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 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.
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 between 8–10 pounds. Their luxurious coats, while long, 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.
Sweet and affectionate! That's the best way to describe a Birman cat's personality. These beautiful animals are bred to be social with everyone in the family (including other cats or dogs, if introduced properly).
"Birmans are ridiculously precious and sweet cats," says Ingrid Johnson, CCBC, cat groomer, and author of Fundamentally Feline.
Birmans are a social breed that enjoys attention, and Krieger says they'll often follow their favorite person from room to room just to be by their side. And this love for humans extends beyond their family to new people as well.
"They absolutely love their people," Krieger says. "They're very social. It depends on the individual cat, but generally speaking they do well when people come visiting, with strangers. They're very people-orientated and affectionate."
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.
Krieger says Birmans "can be a little clingy and needy," and they're not cats you can leave alone for hours with nothing to do. If you must be out of the house, make sure they have plenty of toys to keep them busy.
"As far as the Birman is concerned, they are so into their people and so bonded with their people," Krieger says. "They don't like to be home alone without somebody there."
Birman cats are moderately active and enjoy batting around a few felt mice or plastic balls to keep busy. They'll also appreciate a cat tree where they take in the view from above. Like other cats, Birmans also love having at least one comfy perch or hammock 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.
Let's face it, long-haired cats take a bit more grooming to keep them looking good. 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. Krieger says a simple brushing or combing a few times a week is really all a Birman needs to keep her looking great.
Johnson 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. Johnson also recommends "sanitary shaves" to keep the area around the genitals free of longer hair, which allows cats to stay cleaner.
Luckily, Birman cats don't have a lot of health problems to worry about. Like a number of other cat 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.
Birman cats are an ancient breed, thought to have originated in Burma (which is now Myanmar). It's believed they were temple cats and companions to Kittah priests, according to National Birman Fanciers. According to legend, when a priest died, his spirit flowed into his loyal cat before moving on to the next life. Birmans are occasionally called the Sacred Cat of Burma.
The Birman's grand entrance into the West is a bit murky, according to The Birman Cat Club of Australia. But it's generally acknowledged that in the early 1900s a pair of cats, a male and a female, were shipped to France. The male died during the trip, but the pregnant female, named Sita, survived and gave birth to a kitten named Poupee de Madalpour.
By 1925, Birmans were recognized by the Federation of Feline Francaise. But World War ll devastated the breed, and only two Birman cats remained in France when hostilities ended. Over time, however, the breed was reborn. By 1967, the Birman breed was recognized in the U.S. Today, the Birman breed remains popular—deservedly so because of the cats' beauty and sweet nature.
- 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 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.