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The Siamese Cat

The Siamese cat is a medium sized cat with an angular shape to practically every single portion of its head and body. It doesn’t take a mathematics professor to see the symmetry of this lovely breed of cat. Notice the triangles on the cat, Misha (to the left). The head is triangular in shape and is adorned with large triangular-shaped ears. The eyes are almond-shaped and are positioned so that the outside corners of the eyes point straight to the center of the base of the ears. The “lines” of the Siamese cat are supposed to be “clean” with very little deviation—sharp lines and very few curves.

Points of the Siamese cat should be uniform in color whether on the face, the tail or the legs. Points should be free of barring. The body color should be clear but can shade darker as a cat grows older. Misha is 7 years old, so he is darker in body color, but the contrast between his body color and his points is still very apparent—a characteristic we all work tirelessly to achieve in breeding. Young Siamese cats almost always have color that merits approval by the Siamese standard. When I say young Siamese, I am talking about Siamese cats who are 1 year or younger. It is the older cat that validates the breeding behind a Siamese. If color and contrast can be maintained on an older cat, it is a true test of the cat’s adherence to the breed standard.

The Traditional Siamese (aka Applehead Siamese) is one of the oldest breeds of domestic cats. It preserves the look of the breed much as it existed when originally imported from Siam—a muscular, athletic cat, with a round head, brilliant blue eyes, and a striking contrast between point and body color, which characterizes the breed. They are very calm, affectionate cats, typically healthy and long-lived—15-20 years is average, and over 20 is not uncommon.

The Siamese is considered by many to be a “natural” breed—one that developed without the intervention of man. Pictures of seal-point Siamese cats appear in the manuscript “Cat-Book Poems”, written in Siam (now Thailand) sometime between 1350 and 1700 CE. There are a great many legends regarding the origin of the breed, especially the crossed eyes and kinked tails. According to some of the legends the Siamese cat guarded Buddhist temples, was considered sacred, and was only kept by priests and royalty. The first Siamese cats appeared in the West in the mid-to-late 1800s. Though initially described as “an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat,” they quickly became popular with fanciers in spite of the fact that these early cats were delicate and subject to health problems. The first Siamese cats had crossed eyes and kinked tails, characteristics that are now considered faults and have almost completely disappeared as a result of careful breeding. Photographs from the late 1880s of some of the first cats to be imported from Siam show the thick, round heads and solid, muscular bodies that distinguish the Traditional Siamese from today’s show Siamese.

As the Siamese breed has developed over the years, some breeders have preferred to propagate the rounder look, while others have preferred to propagate a slender look with a wedge-shaped head. During the 1950s and 1960s the differences became even more pronounced: show breeders developed an extremely slender cat with a very long, triangular head, almond-shaped eyes, and flaring ears. This look caught on with show-oriented Siamese breeders and with judges. Other breeders, who did not like the new look, continued to breed the larger, round-headed cats. These “Traditional” breeders found that their cats were no longer competitive in the show ring and stopped showing. A great many also stopped registering their cats, though they continued their breeding programs with their existing purebred Siamese stock.

Today, Traditional Siamese cats are somewhat rare, though they seem to be making a comeback, as the breed is popular with pet buyers. It should be pointed out that Traditional Siamese are purebred cats, descended from the original cats imported from Siam. A pointed cat that you find in the shelter, though it may look Siamese, is probably not a Traditional Siamese cat. Enough purebred Siamese cats have interbred with domestic cats over the years that the gene that creates the pointing pattern is found in a large number of cats, so some may look Siamese when, in fact, they have very little Siamese blood in them.

The “pointing” gene creates the distinct color pattern that distinguishes the Siamese breed. This gene is recessive: two pointed parents will always produce pointed kittens. The Siamese kitten is pure white at birth.  The gene that produces the dark points on the face, paws, and tail is heat sensitive, and the point color gradually develops on the cooler parts of the body. In some breeding lines, and in warmer climates, the point color may not fully develop until the cat is over a year old. Older cats have a darker body color than young cats and kittens, though there is still a marked contrast between the body color and the point color.

The Seal Point Siamese is genetically a black cat, but the point gene causes the color to manifest almost exclusively on the points. As the cat matures, the creamy body color will usually give way to a light shade of the point color, particularly with seal and blue points. For this reason, seal and blue point Siamese have relatively short careers as show cats—it’s rare to see one at a cat show over the age of two. Chocolate and lilac point Siamese cats don’t darken as quickly and can be shown longer. The recognized colors are: Seal Point, Blue Point, Chocolate Point, and Lilac Point. The Red Point is not an accepted Traditional Siamese color, though it is an accepted Siamese color in some cat organizations.

Traditional Siamese cats require very little grooming on the owner’s part, as the cat is able to keep itself clean and well groomed. Still, most cats enjoy the sensation of being brushed or combed, and this is a good way to remove excess fur and keep it from ending up on your clothes or your furniture. Traditional Siamese do not shed excessively.

Other than that, there are no known defects that are specific to the Traditional Siamese. As in most purebred animals, there are some genetic problems that creep in from time to time, but responsible breeders work very hard at keeping their lines as healthy as possible.

Characteristics and Temperament
The Traditional Siamese is an intelligent, people-oriented cat that enjoys human companionship, whether they are busy lap-warming or chasing a toy. They are inquisitive and friendly and like nothing better than to sit in the middle of something you are trying to read. They talk to their people in an affectionate, conversational way. With their calm temperaments, they are well adapted to life in either a house or an apartment. They are not in perpetual motion—they have a fairly balanced activity level and are just as happy to chase a toy as to curl up in your lap for a snooze.

AZ Siamese Rescue
If you think you’d like to be the proud parent of a beautiful Siamese, visit this link for more information regarding adoption:



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