In this article, we offer you detailed information about the Siamese cat. For many people, the Siamese is the Cat. It is, of all the races, the most easily recognizable, with its colored “points”, its piercing blue eyes, and its long, elegant but muscular body. The literature and art of ancient Siam (Thailand) contain many allusions to this breed, which can therefore boast of an authentic exotic origin. Since its introduction to the Western world over 100 years ago, the Siamese have enjoyed increasing success both as a pet and as a show animal.
Today, it is perhaps the most popular breed of all. It is the subject of disagreements and controversies between breeders and feline associations. The standards are still very different here on the two Atlantic coasts; Americans favor oriental anatomy and a very narrow head with a straight profile like a Roman profile, while Europeans are less demanding. Many cats exhibit in Europe under the name of Siamese, red, tabby and many other “dot” colors are rejected by the CFA, which obliges to register under the name of Shorthair Colourpoints. Crossbreeding between the two color groups is therefore limited for breeders who register their kittens with the CFA.
Origins of Siamese and myths
Although theories abound on the origin of the Siamese (it has even been suggested that it is related to Egyptian cats and the Manx).
It is certain today that it was a variety already very appreciated in the ancient Siamese city of Ayudha. The latter was founded in 1350; it was the capital of Siam until it was set on fire by the Burmese invaders in 1767. The Thai National Library in Bangkok contains manuscripts recovered in Ayudha which contain lists of native cats, dogs, and birds of the time. These handwritten cats are renowned for their beautiful Siamese seal point with transparent coats. The poems describe them as having black tails, legs, and ears, the rest of the coat white, and red eyes. The people of Siam did not consider Colorpoint cats to be their only native variety, but it seems obvious that they were particularly popular and that the monarchs had them in their palates. Other native cats included the Si-Sawat and the Supalak. The “dot” cats represented by the Ayudha artists had very pale coats, with minimal colored tips. However, they may have depicted an idealized cat rather than the existing reality.
In the article “the origins of the domestic cat” you can find more information about the origin of the Siamese cat.
Description of the Siamese cat by the naturalist Simon Pallas
In 1793, naturalist Simon Pallas described a Siamese-patterned cat, found in central Russia, apparently much darker. The body was brown, darker on the back, a black stripe running from nose to forehead and encircling the eyes while the ears, legs, and tail were almost black. The temperature differences between Russia and Southeast Asia explain this darker coloration. The pigment formation in Siamese is very dependent on temperature. The lower the temperature, the darker the color. But it’s still unclear whether these cats were descended from imported Siamese, or whether the mutant Siamese gene spontaneously arose in this region.
The same can be said of the first Siamese to appear in Europe. They have been the subject of various speculations and comments about the origin of their ladle and curved tail, two characteristics of the breed. It has been said, for example, that the sacred cats of the temples of Burma had custody of a precious vase, which they ensured by surrounding it with their tails, and by staring at it so much that they squinted. Another explanation has been given for the curved tail: the royal princesses of Siam relied on their cats to watch over their rings; these were threaded over the cats’ tails and the curvature developed to prevent falling. Modern explanations are more down-to-earth, with both characters appearing to have a genetic basis. Stabilization in particular seems to be linked to the Siamese gene. Breeders try to reduce these two shortcomings by means of selective breeding.
The Siamese in the history of cats
It is not known when the Siamese first appeared in Europe. It is said that the British consul general stationed in Bangkok in 1884 acquired there a couple of seal points that his sister exhibited the following year in London.
We had known the Siamese in Britain for at least fourteen years, having seen a few of them in 1871 in a cat show. They had been described at the time as “nightmare cats”. Despite this initial negative reaction, they achieved rapid success. It was quickly discovered that they were prone to genetic and respiratory diseases, but by the end of the 19th century, the breed was already well established in Britain. The Siamese arrived in the United States around 1890, given, it is assumed, by the King of Siam to an American friend.