We are Siamese if You Please
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
Any cat enthusiast will agree; every cat has their own unique personality. Some kitties will nestle in your lap and snuggle with you all day, some kitties are like a feisty little panther, pouncing about and causing mischief, and some kitties even fancy themselves the kings and queens of the household, and that their owner’s only purpose is to serve their every whim. Regardless of which personality our cats have, we love them all the same. But have you ever wondered what makes your cat do the things they do? The answer might be a little more intricate than expected.
The domestic cat is believed to have been domesticated in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago, likely due to a mutually beneficial relationship between humans and cats. When agriculture became more prevalent in human society, cats helped by culling populations of crop-destroying rodents and vermin. Cats quickly spread to all corners of the world, likely through trade routes established by humans. Unlike dogs, who have been selectively bred for utility and work, cats were bred for aesthetic appearance, and they haven’t much changed from their ancient ancestors. Cats of Asian origins seem to have split off from their Mediterranean ancestors much earlier than other cat breeds. Around forty-one breeds of cats are recognized by many cat associations. Among the first to be recognized, is the Siamese.
Siamese cats, like their other Southeast Asian cousins (Birmans, Burmese, Havana Brown, Korat, and Singapura) are distinct in their genetic composition. Siamese are the most dolichocephalic cats, meaning their skulls are longer than any other breed. They are the precursors to many other cat breeds, including a plethora of sub-breeds of Siamese cats. Originally owned by only the royals of Siam, Siamese cats were revered and viewed as sacred creatures. The Siamese kings even believed that upon their death, their souls would enter the bodies of their cat, so he could be present at the coronation of the new king before he entered heaven. Even today, in Thailand, Siamese cats are called wichien-matt which translates to “Moon Diamond.”
There are many myths regarding Siamese cats, specifically relating to the origins of their unique appearance, including their kinked tails and often crossed eyes. One myth tells of how two Siamese cats, one male, one female, were left to guard a sacred golden cup once used by the Buddha. The male Siamese cat became bored of his guard duties and wandered off to find other entertainment. The female Siamese became overwhelmed with her responsibility of guarding the golden cup, so she wrapped her tail around it and transfixed her eyes on it to ensure its protection. She waited and waited for the golden cup’s original protectors to return, they never did, and eventually, her tail became permanently kinked due to being wrapped around the cup’s stem, and her eyes became cross-eyed from staring at the cup for so long. She gave birth to a litter of kittens which all had crossed eyes and kinked tales. Another myth tells of a Siamese princess who loved to swim. Every day she would go down to the river with her beloved Siamese cat. The princess would take off her precious rings, so she wouldn’t lose them in the river. For safekeeping, the princess would put her rings on her cat’s tail, and eventually, the cats tail developed a kink from holding the rings.
Although the international cat association does not recognize all variations of the Siamese as valid breeds, there are countless different colors and variations that have arisen from the original breed. Today, Siamese can be classified as either traditional or modern. Traditional Siamese are closer to the lineage of their ancestors and are divided into three categories: apple-head, old-style, and classic. All of which at least have deep blue eyes, a rounder head, fawn colored body and dark brown or black points. The modern Siamese was selectively bred to have more extreme features including elongated, triangular heads, large ears, and long, athletic bodies.
The darker colored extremities of a Siamese cat are referred to as “points,” including their noses and ears, tails, and paws. Siamese possess a unique allele in their genetic code which is heat sensitive. Therefore, Siamese cats are all white when they are born. The coldest parts of their bodies darken during development. So, a Siamese in a warmer climate or setting is going to have lighter points than a Siamese in a colder climate. Certain types of Siamese continue to darken throughout their lives, even past early development.
Through breeding with other cat breeds, the original “seal-point” coloration of the Siamese branched into numerous colorations and patterns in recent years. These patterns include the blue point (a lighter and cooler colored version of the seal point), the chocolate point (similar to the seal point’s colors but much warmer of a brown with pink undertones), the flame point (orange or reddish points, a cross between Siamese cats and orange tabbies), the lilac point (a much lighter, greyer version of the blue point with light blue eyes), the lynx point (a cross between a Siamese and a tabby, with tabby striping on the face), and the tortie point (a tortoiseshell-Siamese hybrid).
Despite the many variations of color within the Siamese family, the notorious Siamese personality shines through in all varieties of Siamese cats. Notoriously vocal cats, the Siamese thrive on conversating with their owners and letting them know their opinion on just about everything with a loud, raspy meow. They love their people and require a decent amount of attention. They don’t like to be left alone for long periods of time, so a companion Siamese is often recommended. Not only are they extremely intelligent, but they are very perceptive and observant, often known to comfort their owners during times of sadness. They are generally not mean or aggressive but can be demanding of their owners. Siamese cats love to play fetch and are often regarded as the “dogs” of the cat world. Anyone considering a Siamese as a companion should understand and desire the codependency of this beautiful, majestic cat. Although they demand constant attention and love, they are well worth the extra effort due to their extremely sociable and loving personalities.