Choosing a new cat to bring into your household is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You shouldn’t pick a new pet based solely on their appearance, though that’s often what happens when one begins their hunt for the perfect family pet. While appearance can be an important factor to consider, you’ll also need to look at the cats’ specific needs and personalities based on their breed.
Birman and Balinese cats are similar in both appearance and personality. They’re both fantastic family-centric breeds known for their affectionate and curious nature. They do have some stark differences, however, that you need to take into consideration before choosing one to bring into your home.
Keep reading to learn the differences between these two long-haired cat breeds to find which will be the best pick for your family.
At a Glance
Birman Cat Overview
The Birman cat is an ancient breed that’s been idolized and prized for many generations. Once known as the “Sacred Cat of Burma” this long-haired and color-pointed cat is easily recognizable by its silky and soft coat, striking blue eyes and white-gloved paws.
Many people believe that the breed originated as companions of priests in Burma. The first historical records of the Birman cat trace back to the 1920s in France. Some stories suggest that Birmans first were introduced in France as a prize for helping to defend temples and others say the breed was smuggled out of the country by a Vanderbilt.
Regardless of how they wound up in France, the breed was almost eradicated during World War II. Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa were the only two Birmans in Europe by the end of WWII, and the foundations of the breed in post-war France came from these two. As time went on, they needed to be heavily crossbred with other long-haired breeds, like Persians and Siamese, to restore the Birman breed. It was possible by the 1950s to begin producing purebred Birman litters again.
The two best words to describe the character of Birmans is sweet and affectionate. They are social with nearly everyone in the family and often do very well in multi-pet households provided they’re introduced properly. Most Birmans prefer to be a part of a household with other pets.
Adult Birmans aren’t as highly active as other breeds so they’re unlikely to have a case of the Zoomies at three in the morning. Their laid-back attitude makes them perfect for families looking for a sweet kitty who prefers a cozy lap to late-night shenanigans. They are very social and adore attention from their favorite person. It’s not unusual to find them following you around the house just so they can be close to you at all times.
Birmans are medium-sized cats with beautiful pointed coats. The telltale sign of a pointed coat is when the extremities are darker than the body. Like all cats with color point coats, Birmans are born all white and then develop their color as they mature. Their coats will not be fully developed until they’re around2 years old.
Birmans feet always have white “gloves.” The accepted point colors one can expect to see in a Birman include seal, chocolate, blue, lilac, red, or cream. You can also find tabby and tortie variations in seal, blue, or lilac, and there are even more colors currently in development.
Though their coat is long, it’s simple to care for because there’s no undercoat. This leads to their silky fur rarely becoming tangled or matted.
The Birman cat fits well into nearly every household. If you have small children or other pets, the Birmans laid-back personality will jive well with your other housemates. They’re a perfect breed for people on the lookout for a loyal and affectionate lap kitty.
Balinese Cat Overview
The Balinese breed combines everything that people love about Siamese cats but with a soft and luxurious long coat. Think of a Balinese as a fluffier Siamese. In fact, its silky and long coat is the reason that the breed exists in the first place.
Long-haired Siamese kittens began appearing randomly in shorthaired Siamese litters in the early 1900s. Initially, these long-haired anomalies were considered to be a fault in the bloodline, but by the 1940s, American breeders started making an effort to develop the long-haired variant as a separate breed from the Siamese.
Some people still consider the Balinese to be just a long-haired variety of a Siamese, but the Cat Fanciers Federation recognized it as a separate breed in 1961.
Balinese cats tend to be very vocal, active, and intelligent. They love to play, and their infinite curiosity means they need plenty of enrichment through toys and scratching posts. They love to climb up as high as they can, so providing them with high perches to scale will save your home furnishings from destruction. Their cleverness makes them rather easy to train. The positive reinforcement method is a great way to start training your Balinese to do tricks.
These cats love having company. They don’t like to be left to their own devices for too long as this can lead to stress, anxiety, and potentially destructive behaviors. Balinese cats can thrive in homes with children and other pets provided that proper introduction protocols are followed. They can be rather demanding of their attention and friendship and are fiercely loyal.
Balinese cats are very athletic and agile. They’re often found hitching a ride on the shoulders of any willing family member.
Balinese cats have a medium-length silky coat. They do shed with the seasons, but their coat doesn’t call for much maintenance from you. The absence of an undercoat means their fur won’t get tangled.
Their tails should have a plume or fringe of longer hair. The Balinese eyes can range from a pale blue color to violet and the intensity of the color can change throughout their lifespan.
Kittens are born pure white and will develop visible color points as they age. You can identify the color point in kittens by looking at their paw pad (toe bean) color. Kittens with pink pads will have chocolate or lilac points while those with darker pads will have blue and seal points. These colored points will show in the colder parts of their body such as their face, paws, ears, and tail.
The colors are usually identifiable by the time the Balinese kitten is 4 weeks old. Their coloring can change depending on where you’re raising your kitten. Adult Balinese cats that live in warmer climates tend to have lighter color coats than those who live in cooler areas.
Balinese cats are perfect for households with a lot of time to devote to their pets. They don’t like to be alone and become unhappy and distressed if left without companionship for some time. They need a home with plenty of vertical space to explore and family members to interact with them.
Which Breed Is Right for You?
There are some definite similarities between the Birman and Balinese cat breeds. They’re both affectionate and loyal. They can get along great with children and other pets. They often have similar coloring, too.
Balinese cats can live longer than their Birman counterparts, with some easily reaching age 20. They also tend to be more active, so you’ll need to provide plenty of toys and enrichment activities to keep them happy.
Birmans can be needier and are absolute lap cats. They don’t tend to get into as much trouble as Balinese cats and often don’t bother trying to scale your countertops or get onto the highest perch in your home.
Both Balinese and Birman cats are lovely additions to any cat lover’s household. The decision might ultimately come down to how active you prefer your cats to be. If you’re looking for an attention-seeking athletic kitty, the Birman will keep you on your toes. If you prefer a quieter and more snuggly kitty, you can’t go wrong with a Balinese.
Featured Image Credits: Stokkete, Shutterstock/A__B, Shutterstock