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Get to Know the Balinese: A Siamese in a Glamorous Coat

This happy accident is the ideal breed for lovers of Siamese temperament and the long-haired look.

JaneA Kelley  |  Mar 10th 2015


I met my first Balinese several years ago at a cat show. She looked like a runway model — long, lean, and perfectly elegant and poised as she sat in her cage waiting for her turn in the show ring. Here’s the scoop on this beautiful breed.

Photo CC-BY-SA Nickolas Titkov‘>

Photo CC-BY-SA Nickolas Titkov

Origins

Long-haired kittens appear from time to time in litters of Siamese cats, and they always have, but It wasn’t until the 1950s that people began attempting to breed them. We can credit Siamese breeders Marion Dorsey and Helen Smith for the breed’s development; they each had a litter with long-haired kittens and fell in love with them.

Breeder Sylvia Holland continued working to establish a Balinese breed standard in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work paid off when the Balinese was given championship in the International Cat Association in 1979; the Cat Fanciers’ Association and many other registries also recognize the breed.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

A traditional Balinese, like a traditional Siamese, has fine bones but is a bit bigger and has a rounder head. Photo: Shutterstock

Appearance

As with the Siamese, there are two types of Balinese: the “traditional” with fine bones and oval paws but a more rounded head, and the “modern” type, who has all the extreme features of the modern Siamese. Like the Siamese, the Balinese has blue eyes. The only real difference between the two breeds is the length of the coat.

Balinese come in a huge array of color points, from the more traditional seal, chocolate, and blue, through flame point, lynx point, and tortie point.

Male Balinese cats weigh between eight and 12 pounds, and females are slightly smaller.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

The modern Balinese, like the modern Siamese, has a wedge-shaped head, very large ears, and an extra-lean body. Photo: Shutterstock

Health and longevity

Balinese share their Siamese kin’s tendency to live long lives. Some have been reported to live as long as 20 years, so you’re looking at a very long-term commitment when you bring a Balinese into your life.

One particular health concern in the Balinese (as well as the Siamese and other related breeds) is lysosomal storage disease, an enzyme deficiency which causes swelling of the tissues. In cats, this disease usually affects the brain, causing symptoms ranging from blindness to balance problems to inconsistent behavior to seizures.

Photo: Shutterstock‘>

Apparently Balinese cats also come in pure white. Photo: Shutterstock

What it’s like to live with a Balinese

Your Balinese is a super-outgoing cat who loves to share every minute with you. She’ll be there to “help” you with tasks ranging from folding the laundry to checking your email, and she’ll be happy to entertain you with her clownish antics. Although she’s a chatty Cathy like her Siamese cousins, her voice is softer and a bit sweeter. Balinese are known to enjoy playing fetch and walking on a leash, and they get along well with children and other pets.

Balinese cats don’t do well if they have to spend a lot of time alone. Make sure your Balinese has another kitty friend, or at the very least a friendly dog, for when you’re away from home.

Unlike most long-haired cats, keeping your Balinese mat-free and beautiful is a snap. Her single coat means that one brushing a week should keep the mats away.

Photo CC-BY-SA Фотограф:Анна Утехина via Wikimedia Commons’>

Modern chocolate tortie-point Balinese. Photo CC-BY-SA Фотограф:Анна Утехина via Wikimedia Commons

Balinese trivia bits

  • Breed founder Helen Smith came up with the name Balinese because the cats’ elegance and grace reminded her of traditional dancers from the island nation of Bali.
  • At first, the Cat Fanciers’ Association only accepted the Balinese in the classic Siamese colors — seal, blue, chocolate, and lilac. All other colors and patterns were originally referred to as the Javanese, but in 2008, breeders voted to merge the two.
  • According to some research, the Balinese produces much less of the allergenic proteins Fel d1 and Fel d4 than many cats. Some breeders are working to get more rigorous testing of the hypoallergenic nature of the breed.

Photo CC-BY libodyssey10‘>

Photo CC-BY libodyssey10

Do you have a Balinese in your home? What’s it like to live with her? Please share your thoughts and photos of your Balinese in the comments.

Read other breed profiles on Catster:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.