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Who’s That Cat? The Siamese, if You Please

These gorgeous cats from modern-day Thailand are loyal, intelligent, playful -- and yes, vocal.

Kim Campbell Thornton  |  Mar 28th 2016


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

The Siamese is possibly the most widely recognized pedigreed cat breed in the world. His
striking pointed coat, loud and raspy voice, and lordly manner are beloved by millions of cat owners who have fondly nicknamed Siamese cats “meezers.”

Loyal, intelligent, personable, and, yes, vocal, Siamese have attracted followers since they were first introduced to the West in the late 19th century and no doubt earlier in their homeland of Siam — modern-day Thailand. They stand out for their wedge-shaped head, slender body, sapphirine eyes, and, of course, the characteristic “points” on the coat: darker coloration on the face, ears, paws, and tail.

Siamese cat and kitten by Shutterstock

Siamese cat and kitten by Shutterstock

Over the years, Siamese have evolved into two different types: the slinky cats seen at cat shows and the chunkier version with a more rounded head, sometimes called the “Applehead” or “Old-Style Siamese.” The International Cat Association registers Thai cats, described as “the native pointed cat of Thailand in as close to its original form as possible.”

Living with a Siamese cat

• Siamese love to snuggle with their people or with other cats. They are especially fond of cats like themselves — other Siamese or colorpoint or Oriental shorthairs, for instance — but they can make friends with other cats and even dogs. Expect them to rule with an iron paw.

• To a Siamese, everything is a toy. Put away anything you don’t want him to play with. He’s not above theft to get what he wants. And beware of what you might accidentally teach him. “If something is done two days in a row, it becomes expected,” said breed expert Mary Ann Martin.

• Siamese play hard, then collapse for a cat nap.

• Siamese want to be with their people all the time and may take umbrage at closed doors. Expect them to follow you into the bathroom or anywhere else in the house you might go. “Siamese are much like dogs and thrive on attention from their humans,” said breed expert Dee Johnson.

• A Siamese does best when given plenty of playtime, training, and attention. Do get a Siamese if you want a cat who will get along with other cats and dogs and who is amenable to leash training. Be aware that even if you think you’re purchasing the cat for a specific person in the family, he will choose his own favorite and it might not be the “giftee.”

Illustration of a Siamese cat from the 14th-century poetry book "Tamra Maew."

Illustration of a Siamese cat from the 14th-century poetry book “Tamra Maew.”

History

• The Siamese originated in Thailand (formerly Siam), which is where he gets his name. Based on illustrations in a book of poems, called Tamra Maew, pointed cats were known in Siam as early as the 14th century.

• Westerners were introduced to the breed in the late 19th century. The American consul in Bangkok delivered a Siamese — the first in the United States — to the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879. In Britain, where they were first introduced in 1884, they were known as the Royal Cat of Siam.

• The Cat Fanciers’ Association began registering Siamese in 1906, making them one of the earliest pedigreed cat breeds. Other cat associations that recognize the Siamese include American Cat Fanciers Association, Cat Fanciers Federation, and The International Cat Association.

• In 2014, the Siamese was the ninth most popular breed registered by the Cat Fanciers Association, out of 43.

Siamese kittens are born with white fur; their markings (points) develop later. Siamese kitten by Shutterstock

Siamese kittens are born with white fur; their markings (points) develop later. Siamese kitten by Shutterstock

Things you should know

• The Siamese is a moderate-size cat, typically weighing six to 12 pounds (males are larger).

• Siamese are noted for their longevity. Given good care and nutrition, a Siamese can live 15 to 20 years or more.

• The Siamese is a generally healthy breed, but the cats can be prone to certain types of eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy and an inherited disorder called amyloidosis (protein deposits in the liver).

Hayley Mills (left) with the Siamese in "That Darn Cat."

Hayley Mills (left) with the Siamese in “That Darn Cat.”

Fun Facts

• The jewels in the Siamese crown are the cat’s slanted, deep-blue eyes, contrasting with the pale coat and dark points.

• Siamese kittens are born white. Their points develop gradually during their first year, beginning even before they’re weaned. Other pointed breeds come in a variety of point colors and patterns, but the classic Siamese is limited to four: seal point, chocolate point, lilac point, and blue point. However, TICA also accepts bi-color and tortoiseshell (with or without white).

• Siamese have been popular movie stars. Films and television shows in which they’ve “me-wowed” audiences include Lady and the Tramp; Bell, Book and Candle; The Incredible Journey; Bewitched; That Darn Cat; and The Aristocats.