The European Burmese and the Burmese we know in North America originated from the same source – Wong Mau, the first Burmese introduced to the western world by Dr. Thompson in 1930. As Wong Mau was the only example of her type she had to be mated to another breed of similar type. The obvious choice then was the Siamese. Resulting litters revealed that Wong Mau herself carried a pointed gene as kittens in her litters were both solid and pointed in color.
The solids were selected for further propagation of the breed. From the United States the breed spread east to the United Kingdom where the same lack of breeding stock led again to the introduction of Siamese. From then on the breed followed different courses of development until today we have two very different looking cats with two different standards both sharing a common ancestry.
The most obvious difference is the array of colors displayed by the European Burmese - ten to be exact. Introduction of the red gene is responsible for the additional colors. This gene was introduced both deliberately and by accident. In the U.K. Siamese come in many colors including red points, so the introduction of this gene to the existing four colors (brown, chocolate, blue and lilac) produced the colors red, cream, brown-tortie, chocolatetortie, blue-tortie and lilac-tortie.
There is also a difference in type between the two Burmese breeds. The European Burmese is an elegant, moderate cat with gently rounded contours, whereas the Burmese has a compact, well-rounded appearance. The eye shape differs between the two breeds. The European Burmese should have eyes with a top line that is slightly curved with a slant towards the nose. The lower line should be rounded. The Burmese eyes should have a rounded aperture. The temperament of the two Burmese breeds is essentially the same.
The European Burmese is an elegant but not a fragile cat. It is of sweet disposition, medium size, solid boning, excellent musculature and expressive eyes. Because the European Burmese are highly intelligent, affectionate and extremely loyal, they make outstanding pets. They like the companionship of another animal, being dog or cat; however, if circumstances make it impossible they will live quite happily as the sole pet. They love people and make wonderful companions.
The Burmese is a breed of domesticated cats split into two subgroups: the American Burmese and the British Burmese. Most cat registries do not recognise a split between the two groups, but those that do formally refer to the type developed by British cat breeders as the European Burmese. The Burmese was first recognized as a distinct breed in America in 1936 by the Cat Fanciers' Association. Owing to the extensive breeding with Siamese cats that had been used to increase the population, the original type was overwhelmed and registration was temporarily dissolved during the 1940s. The breed was recognized by the UK Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1952. In 1953, after years of selective breeding, Burmese cats in America once again conformed to type and were recognized.
Originally, Burmese cats were exclusively brown (sable), but years of selective breeding have produced a wide variety of colours. Different associations have different rules about which of these count as Burmese.
Burmese cats are known for being sociable and friendly with humans, as well as intelligent. They are very vocal, and often call to their owners.
Throughout the modern history of Burmese, there has been much breeding with Siamese leading to such give-aways as blue or green eyes in the normally yellow-eyed breed. In fact, the Tonkinese cat is a now-recognised cross between Burmese and Siamese.
The Burmese is considered a foreign shorthair in the United States. Accepted eye colour for the breed is gold or yellow, although interbreeding with Siamese may lead to blue or green. The coat is known for being glossy, with a satin-like finish. As with most short-hairs, it requires no additional grooming. The shape of the British breed is more moderate but must not be Oriental, while the American breed is sturdier in build. Longer lived than most pedigree cats, they often reach 16 to 18 years of age.
Burmese are vocal like the Siamese but have softer, sweeter voices. They are people oriented, forming strong bonds with their owners, gravitating toward all human activity. The CFA breed information on the Burmese implies that all survival instinct of flight or fight seems to have been bred out of them. However, other sources note that, while rarely aggressive with humans, Burmese cats tend to be able to defend themselves quite well against other cats, even those larger than themselves.
Burmese maintain kitten interests and energy throughout their adulthood and are very athletic and playful. In some instances they even retrieve items as part of a game. Although all cats are obligate carnivores, some Burmese will sample fruit and vegetables.