The Balinese cat is a variation on the traditional Siamese cat breed that features everything people love about the older breed, but in a furrier package. The long, silky coat of the Balinese cat is the hallmark of the breed. Indeed, it’s the very reason for the breed’s existence.
Coat notwithstanding, Balinese are everything you know and love about the Siamese: playful, highly intelligent, incredibly devoted to their family units, and active, engaging talkers.
The Balinese is a Siamese that never had to give into The Man and get a job. He’s got a medium-to-long, corn-silky coat that resists matting and lays close to his body, accentuating his lean physique. Coats are white or cream in color and pointed similarly to the Siamese, in the same traditional colors. Since color pointing is related to body temperature, the coats and points of Balinese who live in cooler climates tend to be lighter in color than their warm-weather counterparts. The tails of the Balinese are plumed or ridged with hair that matches the rest of their points.
Physically, the Balinese are lithe, delicately built cats with strong hind legs, which make them terrific jumpers. They have neat, oval feet and wedge-shape heads. Their large ears are set far enough apart to continue the head’s wedge shape. Balinese eyes are almond shaped and a brilliant sapphire in color.
In virtually every way aside from coat, when you adopt a Balinese you’re getting a Siamese. What this means from a personality standpoint is that you’re getting a devoted, loving companion who adores being around her humans as much as possible. She will follow you from room to room, engaging in deep conversation the whole time.
“They carry very similar traits [to the Siamese], because they have such a close lineage,” says Lin Kauffman, DVM, of the Prairie View Animal Hospital in Grimes, Iowa. “If you don’t want a cat that doesn’t have to have the last word, don’t have a Siamese, don’t have a Burmese.”
While Balinese do tend to be just as vocal as their Siamese cousins, they also tend to have a softer tone, which makes them somewhat more affable for people with roommates or close living situations.
It’s said that the Balinese is the most intelligent of the long-haired cats and they will keenly observe most everything you do. Because of the independent nature of their lineage, however, training is something that the Balinese will take to with varying degrees of zeal and with mixed results. They are a playful breed and particularly enjoy balls and things they can bat across the floor.
The Balinese is a vertical cat, so some kind of high perch is going to be mandatory if you’re sharing your home with one of these cats. If they aren’t provided with a high cat tower (or even if they are), they’re likely to make a spot of their own on top of a bookshelf, refrigerator, or even a door.
They get along well enough with other cats, but do very well in single-pet households where their human companions can give them undivided attention. If left alone for extended periods, they don’t tend to suffer from separation anxiety so much as boredom. The results for your furniture, however, may be the same.
While being active cats and deeply enjoying their play time, they also make great lap cats and are happy to simply be wherever their human companions are. Expect to get watched while doing just about everything around the house, and expect to hear your Balinese’s opinion on how you’re doing.
While the Balinese are fairly regular shedders, there’s some evidence to suggest that they produce a lower amount of the Fel d1 and Fel d4 protein allergens. While this does not technically make them absolutely hypoallergenic, it does suggest that they may be a better cat for people with pet allergies than other long-hair breeds.
That being said, a regular brushing is going to be part of your grooming routine with a Balinese cat. Two to three times a week should keep you ahead of the shedding situation. The Balinese don’t have an undercoat, so keeping their hair looking neat and tidy isn’t a complicated matter, it’s just one of vigilance.
The Balinese are a relatively healthy breed. They are, however, a pedigree breed, meaning that their relatively restricted gene pool may make them more prone to some genetic health concerns.
One potential issue for Balinese is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which is a degeneration of the retina in the eye. Cats with PRA can become near- or far-sighted over time, or even blind.
Dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that enlarges the heart muscles and decreases heart function, is another potential issue. There is also some concern that they are at a low risk for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Finally, the breed can be at increased risk for liver amyloidosis, which eventually leads to liver failure.
Though not an actual health concern, the Balinese sometimes develop a rare inheritance that makes them appear cross-eyed. The condition, called Strabismus, is common in Siamese cat breeds.
There is evidence to suggest that long-haired Siamese kittens have been appearing randomly in litters since at least the early 19th century. Long considered to be exhibiting an undesirable recessive gene, long-haired kittens were traditionally neutered and given away as pets.
By the early 20th century, some breeders began to appreciate the long-haired Siamese and began keeping them to show. The American Cat Fanciers Association first registered “long haired Siamese” to show in 1928, though they were, as the name suggests, considered to be Siamese cats and not a separate breed.
By the 1950s, breeders had begun working in earnest to establish the cats as their own breed, and the long-haired cats were given the name Balinese. The breed was recognized for championship by the CFA 1970. Nine years later, the breed was further separated out by color point, with the traditional Siamese colors being registered as Balinese and cats that had been cross-bred with other colorpoint shorthairs creating the Javanese breed.