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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

Legendary Felines: Baffled by Birmans


Many humans are confused about the origins of Birman cats. “The story is relatively hazy,” says the anonymous author of the Wikipedia entry for Birmans. Hazy is an understatement. I’d say it’s more like baffling. The fashionable French site CHATmania agrees: “ce chat a une origine encore mystérieuse.”

According to several humans, Birmankind originated in western Burma and were kept as temple cats. A pair of Birmans were brought to France in about 1919, although sources disagree about whether they were given to the humans or whether they might have been catnapped. The male died on the voyage, but the female gave birth to several kittens who grew up to found the breed known as “Le Chat Sacre de Birmanie." (This would explain why I’ve always had a fondness for the French language.)

In order to continue the Birman line, these cats were bred with Siamese and Persians. There’s a myth about a “Laotian Lynx cat” being involved; so far, no one has been able to track down the Laotian Lynx. During World War II, Birmans were almost wiped out in France. After the war, a single pair remained, and so once again the humans turned to Siamese and Persians to repopulate the world with Birman-like cats.

The hallmarks of my kind are our immaculate white gloves and our round blue eyes, which one poet has called “Twin Pools of Serenity.” Our fur has a golden cast, and our faces, tails, and legs may be gray, bluish, chocolate, or other fashionable colors.

Most Birmans are quiet and well-behaved. Unlike our Siamese cousins, we rarely indulge in random meowing and scenery chewing. And since Birmankind originated in a temple, it’s no wonder that we often enjoy contemplative, even scholarly, pursuits.

Birmans are mellow and devoted to their humans. You might even say we are possessive of our catted ones, as les chats at CHATmania explain:
Le Birman aime la famille et se lie volontiers avec la personne qui présente des points communs avec lui, notamment, la sérénité. Il offre en silence son affection dévouée à la famille, mais, quand son maître est absent, il est vite distrait et indifférent.


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