Breeding for Temperament & Style

About the Siamese & Oriental Breeds

Siamese

History
Both a description and depiction of the Siamese cat first appears in a collection of ancient manuscripts called the Tamra Maew (The Cat-Book Poems) thought to originate from the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351 to 1767 AD). Over a dozen are now kept in the National Library of Thailand, while others have resurfaced outside of Thailand and are now in the British Library and National Library of Australia.

When the capital city Ayutthaya was sacked on 7 April 1767 at the end of the Burmese-Siamese war the Burmese army burned everything in sight and returned to Burma taking Siamese noblemen and royal family members with them as captives. Buddha images were hacked apart for their gold, and all the royal treasures were stolen. Thai (formerly Siam) legend has it that the Burmese King Hsinbyushin found and read the poem for the Siamese cats in the Tamra Maew. The poem describes the all Siamese cats as being as rare as gold, and anyone that owns this cat will become wealthy. He told his army to round up all the Suphalak cats and bring them back to Burma along with the other treasures. Today in Thailand this legend is told as a humorous explanation as to why the traditional Siamese cats are so rare.

In 1878, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes received the first documented Siamese to reach the United States, a cat named "Siam" sent by the American Consul in Bangkok. 

In 1884, the British Consul-General in Bangkok, Edward Blencowe Gould (1847–1916), brought a breeding pair of the cats, Pho and Mia, back to Britain as a gift for his sister, Lilian Jane Gould (who, married in 1895 as Lilian Jane Veley, went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901). In 1885, Gould's UK cats Pho and Mia produced three Siamese kittens (Duen Ngai, Kalohom, and Khromata) who were shown with their parents that same year at London's Crystal Palace Show. Their unique appearance and distinct behaviour attracted attention but all three of the kittens died soon after the show, their cause of death not documented.

By 1886, another pair (with kittens) was imported to the UK by Eva Forestier Walker (surnamed Vyvyan after 1887 marriage) and her sister, Ada. Compared to the British Shorthair and Persian cats that were familiar to most Britons, these Siamese imports were longer and less "cobby" in body types, had heads that were less rounded with wedge-shaped muzzles and had larger ears. These differences and the pointed coat pattern, which had not been seen before in cats by Westerners, produced a strong impression—one early viewer described them as "an unnatural nightmare of a cat." Over the next several years, fanciers imported a small number of cats, which together formed the base breeding pool for the entire breed in Britain. It is believed that most Siamese in Britain today are descended from about eleven of these original imports. In their early days in Britain, they were called the "Royal Cat of Siam", reflecting reports that they had previously been kept only by Siamese royalty. Later research has not shown evidence of any organised royal breeding programme in Siam. The original Siamese imports were medium-sized, rather long-bodied, muscular, graceful cats with moderately wedge-shaped heads and ears that were comparatively large but in proportion to the size of the head. The cats ranged from substantial to slender but were not extreme in either way.

In the 1950s–1960s, as the Siamese was increasing in popularity, many breeders wanted to emphasise and augment the qualities that made the cats so different and through selective breeding, they developed an increasingly elongated, angular, finer-boned type of Siamese. This "modern" or "show-style" type of Siamese dominated in the show halls.

By the mid-1980s, cats of the original style had largely disappeared from cat shows, but a few breeders, particularly in the UK, continued to breed and register them, resulting in today's two types of Siamese, the Modern Siamese, and the Old-Style Siamese, Classic Siamese, Traditional Siamese, or Applehead Siamese (a nickname that originated as a pejorative used by breeders of the modern-style Siamese). Both types of Siamese descended from the same distant ancestors, but with few or no recent ancestors in common, and effectively forming distinct sub-breeds, with some pressure to separate them entirely.

Recently, a copy of the 1936 publication "Siamese Cats" was digitalised. For further information about the changes to the Siamese breed over the years, we have provided a copy of this document (including pictures) via the below link:

Siamese Cats - By Sydney W. France

Appearance
The breed standard of the modern Siamese calls for an elongated, tubular, and muscular body and a triangular head, forming a perfect triangle from the tip of the nose to each tip of the ear. The eyes are almond-shaped and light blue, while the ears are large, wide-based, and positioned more towards the side of the head. The breed has a long neck, a slender tail, and fur that is short, glossy, fine, and adheres to the body with no undercoat. Its pointed color scheme and blue eyes distinguish it from the closely related Oriental Shorthair. The modern Siamese shares the pointed color pattern with the Thai, or traditional Siamese, but they differ in head and body type.

The Traditional Siamese have a much more customary cat appearance, with rounder eyes, face and body, and normal-sized ears, compared to the modern Siamese breed.

The International Cat Association (TICA) and the World Cat Federation (WCF) now accept Siamese cats of the less extreme type, and any wichianmat cat imported directly from Thailand, under the new breed name Thai Other, mostly unofficial, names for the traditional variety are "Old-style Siamese", "Classic Siamese", and "Applehead" (originally a derogatory nickname coined by breeders of modern-type Siamese).

The pointed pattern of the Siamese is a form of partial albinism, resulting from a mutation in tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin production. The mutated tyrosinase enzyme is heat-sensitive; it fails to work at normal body temperatures, but becomes active in cooler (< 33 °C) areas of the skin. This results in dark colouration in the coolest parts of the cat's body, including the extremities and the face, which is cooled by the passage of air through the sinuses.

All Siamese kittens, although pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of life in colder parts of their body. By the time a kitten is four weeks old, the points should be sufficiently clearly distinguishable to recognise which colour they are. Siamese cats tend to darken with age, and generally, adult Siamese living in warm climates have lighter coats than those in cool climates.

Originally the vast majority of Siamese had seal (extremely dark brown, almost black) points, but occasionally Siamese were born with "blue" (a cool grey) points, genetically a dilution of seal point; chocolate (lighter brown) points, a genetic variation of seal point; or lilac (pale warm gray) points, genetically a diluted chocolate. These colours were at first considered "inferior" seal points, and were not qualified for showing or breeding. All of these shades were eventually accepted by the breed associations, and became more common through breeding programmes specifically aimed at producing these colours.

Later, outcrosses with other breeds developed Siamese-mix cats with points in other cat colours and patterns, including Red point, Cream point, Cinnamon point and Fawn point, lynx (tabby) point, tortoise-shell ("tortie") point and fairly recently, Bi-colour point.

In the United Kingdom, all pointed Siamese-style cats are considered part of the Siamese breed. In the United States, a major cat registry, the Cat Fanciers' Association, considers only the four original fur colors as Siamese: seal point, blue point, chocolate point, and lilac point. Oriental Shorthair cats with color points in colors or patterns aside from these four are considered color point Short hairs in that registry. The World Cat Federation has also adopted this classification, treating the color point Short hair as a distinct breed.

Many Siamese cats from Thailand had a kink in their tails, but over the years this trait has been considered a flaw. Breeders have largely eradicated it, but the kinked tail persists among street cats in Thailand.

Temperament
Siamese are usually very affectionate and intelligent cats, renowned for their social nature. Many enjoy being with people and are sometimes described as "extroverts". Often they bond strongly to a single person. Some Siamese are extremely vocal, with a loud, low-pitched voice—known as "Meezer", from which they get one of their nicknames—that has been compared to the cries of a human baby, and persistent in demanding attention. These cats are typically active and playful, even as adults, and are often described as more dog-like in behavior than other cats.

Siamese cats, due to their desire to be near people or other cats, occasionally suffer from depression if left alone for long periods of time, and it is for this reason that Siamese cats are often bought in pairs so that they can keep each other company.

General Health
Based on Swedish insurance data, which tracked cats only up to 12.5 years, Siamese and Siamese-derived breeds have a higher rate of mortality compared to other breeds. The median lifespan of the Siamese group was somewhere between 10 and 12.5 years. 68% lived to 10 years or more and 42% to 12.5 years or more.

Siamese Scooter holds the record as the world's oldest male cat, dying at the age of 30. The majority of deaths were caused by neoplasms, mainly mammary tumors. The Siamese also has a higher rate of morbidity. They are at higher risk of neoplastic and gastrointestinal problems but have a lower risk of feline lower urinary tract disease.

Vet clinic data from England shows a higher median lifespan of 14.2 years.

The same albino allele that produces coloured points means that Siamese cats' blue eyes lack a tapetum lucidum, a structure which amplifies dim light in the eyes of other cats. The mutation in the tyrosinase also results in abnormal neurological connections between the eye and the brain. The optic chiasm has abnormal uncrossed wiring; many early Siamese were cross-eyed to compensate, but like the kinked tails, the crossed eyes have been seen as a fault and due to selective breeding the trait is far less common today. Still this lack of a tapetum lucidum even in uncross-eyed cats causes reduced vision for the cat at night. This trait has led to their dependence and interest in humans, as it affects their hunting ability, a desirable trait for many owners. However, it also makes them vulnerable to urban dangers such as night-time vehicular traffic.

Unlike many other blue-eyed white cats, Siamese cats do not have reduced hearing ability.

Furthermore, the Siamese cat is more prone than other breeds to lung infections, especially in kittenhood, feline OCD, Vestibular Disease and Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a disease of the retina which ultimately causes blindness. It is related to the mutation of the rdAc-gene, for which there is a DNA test – therefore when adopting a kitten of any breed known to have PRA within its bloodlines, you should always ensure the breeder has performed PRA DNA tests. On your kittens parents. The disease is known to be present in Abyssinians, Somali and has been widely reported to be present in Siamese, Oriental Shorthair, Oriental Longhair, Balinese, Javanese, and Peterbald cats.

The retina contains cells called photoreceptors which absorb the light focused on them by the eye lenses and converts them into electric signals which are passed through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain interprets these signals where they are perceived as vision.

When a cat has PRA the photoreceptors degenerate over time and ultimately cause blindness. Typically, the sight in affected cats gradually gets worse with total blindness around 4 to 5 years, though there are reports of total blindness not being diagnosed until much later.

Breeds derived from the Siamese
Many commonly known breeds of cat today would not be in existence without the Siamese cat being used in approved experimental breeding programs. Some of these breeds include:

Oriental

History
The Oriental is a breed of domestic cat that is closely related to the Modern Siamese.

While the breed’s genetic roots are ultimately in Thailand, like the Siamese, it was formally developed principally in the US. According to the CFA breed profile, "Orientals represent a diverse group of cats that have their foundation in the Siamese breed." 

The Siamese, in both pointed and solid colours, was imported to the UK from Siam (today, Thailand) in the latter half of the 1800s, and from there spread widely, becoming one of the most popular breeds. The gene that causes the colour to be restricted to the points is a recessive gene; therefore, the general population of the cats of Siam were largely self-coloured (solid). When the cats from Siam were bred, the pointed cats were eventually registered as Siamese, while the others were referred to as "non-blue-eyed Siamese" or "foreign shorthair". Other breeds that were developed from the landrace cats of Thailand include the Havana Brown (which some breed registries classify as simply an Oriental Shorthair variant) and the Korat.

The Oriental Shorthair was accepted as an actual breed for championship competition in the US-headquartered Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) in 1977. In 1985, the CFA recognized the bi-colour variant. 

Two decades later, the breed was finally recognized by the UK-based Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1997, but with some differences from CFA on coat conformation. GCCF publishes separate breed registration policies for a number of specific-coat Oriental Shorthair variants today. 

The Germany-based World Cat Federation (WCF) recognises the breed, but with colour requirements that are comparatively unrestrictive in some way, but notably opposed to white ("All colours and patterns without white and without points are recognized.")

In the CFA, some of the point-coloured offspring from Oriental Shorthair parents are considered "any other variety" (AOV), but depending on the pedigree, some may compete as Colourpoints. In The International Cat Association (TICA) and many other cat fancier and breeder associations, these cats are considered to be, and compete as, Siamese, when recognised at all.

Appearance
The Oriental Shorthair is a member of the Siamese family of breeds, and can be found in various solid colors, and patterns such as smoke, shaded, parti-color/tortoiseshell, tabby and bicolor (any of the above, with white). Not all variants are acceptable to all organizations that recognize the breed.

Conforming Oriental Shorthairs, like any of the Siamese type, have almond-shaped eyes and a wedge-shaped head with large ears. Their bodies are typically "sleek" but muscular.

The long-haired version of the breed, the Oriental Longhair (recognized since 1995 by CFA), simply carries a pair of the recessive long hair genes.

Coat Patterns

In total, over 300 coat colour and pattern combinations are possible under CFA conformation rules. The basic types include:

  • Solid: The coat colour is uniform across the entire cat. Each hair shaft should be the same colour from root to tip, and be free of banding and tipping. CFA-acceptable colours for this breed are red, cream, ebony, blue, lavender, cinnamon, fawn and white.[2] The corresponding GCCF colours are (respectively) red, cream, brown, blue, lilac, chocolate and apricot (white is not permitted as the base colour in GCCF, and WCF does not permit white at all).

  • Shaded pattern: Will have a white undercoat with only the tips being coloured CFA and GCCF recognize this. Other breed registries call this the chinchilla pattern.

  • Smoke pattern: The hair shaft will have a narrow band of white at the base which can only be seen when the hair is parted. This white undercoat to any of the above solid colours (except white, of course) is provided by an interaction of two different genes. CFA and GCCF recognize this.

  • Parti-colour: Has patches of red and/or cream, which may be well-defined blotches of colour, or marbled. This colour pattern is referred to as tortoiseshell (or "tortie" for short) in non-pedigreed cats by CFA, and this alternative term is used by GCCF and organizations for pedigreed cats as well.

  • Tabby coat pattern: Recognised by GCCF and CFA. Each hair shaft should have a band of colour around the middle of the hair shaft. GCCF recognizes four variants of tabby: classic, mackerel, spotted and ticked.

  • Bi-colour pattern: Recognised by GCCF and CFA. The bi-colour pattern is created by the addition of a white spotting gene to any of the other accepted colours/patterns. The cat will have white on its belly, on the legs/paws, and in an inverted "V" on the face. WCF does not permit this variant, as it is opposed to white in this breed.

Temperament

Orientals have a very similar temperament to the Siamese.

They are social, intelligent, and many are rather vocal, with the same “meezer” loud, low-pitched voice of the Siamese.

They often remain playful into adulthood, with many enjoying a good game of fetch. Despite their slender appearance, they are extremely athletic and can, and often do leap up onto high places. They prefer to live in pairs or groups and seek human interaction.

Unlike the breed’s blye-eyed forebear, Orientals are usually green-eyes.

There are both shorthair and longhair varieties of Oriental.

General Health

The general health for the Oriental cat is very similar to that of the Siamese as above.