A person holding a fluffy blue-eyed Birman cat.

Blue Eyes and White Gloves: The Birman Cat

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With a fascinating history, striking appearance and endearing personality – the Birman cat is a purrfect addition to any family. Known for their blue eyes and white paws, they’re a friendly breed with a relaxed temperament.

If you’ve got a Birman cat or are looking to get one, here’s what you need to know about the breed, including their health and grooming needs.

A close-up of a blue-eyed cat with a cream coat looking to the side.

Breed origin

According to popular lore, Birmans originated in Burma (now Myanmar), where they were considered sacred companions to the Kittah priests in the temples of ancient Burma. The story goes that these cats were the guardians of the temple’s treasures and were believed to bring good fortune to their human companions.

The breed’s journey to the Western world is thought to have begun in the early 20th century. The precise details of how Birmans were introduced to Europe are a bit hazy, but it’s generally believed that a pair of these cats were given as a gift to a Frenchman, thanks to his efforts in helping to defend the temples. Only only one of these cats, a female named Sita, survived the journey to France, but fortunately she was pregnant. This event marked the beginning of the Birman breed in Europe.

This cat with blue eyes faced near extinction during World War II, with only a few cats surviving the war. These cats became the foundation for rebuilding the breed in Europe. Through careful breeding programs, the Birman gradually gained popularity across the continent and eventually worldwide.

Officially recognised in France in the 1920s, the Birman breed was later introduced to other parts of Europe and the United States, where it has continued to enchant cat lovers with its striking blue eyes, beautiful colour-pointed coat, and friendly, affectionate nature. The breed was recognised by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1967, further cementing its status as a beloved pedigree cat.

Close-up of a white kitten

Birman cat appearance

Birmans are a silky cat with blue eyes and are often confused with Ragdoll cats or Himalayan cats. But there’s a good way to set them apart. All Birmans have white “gloves” – symmetrical white markings on all four paws, which these other two breeds don’t have. Here are some other distinctive breed features:

  • Coat: One of the most distinctive features of the Birman is its luxurious, medium-length coat that feels silky to the touch. Unlike some other long-haired breeds, Birmans have a coat that doesn’t mat easily, thanks to the absence of an undercoat.
  • Colour Points: Similar to Siamese and Ragdolls, Birmans have colour points, meaning their ears, face, paws, and tail are a darker colour than the rest of their body. The points come in various colours, including seal, chocolate, blue, and lilac.
  • Eyes: This cat with blue eyes is known for those sapphire peepers. Its another way to ensure your Birman cat is pedigree.
  • Body: Birmans have a strong, medium to large size body with well-developed muscles. They’re sturdy and balanced in appearance.
  • Feet: As mentioned, Birmans have white paws. The ideal Birman has perfectly matched gloves that end in an even line across the paw.

Birman cat personality

Birmans are known for their loving and gentle nature. They form strong bonds with their human families and often follow their owners from room to room, seeking attention and interaction.

This breed enjoys the company of humans and other pets alike, making them excellent companions for homes with children and other animals. They’re smart and curious, enjoying puzzle toys and interactive play with their humans. They retain their playful demeanour well into adulthood.

While they do communicate with their humans, Birmans are not as vocally demanding as some other breeds. Their laid-back personality makes them adaptable to various living situations, including apartments. Birmans typically enjoy a good balance of play and relaxation.

Birman cat health

Birmans, like any breed, can be predisposed to certain health conditions. It’s important to be aware of these to provide the best care possible:

Heart issues

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a concern within the breed. This condition causes the heart muscle to thicken, potentially leading to health complications.

Kidney problems

Some Birmans may be prone to kidney diseases, including polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Regular check-ups can help detect such issues early.

Respiratory disorders

Although less common, respiratory problems can occur in the breed. Keeping an eye on breathing patterns and seeking prompt veterinary advice for changes is crucial.

Eye conditions

Birmans may experience certain eye issues, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can lead to vision loss. Regular eye examinations are a good idea.

A blue-eyed beauty, a ragdoll cat sitting against a dark background.

Birman cat price

In New Zealand, the price of a Birman cat can vary, but generally, you might expect to pay anywhere from NZD 800 to over NZD 1,500 for a kitten from a reputable breeder at the time of writing. This range can fluctuate based on their pedigree, whether the cat is intended for show or as a pet, and the specific costs incurred by the breeder for health screenings and vaccinations.

It’s always recommended to purchase from a breeder who prioritises the health and well-being of their cats, as this ensures you’re bringing home a healthy, well-socialised pet. Even better is adopting a cat – as you’ll be giving a stray cat a home and lightening the load on our NZ animal shelters.

Grooming your Birman cat

Birman cats require regular grooming to maintain their coat’s silky texture and reduce shedding. Here’s how to keep your Birman looking pristine and feeling comfortable:

Brushing

  • Frequency: Aim to brush your Birman’s coat at least two to three times a week. This helps prevent matting and keeps their fur smooth and clean.
  • Tools: Use a stainless steel comb and a soft-bristled brush. The comb helps to gently detangle the fur, while the brush removes loose hair and distributes natural oils throughout their coat.

Bathing

  • Frequency: Birmans don’t need frequent baths, but a bath every few months can help keep their coat in top condition, especially if they’ve gotten into something particularly messy.
  • Process: Use a cat-specific shampoo and ensure the water is warm, not hot. Make the experience as calm and quick as possible to reduce stress.
A close-up of a Blue-Eyed Beauty Birman Cat.

Nail trimming

  • Frequency: Check and trim your Birman cat’s nails every few weeks to prevent them from becoming overgrown, which can lead to discomfort and issues with walking.
  • Tools: Use a sharp, cat-specific nail trimmer to avoid splitting the nail. Be cautious to avoid the quick, as cutting this can cause pain and bleeding.

Ear cleaning

  • Frequency: Inspect your Birman’s ears weekly for signs of dirt, wax buildup, or infection. Clean them as needed.
  • Process: Use a vet-recommended ear cleaner and a soft cloth or cotton ball. Never insert anything into the ear canal.

Eye care

Birmans can have watery eyes, especially those with lighter colour points. Gently wipe the corners of their eyes with a soft, damp cloth to prevent staining and build-up.

Dental health

Regular dental care is essential. Brush your Birman’s teeth several times a week with a vet-approved pet toothpaste to prevent tartar build-up and gum disease. Here’s more on how to look after your cat’s teeth.

A fluffy white cat licking its nose against a blue background.

Insure your beautiful Birman cat

Regardless of how healthy your Birman kittie is when you welcome them home, you never know what the future holds. Taking out pet insurance early means you’re covered against pre-existing conditions before they arise, as well as most hereditary health conditions. Not to mention accidents, which can happen anytime whether your cat lives indoors or outdoors.

That way, you’re investing in your pet’s future by protecting their health to the best of your ability.

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