane Veley, [5] went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901). In 1885, Gould's UK cats Pho and Mia produced three Siamese kittens—Duen Ngai, Kalohom, and Khromata—who were shown with their parents that same year at London's Crystal Palace Show. Their unique appearance and distinct behaviour attracted attention but all three of the kittens died soon after the show, their cause of death not documented. [6]

By 1886, another pair (with kittens) was imported to the UK by Eva Forestier Walker (surnamed Vyvyan after 1887 marriage) [7] and her sister, Ada. Compared to the British Shorthair and Persian cats that were familiar to most Britons, these Siamese imports were longer and less "cobby" in body types, had heads that were less rounded with wedge-shaped muzzles and had larger ears. These differences and the pointed coat pattern, which had not been seen before in cats by Westerners, produced a strong impression—one early viewer described them as "an unnatural nightmare of a cat." Over the next several years, fanciers imported a small number of cats, which together formed the base breeding pool for the entire breed in Britain. It is believed that most Siamese in Britain today are descended from about eleven of these original imports. In their early days in Britain, they were called the "Royal Cat of Siam", reflecting reports that they had previously been kept only by Siamese royalty. [8] Later research has not shown evidence of any organised royal breeding programme in Siam. [2] The original Siamese imports were medium-sized, rather long-bodied, muscular, graceful cats with moderately wedge-shaped heads and ears that were comparatively large but in proportion to the size of the head. The cats ranged from substantial to slender but were not extreme in either way.

Traditional Siamese versus modern development

In the 1950s–1960s, as the Siamese was increasing in popularity, many breeders and cat show judges began to favor the more slender look. As a result of generations of selective breeding, they created increasingly long, fine-boned, narrow-headed cats. Eventually, the modern show Siamese was bred to be extremely elongated, with a lean, tubular body, long, slender legs, a very long, very thin tail that tapers gradually into a point and a long, wedge-shaped head topped by extremely large, wide-set ears.

By the mid-1980s, cats of the original style had largely disappeared from cat shows but a few breeders, particularly in the UK, continued to breed and register them, resulting in today's two types of Siamese: the modern, "show-style", standardized Siamese, and the "Traditional Siamese", both descended from the same distant ancestors, but with few or no recent ancestors in common, and effectively forming distinct sub-breeds, with some pressure to separate them entirely.

In addition to the modern Siamese breed category, The International Cat Association (TICA) and the World Cat Federation (WCF) now accept Siamese cats of the less extreme type, and any wichianmat cat imported directly from Thailand, under the new breed name Thai. [9] [10] Other, mostly unofficial, names for the traditional variety are "Old-style Siamese", "Classic Siamese", and "Applehead" (originally a derogatory nickname coined by breeders of modern-type Siamese). [11]

Appearance

Siamese gene chart Siamese gene chart.jpg
Siamese gene chart

The breed standard of the modern Siamese calls for an elongated, tubular, and muscular body and a triangular head, forming a perfect triangle from the tip of the nose to each tip of the ear. The eyes are almond-shaped and light blue, while the ears are large, wide-based, and positioned more towards the side of the head. The breed has a long neck, a slender tail, and fur that is short, glossy, fine, and adheres to the body with no undercoat. Its pointed color scheme and blue eyes distinguish it from the closely related Oriental Shorthair. The modern Siamese shares the pointed color pattern with the Thai, or traditional Siamese, but they differ in head and body type.[ citation needed ]

The pointed pattern is a form of partial albinism, resulting from a mutation in tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin production. The mutated tyrosinase enzyme is heat-sensitive; it fails to work at normal body temperatures, but becomes active in cooler (< 33 °C) areas of the skin. [12] This results in dark colouration in the coolest parts of the cat's body, including the extremities and the 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. [13] By the time a kitten is four weeks old, the points should be sufficiently clearly distinguishable to recognise which colour they are. Siamese cats tend to darken with age, and generally, adult Siamese living in warm climates have lighter coats than those in cool climates. Originally the vast majority of Siamese had seal (extremely dark brown, almost black) points, but occasionally Siamese were born with "blue" (a cool grey) points, genetically a dilution of seal point; chocolate (lighter brown) points, a genetic variation of seal point; or lilac (pale warm gray) points, genetically a diluted chocolate. These colours were at first considered "inferior" seal points, and were not qualified for showing or breeding. All of these shades were eventually accepted by the breed associations, and became more common through breeding programmes specifically aimed at producing these colours. Later, outcrosses with other breeds developed Siamese-mix cats with points in other cat colours and patterns, including Red and Cream point, lynx (tabby) point, and tortoise-shell ("tortie") point. (For more information on cat coat terminology, see Cat coat genetics.)

In the United Kingdom, all pointed Siamese-style cats are considered part of the Siamese breed. In the United States, a major cat registry, the Cat Fanciers' Association, considers only the four original fur colors as Siamese: seal point, blue point, chocolate point, and lilac point. Oriental Shorthair cats with color points in colors or patterns aside from these four are considered color point Shorthairs in that registry. The World Cat Federation has also adopted this classification, treating the color point Short hair as a distinct breed. [10]

Many Siamese cats from Thailand had a kink in their tails, but over the years this trait has been considered a flaw. Breeders have largely eradicated it, but the kinked tail persists among street cats in Thailand.

Temperament

"Meezer" of a Siamese cat

Siamese are usually very affectionate and intelligent cats, renowned for their social nature. Many enjoy being with people and are sometimes described as "extroverts". Often they bond strongly to a single person. [6] —that has been compared to the cries of a human baby, and persistent in demanding attention. These cats are typically active and playful, even as adults, and are often described as more dog-like in behavior than other cats. Some Siamese are extremely vocal, with a loud, low-pitched voice—known as a "meezer", from which they get one of their nicknames. [14] [15]

Siamese cats, due to their desire to be near people or other cats, occasionally suffer from depression or separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time, and it is for this reason that Siamese cats are often bought in pairs so that they can keep each other company. [16]

Health

This Siamese cat demonstrates the once common cross-eyed trait that has largely been bred out Siamese Cat Cross-Eyed.jpg
This Siamese cat demonstrates the once common cross-eyed trait that has largely been bred out

Based on Swedish insurance data, which tracked cats only up to 12.5 years, Siamese and Siamese-derived breeds have a higher mortality rate compared to other breeds. The median lifespan of the Siamese group was somewhere between 10 and 12.5 years; 68% lived to 10 years or more and 42% to 12.5 years or more. Siamese Scooter holds the record as the world's oldest male cat, dying at the age of 30. [17] The majority of deaths were caused by neoplasms, mainly mammary tumors. The Siamese also has a higher rate of morbidity. They are at higher risk of neoplastic and gastrointestinal problems, but have a lower risk of feline lower urinary tract disease. [18] [19] Vet clinic data from England shows a higher median lifespan of 14.2 years. [20]

The most common variety of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) in cats (among them the Abyssinian, the Somali, and the big group of Siamese-related breeds) is related to a mutation on the rdAc-gene, for which a DNA test is available. [21]

The same albino allele that produces coloured points means that Siamese cats' blue eyes lack a tapetum lucidum , a structure which amplifies dim light in the eyes of other cats. The mutation in the tyrosinase also results in abnormal neurological connections between the eye and the brain. [22] The optic chiasm has abnormal uncrossed wiring; many early Siamese were cross-eyed to compensate, but like the kinked tails, the crossed eyes have been seen as a fault, and due to selective breeding the trait is far less common today. Still, this lack of a tapetum lucidum even in uncross-eyed cats causes reduced vision for the cat at night. This trait has led to their dependence and interest in humans, as it affects their hunting ability, a desirable trait for many owners. However, it also makes them vulnerable to urban dangers such as night-time vehicular traffic. Unlike many other blue-eyed white cats, [23] Siamese cats do not have reduced hearing ability.

Furthermore, the Siamese cat is more prone than other breeds to lung infections, especially in kittenhood, such as feline osteochondrodysplasia, vestibular disease and feline hyperesthesia syndrome. [24]

Breeds derived from the Siamese

Balinese are also known as Longhaired Siamese, being distinguished by coat length Balinese blue lynx point.jpg
Balinese are also known as Longhaired Siamese, being distinguished by coat length
Orientals have the same head and body type but green eyes and a wide variety of coat patterns Fatale de la legende d'ali.jpg
Orientals have the same head and body type but green eyes and a wide variety of coat patterns
Himalayan Cat, breed derived from crosses of Persians to Siamese Himalayan Cat.jpg
Himalayan Cat, breed derived from crosses of Persians to Siamese

In media

In literature and film

Siamese cats have been protagonists in literature and film for adults and children since the 1930's. Clare Turlay Newberry's Babette [26] features a Siamese kitten escaping from a New York apartment in 1937. British publisher Michael Joseph recorded his relationship with his Siamese cat in Charles: The Story of a Friendship (1943). [27] The "Siamese Cat Song" sequence ("We are Siamese if you please") in Disney's Lady and the Tramp (1955), featuring "Si" and "Am", became "notorious for its racist depiction of the Siamese cats". [28] The 1958 film adaptation of Bell, Book and Candle features Kim Novak's own Siamese cat as "Pyewacket", a witch's familiar. The Incredible Journey (1961) [29] by Sheila Burnford tells the story of three pets, including Siamese cat "Tao", as they travel 300 miles (480 km) through the Canadian wilderness searching for their beloved masters. The book was a modest success when first published, but became widely known after 1963 when it was loosely adapted into a film of the same name from Walt Disney. Disney also employed the same Siamese in the role of "DC" for its 1965 crime caper That Darn Cat! , [30] with The New York Times commenting "The feline that plays the informant, as the F.B.I. puts it, is superb. [...] This elegant, blue-eyed creature is a paragon of suavity and grace". [31]

Other

See also

Related Research Articles

Domestic short-haired cat Breed of cat

A domestic short-haired cat is a cat of mixed ancestry—thus not belonging to any particular recognised cat breed—possessing a coat of short fur. In Britain they are sometimes colloquially called moggies. In the Philippines, they are called puspin while in Malaysia they are known as kucing bandar. Domestic short-haired cats are distinct from the British Shorthair, American Shorthair, and other standardized breeds with "Short-hair" names recognized by various registries. Domestic short-haireds are the most common cat in the United States, accounting for around 90–95% of their number. Other generic terms include house cat and alley cat.

Ocicat Breed of cat

The Ocicat is an all-domestic breed of cat which resembles a wild cat but has no wild DNA in its gene pool. The breed is unusual in that it is spotted like a wild cat but has the temperament of a domestic animal. It is named for its resemblance to the ocelot. The breed was established from the Siamese and Abyssinian. American Shorthair was also added to the original crosses due to an error in the Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc's recording of the breeds used. This mix of breeds created a healthy, large breed of cat completely different in type and appearance from the source breeds.

Himalayan cat Breed of cat

The Himalayan, is a breed or sub-breed of long-haired cat similar in type to the Persian, with the exception of its blue eyes and its point colouration, which were derived from crossing the Persian with the Siamese. Some registries may classify the Himalayan as a long-haired sub-breed of Siamese, or a colorpoint sub-breed of Persian. The World Cat Federation has merged them with the Colorpoint Shorthair and Javanese into a single breed, the Colorpoint.

Birman Breed of cat

The Birman, also called the "Sacred Cat of Burma", is a domestic cat breed. The Birman is a long-haired, colour-pointed cat distinguished by a silky coat, deep blue eyes, and contrasting white "gloves" on each paw.

Burmese cat Breed of cat

The Burmese cat is a breed of domestic cat, originating in Burma, believed to have its roots near the Thai-Burma border and developed in the United States and Britain.

Havana Brown Breed of cat

The Havana Brown was the result of a planned breeding between Siamese and domestic black cats, by a group of cat fanciers in England, in the 1950s. Early breeders introduced a Siamese type Russian Blue into their breeding. However, using current genetic testing, it is believed that almost none remain in the gene pool.

Tonkinese cat Breed of cat

Tonkinese is a domestic cat breed produced by crossbreeding between the Siamese and Burmese. Members of the breed share many of their parents' distinctively lively, playful personality traits and are similarly distinguished by a pointed coat pattern in a variety of colors. In addition to the modified coat colors of the "mink" pattern, which is a dilution of the point color, the breed is now being shown in the foundation-like Siamese and Burmese colors: pointed with white and solid overall (sepia).

Oriental Shorthair Breed of cat

The Oriental Shorthair is a breed of domestic cat that is developed from and closely related to the Siamese cat. It maintains the modern Siamese head and body type but appears in a wide range of coat colors and patterns. Like the Siamese, Orientals have almond-shaped eyes, a triangular head shape, large ears, and an elongated, slender, and muscular body. Their personalities are also very similar. Orientals are social, intelligent, and many are rather vocal. They often remain playful into adulthood, with many enjoying playing fetch. Despite their slender appearance, they are athletic and can leap into high places. They prefer to live in pairs or groups and also seek human interaction. Unlike the breed's blue-eyed forebear, Orientals are usually green-eyed. The Oriental Longhair differs only with respect to coat length.

Snowshoe cat Breed of cat

The Snowshoe is a breed of cat originating in the United States of America in the 1960s. Snowshoes were first produced in Philadelphia when a Siamese breeder's cat gave birth to three kittens with white feet. The breeder, Dorothy Hinds-Daugherty, then began a breeding program to produce what were originally called "Silver Laces", crossing the strangely marked Siamese cats with bi-color American Shorthair cats and other breeds. When Hinds-Daugherty left the program, Vikki Olander began working with the cats and recruited new breeders, as well as worked towards full recognition within cat associations. Despite having existed for 45 years, Snowshoes are rare due to the difficulty of reproducing the correct coat markings. The marks are based on recessive genes for color points and on the co-dominant but variably-expressed piebald pattern gene, making it difficult to predict the appearance of offspring.

Point coloration

Point coloration refers to animal coat coloration with a pale body and relatively darker extremities, i.e. the face, ears, feet, tail, and scrotum. It is most recognized as the coloration of Siamese and related breeds of cat, but can be found in dogs, rabbits, rats, sheep, guinea pigs and horses as well.

Burmilla Breed of cat

The Burmilla is a breed of domestic cat which originated in the United Kingdom in 1981. It is a cross between the Chinchilla Persian and Burmese cats. Standards were produced in 1984, and the breed gained championship status in the United Kingdom in the 1990s.

Colorpoint Shorthair Variety of domestic cat

Colorpoint Shorthairs are a variety of domestic cats. Depending on the cat registry, they may be considered a separate breed of cat, or more often a variant of a pre-existing one, if accepted at all. These cats are distinguished by their conformance to wide range of sixteen different point colors, beyond the four standard Siamese colors. The variety was initially created by crossbreeding Siamese with the American Shorthair – the same mixture that created the Oriental Shorthair, but with different goals. The Colorpoint Shorthair shares the point-coloration pattern with the Siamese, but in the nontraditional colors of red, cream, tortoiseshell, and lynx (tabby) points, and minor variations thereof. In body style, head shape, and other features, it may be intermediate between the two foundation breeds, which show cats leaning toward Siamese traits. Those who favour the Traditional Siamese look may also favour the more moderate-typed Colorpoint Shorthairs that take after their American Shorthair ancestors in shape.

Peterbald Breed of cat

The Peterbald is a cat breed of Russian origin. It was created in St Petersburg in 1994 from an experimental breeding by Olga S. Mironova. They resemble Oriental Shorthairs with a hair-losing gene. The breed was accepted for Championship class competition in 2009.

Thai cat Breed of cat

The Thai or Wichien Maat is a newly renamed but old cat breed, related to but distinct from the Western, modern-style Siamese cat. This natural breed is descended from the cats of Thailand, and, among various groups of breeders in different times and places has also been called the Old-Style Siamese, Traditional Siamese, Classic Siamese; Wichien Maat ; and the Applehead, a nickname that originated in the 1950s. According to The International Cat Association: "The Thai is the breed dedicated to preserving the native pointed cat of Thailand in as close to its original form as possible."

Brazilian Shorthair Breed of cat

The Brazilian Shorthair is a breed of cat. It is the first cat breed from Brazil to receive international recognition.

Persian cat Breed of cat

The Persian cat is a long-haired breed of cat characterized by its round face and short muzzle. It is also known as the "Persian Longhair" in English-speaking countries. The first documented ancestors of Persian cats were imported into Italy from Persia around 1620. Recognized by the cat fancy since the late 19th century, Persian cats were first adopted by the English, and then mainly by American breeders after the Second World War. Some cat fancier organizations' breed standards subsume the Himalayan and Exotic Shorthair as variants of this breed, while others treat them as separate breeds.

Balinese cat Breed of cat

The Balinese is a long-haired breed of domestic cat with Siamese-style point coloration and sapphire-blue eyes. The Balinese is also known as the purebred long-haired Siamese, since it originated as a natural mutation of that breed and hence is essentially the same cat but with a medium-length silky coat and a distinctively plumed tail.

Suphalak Breed of cat

The Suphalak is a solid reddish-brown copper colored short-haired breed of cat originating in Thailand. The Suphalak is a natural breed and should not be confused with the sable Burmese cat, an established American and European created breed which expresses the colorpoint Burmese gene (cb) that results in a dark points on the extremities such as the ears, feet and tail as well as a dark mask on the face. A written description and pictorial of the Suphalak first appeared in the ancient Thai manuscripts over 300 years ago known as the Tamra Maew.

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