If you have been wondering where do Siamese Cats come from, all you have to do is to look at the breed’s name for the clue.
Where did the Siamese Cat come from?
Siamese Cats originate from Thailand, which was formerly called Siam. The Siamese Cat is recognized as one of the oldest Asian cat breeds, tracing its roots to ancient Thailand.
The breed’s history can be divided into two distinct points – its ancient origins and the modern era.
The Royal Cats of Siam
Just how old is the Siamese Cat breed? The breed is first mentioned in the Tamra Maew, a collection of ancient Thai manuscripts.
In English, Tamra Maew translates to The Cat Book Poems. According to historians, the Tamra Maew was written between the 14th and 18th centuries, the period when the Ayutthaya Kingdom reigned in Thailand. One particular passage in the manuscripts describe Meezers as a rare breed and that owning one can lead to good fortune.
The breed is often called the Royal Cats of Siam for a few reasons. Apart from the regal appearance of this feline, ownership of this cat was reserved only for members of the royal families. The royal families prized this cat for its beauty and character. They also believed that upon death, their souls are transferred to their pets. After their reincarnation, they live pampered lives surrounded by monks and priests.
One such tale details how Siamese Cats were tasked to guard a vase. Their cats became crossed because they looked intently at the vase. Their tails became crooked because they wrapped their tails around the vase, permanently disfiguring these later on.
Unlike other breeds that were created by selectively crossing different breeds, the Siamese Cat is said to have developed naturally without human intervention.
Introduction to the Western World
How did this breed wind its way to the Western World? Breed historians are unsure when the cat was imported to the West or if the initial batch imports were brought first to the United Kingdom or the United States.
Records state that the Siamese Cat was first imported to the United Kingdom in 1884 when then British Consul-General Edward Blencowe gave his sister Lilian Jane Gould a pair from Bangkok. The pair, named Pho and Mia, was successfully bred, siring three kittens. This first family of Siamese Cats was showcased during London’s Crystal Palace Show, spurring the cat’s popularity in Britain.
Soon after, cat fanciers began importing directly from Thailand. Today, it is widely believed that most of the Siamese Cats in the UK trace their roots to this initial batch of imports.
Although the cat was disparaged for its perceived disfigurement, many fanciers fell in love with the breed. During this period, Siamese Cats had kinked tails and crossed eyes.
In America, the first recorded appearance of the breed dates back to 1878 when American Consul David Stickles gave the First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes a Siamese Cat.
Traditional and Modern Siamese Cats
If you compare the initial batch of cats brought to the West and the ones you see on social media, you will notice a marked difference. A lot of that can be attributed to the development of the breed between the 1950s and 1960s even until the 1980s when the Siamese Cat became one of the most popular cats. During this time, many breeders and fanciers selectively bred out features that they deemed to be unattractive, particularly the kinked tails and crossed eyes.
However, British breeders continued breeding what is now known as old-style or traditional Siamese Cats. It is through these efforts that this sub-breed of the Siamese Cat was saved from extinction.
Today, Siamese Cats are broadly categorized into two: traditional and modern. And between these two categories, there are more variations.
The traditional cats look more like their ancient ancestors. This category is further broken down into three sub-categories: Applehead, Classic Siamese, and Old Style.
Compared to other Siamese cats, the Applehead has longer and fluffier hair. Apart from that, it is quieter than its peers. But the most distinctive characteristic of this Siamese Cat is its round face and apple-shaped head.
The Classic Siamese is characterized by its long and athletic body, large ears, and the absence of a nose dip. This sub-category was just recognized by the International Cat Association in 2007. Two years later, the cat was labeled as an Advanced New Breed.
Of all the Traditional Siamese Cats, the Old-style resembles the ancient ancestors of the breed the most. The Old-style is characterized by its almond-shaped eyes which are sometimes crossed. It also has an athletic build and an elongated face.
The Modern Siamese Cat comes as a result of selective breeding during the 1980s.
Compared to the Traditional Siamese Cats, this cat has a longer body and a triangular or wedge-shaped head. The ears are also larger and are set lower. Its eyes are more slanted while its nose has no dip.
Bringing these characteristics to the forefront has resulted in a few drawbacks, including increased risk of succumbing to kidney and heart problems. Generally, the Modern Siamese has a long lifespan. However, it is not unusual for some specimens to die at a young age.
A treasure from the Land of Smiles
With its regal appearance and its outsized personality, there is no question as to why the Siamese Cat is recognized as one of the most popular cat breeds today. For its beauty and charm, there is no better ambassador from the Land of Smiles than the Siamese Cat.
Image: istockphoto.com / Sviatlana Lazarenka