Birmans have been bred as companions for many generations, and, as such, are very loving. They frequently take a genuine, affectionate interest in what their owners do.
Many years ago, before the birth of Buddha, the Khmer people of Burma built wonderful temples to Tsun Kyan-Kse, the Goddess with the sapphire eyes, who presides over the journey of souls, and authorize the priests to live again in a holy animal for the term of its natural life, before taking again in a divine body of a great priest. The most beautiful of these temples, built on the sides of Mount Lugh, contained a dazzling solid gold statue of the Goddess. The priests of the temple also kept one hundred pure white cats not only to guard the temple, but also to exist as companions. The elderly head priest, Mun-Ha, had a particularly loyal feline friend, Sinh, whose eyes were yellow in the reflection of the golden body of the Goddess with the serene eyes.
One tempestuous night, Phoums from Siam attacked the temple overwhelming the Kittahs, and killing the priest Mun-Ha. As he sat dying in his golden throne, Sinh leapt onto his head, and, as he sat rigid before the statue of the Goddess, a miracle transpired. His appearance was transformed to one of immense exquisiteness. His impeccable white coat became creamy and golden tinted, his ears, nose, tail and legs became dark, like the color of the earth, but left his paws white, and his eyes glowed the same sapphire as the Goddess. He then stared at the south door. The priests, acting upon his direct look, rushed to close the heavy bronze doors.
Eventually, temple was devoid of invaders once more. Sinh, however, stayed upon Mun-Ha’s head for the next seven days with neither food nor water, before, facing the Goddess, he died ““ carrying Mun-Ha’s soul to Tsun Kyan-Kse”¦ and when, Seven days later, the amassed priests consulted the statue on the succession of Mun-Ha, the remaining ninety-nine cats of the temple ran up, all of which had been transformed like Sinh, surrounded the youngest of the priests. Therefore, the reincarnated ancestors were chosen by the Goddess’s heavenly spirit.
The legend also dictates that when a priest died, his soul was channeled into the body of a cat and upon the cat’s death the priest’s soul had entered heaven”“ although, according to Major Russell Gordon, “But woe also to he who brings about the end of one of these marvelous beasts, even if he did not mean to. He will suffer the cruelest torments until the soul he has upset has been appeased.”
The legend fails to explain the genuine, scientific derivation of these cats, and the mystery surrounding their initial background will probably never be revealed. However, legends often have some truth in them.
Birmans have semi-long, silky hair, a semi-cobby body and relatively small ears compared to other cat races. In order to comply with breed standards, the Birman’s body should be of an eggshell color or golden, depending on the intensity of the markings color. The markings can be pure seal, chocolate, blue, red, lilac or cream. Tabby variations are also allowed. Tortie cats can be seal, chocolate, blue or lilac. Birmans have sapphire colored eyes.
The Birman’s coat is unusual due to the white ‘gloves’ on each paw. They are the only cat breed in the colorpoint coat that has fingers and toes in pure white color. The genetics of this feature is still unclear.
All Birmans are all born white and they start developing their colors between one and two weeks of age. The first part which develops the color is the points of ears, nose and tail. By the age of two the coloration process should be complete.
Colors and coat
This breed has a pale cream colored body and colored points of Seal, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Seal Tortie, Cream, Blue Cream, Chocolate/Lilac tortie, Seal Tabby, Blue Tabby, Chocolate Tabby, Lilac Tabby, Red/Cream Tabby, Tortie Tabby, Lynx or Red Factor colors on the legs, tail and face. The coat is medium-length, not as long and thick as a Persian’s, and does not mat. A notable feature is their clear blue eyes, which remain blue throughout their life.
The only white areas on the cat’s body are its gloves. A spot of white in other area is a fault in a Sacred Birman cat. Gloves are symmetrical in all four feet. The white must stop at the transition of toes to metacarpals; all fingers must be white too. Behind the back paws, the gloves conclude in an inverted “˜V’.
Care of Birmans
Birmans have been bred for their temperament, and companionship, and they form a great affinity with their owner and their family. As all cats, they are highly intelligent creatures, and seem to take a genuine interest in whatever is taking place around them. They are also very inquisitive, and playful, particularly when young, and require plenty of stimulation and attention.
Birman Naming Conventions
Many Birman breeders follow the somewhat whimsical French tradition of assigning all kittens born in a particular year given names that begin with the same letter of the alphabet. Countries with breeders using this convention include France, UK, USA, Australia/New Zealand and possibly others. Certain letters are skipped in some countries (e.g. France skips “W”). If you know the cat’s country of origin, and whether the cat’s breeder adheres to a country-standard or cattery-personalized naming convention, this practice makes it relatively easy to determine the approximate age of a Birman.
In the USA, for example, the entire alphabet has been run through once, ending with the letter “Z” in 2002, and beginning again with “A” in 2003. Kittens born in 2007 thus fall into the “E” year.