Siamese cats, a favorite, originated in Siam & are surrounded by history, legend & lore
The beloved Siamese with their ‘meezer’ meows, Velcro personality, steel-blue eyes, and points that come in various colors, remains a favorite both in and out of the Cat Fancy.
While the Siamese does resemble the Egyptian Cat Goddess, Bastet, it is believed the Siamese originated in Siam, now Thailand, not Egypt.
When Paws went searching for history about Siamese cats, we found the first cat with Siamese markings appeared on an old engraving discovered by a Mr. Pallas on his journey into Southern Russia between 1793 and 1794. Another Siamese is found in the ‘Cat-Book Poems’ where drawings of cats of various colors and patterns are found.
This should not be any surprise as the dynasty has ruled Thailand since the founding of the Ratthanakosin era and the city of Bangkok in 1782 following the end of King Taksin of Thonburi’s reign, when the capital of Siam moved to Bangkok. The Royal house was founded by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, an Ayutthayan military leader of Sino-Mon descent.
It is believed the Siamese cat were owned by the Royal Family of Siam, and used to guard the ancient temples. Only royalty or noblemen were allowed to own them, and their cats served as spirit guardians.
When someone important died, a cat from their household was chosen to receive and house their soul. This lucky cat spent the rest of its life in luxury, pampered and cared for by temple priests. The dead person’s family paid for the cat’s upkeep, as they believed this would bring their loved one good luck in the afterlife.
On The International Cat Association’s (TICA) website, we find the original cats had crossed eyes and kinked tails, (both traits that breeders now consider a show fault), but have no impact on their health.
Legend has it that two Siamese were sent to find a goblet belonging to a King. When they found it one was left to look after it. The other returned to tell the king where it was. The one left behind became so scared of losing the goblet that it stared at it and wrapped its tail around the base tightly. This caused the cat to become cross-eyed and have a permanent tail kink and is passed on though its descendants.
Another tale tells of the tails of Siamese cats being used as ring holders by the Royal Princesses and that is how the kinks arrived.
History has it that in 1884 the departing British Consul-General Gould was given a Siamese cat by the Siamese king as a farewell gift, and considered it as a great honor since the cat came from those bred in the palace by the royal family. He brought the first Siamese, Pho and Mia, to the United Kingdom in 1884 as a gift for his sister Lillian. Their litter, Kalahom, Karomata and Duen Ngai were first shown at the Crystal Palace cat show in 1885. They died soon after the show but more Siamese continued to be imported to the country. His sister, Jane Gould (who, married in 1895 as Lilian Jane Veley went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901.
Gould was also responsible for the arrival of the Siamese in the United States. In 1878, Gould gave U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes the first documented Siamese, named Siam, to reach the United States. Some 30 years later, in April 1909, The Siamese Cat Society of America was founded and the first standard for the Siamese Cat was approved.
Since then what is considered vogue for the Siamese has changed. The seal point was the original and probably also the most well-known color. Breeders developed more colors and more patterns. Today there are more than 34 different colors and patterns, including the seal, chocolate, blue and lilac points, as well as caramel, cinnamon, fawn, tortie, red, and tabby points.
In the 20th century the Siamese cat became one of the most popular breeds in Europe and North America. The modern Siamese is characterized by blue almond-shaped eyes, a triangular head shape, large ears, an elongated, slender, and muscular body, and point coloration. TICA describes the breed as social, intelligent, and playful into adulthood, often enjoying a game of fetch. Siamese prefer to live in pairs or groups and also seek human interaction.
Interestingly, we find there are now 2 distinct types of Siamese cat:
The traditional Siamese which has a more rounded head and stocky body shape of which our house-mate Linus is definitely a traditional.
And the modern Siamese which has a wedge shape head and a much sleeker body. Because of the diversity of the Siamese cat many breeders prefer to specialize in a particular type or color of cat.
In the Cat Fancy world, Traditional Siamese are rarely shown with The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, the governing body of the Cat Fancy and premier registration body for pedigree and non-pedigree cats in the United Kingdom, due to the vast difference between modern and traditional type and the fact that the GCCF judges them against each other, making it difficult for the traditional to compete.
However traditional Siamese can be shown under TICA and FB, Felis Britannica – a non-profit making organization representing a federation of cat clubs across the United Kingdom – because the traditional Siamese, referred to as the Thai Cat, are judged separately from the modern Siamese.
During the 1950s and 1960s the breed’s popularity reached its peak and Siamese cats appeared in movies or animations such as ‘Bell, Book and Candle’, ‘That Darn Cat’, ‘Incredible Journey’, and ‘Lady and the Tramp’, making the Siamese breed ever more famous.
At the same time in Thailand, breeding had dwindled. A statement written by Mrs. Stephen Dobrenchuk to a diplomat in Thailand in the 1950s reports that purebred Siamese cats were bred only by a few wealthy matrons.
Whether modern or traditional, we find Siamese are usually very loving, loyal, intuitive, demanding and social, and intelligent. They are very playful, entertaining themselves for hours, and they never tire of playing, no matter how old they are.
The Siamese, like the other breeds in its group, is a long elegant cat with a long tubular body, long well-angulated legs, long tapering tail, long triangular head, huge triangular ears. Nothing about the Siamese is round. It is all angular, but it’s coat is very short, glossy and sleek, and lies close to the body with a very fine texture.
Its medium-large expressive almond eyes in a deep rich blue color, set in an oriental slant are like no other breed of cat. It’s one of the features that makes the Siamese so stunning and popular with the masses.
The almond shape gives the “oriental” appearance to the face. The contrast between the point color – the color of the ears, mask, legs and tail – and the paler body color makes for a very striking and attention-getting pattern. Together with the long tapering lines, svelte and lithe body, solid weight without bulk and refined boning, the Siamese is indeed a work of art.
Is the Siamese one of your favorite cats. It sure is one of mine, as my Linus is just the most handsome, loving cat there is. He’s full of personality, and well, he know he’s worshiped. Weigh in with your thoughts and comments.