Birman

Originally called the Sacred Cat of Burma, the Birman is an ancient breed thatu2019s been prized for generations for its beautiful markings and its lovely, mild temperament. These mid-size cats are sociable, easy-going felines that make wonderful pets for people of all ages.
By Doug Jimerson
August 24, 2020
Birman
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament
All filters

Birman

height
  • 8 to 10 inches
weight
  • 10 to 12 pounds
life span
  • 13 to 15 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
intelligence
  • medium
shedding amount
  • occasional
playfulness
  • medium
activity level
  • calm
vocalness
  • quiet
coat length
  • long
colors
  • cream / beige / tan
patterns
  • color point
other traits
  • easy to groom
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • tolerates being alone
  • low prey drive
  • good for first-time pet owners
  • good lap cat
  • tolerates being picked up

It’s hard to describe perfection, but Birman cats come pretty close. An ancient member of the cat clan, Birmans (originally known as the Sacred Cat of Burma) have been charming people for centuries. Once beloved by temple monks, these walking beauties have become popular pets around the globe. Birmans are a mid-size breed with a lush, cream-color coat with darker points, white-gloved paws, and sparkling blue eyes. Yet, for all their glamour, Birman cats are anything but finicky. They’re always outgoing, friendly, and easy-to-care-for cats. 

Appearanceu0026nbsp;

You won’t forget the first time you see a Birman cat. That’s because these fantastic felines sport a lush cream-color coat with contrasting points (color on the lower legs, ears, face, and tail) topped with snow white gloves on all four feet and bright blue eyes. Birmans generally weigh in between 8 and 10 pounds. Their luxurious coats are remarkably easy to care for because there’s no undercoat to get tangled and matted. Accepted point colors include: seal, blue, cream, chocolate, lilac, blue tortie, lilac tortie, seal tortie, chocolate tortie, and blue cream. All Birman cats are born white and develop their color as they mature. 

Temperament

Sweet and affectionate! That’s the best way to describe a Birman cat’s personality. These beautiful animals have been bred to be social with everyone in the family (including other cats or dogs if introduced properly). Birmans are also super fun and playful. But they definitely have an “off” switch, so you won’t find them pacing about the house at all hours of the night. Instead, you’re more likely to find them curled up on your lap or at the foot of your bed. Their laid-back attitude makes them an almost perfect family pet.

Birmans are a social breed that enjoy attention, but they aren’t loud and demanding about it. After all, when you look as glamorous as a Birman, you don’t need to make a scene to get what you want. Younger Birmans will love a good game of “chase the laser,” but as your cat ages she will be happy just wandering around the house making sure everything is in order. They are a very curious breed that’s easily trainable.

Living Needs

Birman cats may look glamorous, but that doesn’t mean they need high-end accommodations to make them happy. In fact, Birmans will make themselves equally at home in a small apartment or palatial estate. They also do just fine with feline or canine roommates, just as long as everyone has proper introductions. But, they don’t mind the single life either as long as you spend some quality time with them after you get home from work. 

Birman cats are moderately active and will enjoy batting around a few felt mice or plastic balls to keep busy and will appreciate a cat tree where they take in the view from above. Like other cats, Birmans also love having at least one comfy perch mounted by a sunny window so they can keep an eye on the neighboring wildlife and take a catnap or two. Although Birmans are more likely to commandeer your bed, it’s still a good idea to give them a bed or two of their own. 

Careu0026nbsp;

Let’s face it, long-haired cats take a bit more grooming to keep them looking good than their short-haired cousins. However, you may be surprised to find out how easy Birmans’ coats truly are to groom. That’s because Birmans don’t have a dense undercoat like other long-haired breeds, so their coat isn’t as likely to mat or tangle. A simple brushing or combing once a week is really all a Birman needs to keep it looking great. 

“Birmans are ridiculously precious and sweet cats,” says Ingrid Johnson, CCBC, cat groomer, and author of Fundamentally Feline. She says that Birmans, even though they have long hair, “seem to require less grooming than other long-haired cats.” For all cats, Johnson uses three grooming tools: 

  • A de-matting comb (also called a shedding comb) with wide teeth of varied length to remove undercoat
  • A slicker brush, which is a wide bristled brush that removes dirt and dander
  • A flea comb or Furminator, which strips away flyaway hairs

She recommends that long-haired cats, such as Birmans, be professionally groomed twice a year. For long-haired cats, Johnson also recommends “sanitary shaves” to keep the area around the genitals free of longer hair, which allows cats to stay cleaner.

Health

Luckily, Birman cats don’t have a lot of health problems to worry about. Like a number of other breeds, they are susceptible to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a disease of the heart, as well as kidney disease called polysystic kidney disease (PKD). But, overall Birmans are a quite healthy breed. Also, like other felines, Birmans need regular dental and nail care. Because of their laid-back attitude, Birmans are a lot easier to take to the vet than some other cats.

History

Birman cats are an ancient breed, thought to have originated in Burma—which is why it’s occasionally called the Sacred Cat of Burma. It’s believed they were temple cats who were companions of Kittah priests. 

They first appeared in France around 1919, brought there by two Englishmen, Major Gordon Russell and August Pavie, who tried to import a male and female. Unfortunately,  the male cat died on the trip, but the pregnant female, named Sita, survived and ultimately became the mother of the Birman breed in the West. 

By 1925, Birmans were recognized by the Federation of Feline Francaise. But World War ll was devastating to the breed, with only two Birman cats remaining when hostilities ended. Over time, however, the breed was reborn and by 1967 the Birman breed was recognized in America. Today, the Birman breed remains popular, deservedly so because of its beauty and sweet nature.

Fun Facts

  • One of the most famous Birman cats is Choupette owned by designer Karl Lagerfield. Prior to the designer’s death in 2019, she often traveled with him on his private jet and inspired a line of cat-themed accessories. In 2014, Choupette also starred in two advertisements—on a Vauxhall Car calendar and for the Japanese cosmetics brand Shu Uemura—as well as in a book of her own. It’s believed that in 2015 she made over $3 million in royalties. Rumors also suggest that Choupette may have inherited all or a portion of Lagerfield’s estate. She has her own agent and lives in Paris, attended by Lagerfield’s housekeeper. 
  • Legend says that the Birmans’ striking colorations resulted from the intervention of blue-eyed goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse, after a temple cat’s heroic gesture. She gifted all the temple cats with her blue eyes and with white paws that symbolize purity.
  • Though their names sound similar, the Birman cat is a completely different breed from the Burmese cat.