Birmans are medium to large cats with round blue eyes and muscular bodies often mistaken for Ragdolls or Ragamuffins. Males weigh between 10 and 15 pounds while females range from 6 to 10 pounds.
The coat is light in color with darker points in varying shades. This long-haired cat has no undercoat, and the fur does not mat. They have distinctive white bottoms on their paws often referred to as boots or gloves. The average life span for a Birman cat is 14 years.
The Birman comes from an enchanted myth originating in Burma. The breed was said to be a favorite among priests and obtained its unique coloring when a Birman comforted its owner, a dying priest. The cat placed its paws upon the priest’s chest; after he passed, colors descended on the fur and the paws turned white to represent purity.
Exact dates vary, but the Birman is believed to have arrived in France in the late 1910s. The breed was recognized in France shortly after in 1925, England in 1966 and the United States in 1967. The Cat Fanciers Association awarded the breed championship status in 1972.
There is a tradition to naming a litter of Birman kittens that is still followed among breeders. Each year a letter is designated, and any kitten born in that year is given a name beginning with the specified letter. The year for the letter X must be challenging!
Birmans are active, playful cats that love company. They are easy to train and pick up commands easily. They enjoy the company of people, other animals and children. Some Birmans are even described as dog-like in their behavior, such as fetching, dragging toys and blankets around the house and greeting you at the door as a dog would.
Birmans do not have any special exercise needs. They are recommended as indoor pets; their affectionate and friendly nature can make them indifferent to outdoor dangers. Their physical activity should be similar to that of most cats (sleeping long hours, playing, running and jumping). Contact your veterinarian if you notice a decrease in activity or mobility; this could be a sign of a health issue.
The Birman does not have an undercoat, and the fur does not mat easily. Grooming the fur is considered minimal; one to two brushings per week are sufficient to maintain the coat’s softness. Trim the cat’s nails as needed (usually once every week to two weeks) and clean the ears and teeth to promote good overall health.
Common Health Problems
Birmans are fairly healthy cats but have a propensity to become overweight or obese. Regulate their food intake to prevent this condition.
There is also a possibility of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) affecting the breed. HCM is the most common disease affecting the heart by thickening the heart walls and restricting blood flow. Symptoms are rare but might include weight changes, difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat.
Is the Birman the Right Cat for You?
Be prepared to get more than one Birman unless you already have existing pets or someone who stays home most of the day. These playful cats are friendly and easy to groom and get along with other animals, people and children.
They learn tricks easily and can be quite entertaining companions. As with any cat, individual personalities and temperaments will vary, but the Birman will be a delightful addition to any home.
Adopt, Don’t Buy
If you consider getting a Birman for your next pet, please check adoption resources — even purebred animals end up in shelters. Try Petful’s pet adoption page. (Select the “Cats” tab.)