The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognised breeds of Oriental cat. The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is believed to be from South-East Asia, and may be descended from the sacred temple cats of Siam (hence their name). more...
The breed was first seen outside their Asian home in 1884, when the British Counsul-General in Bangkok, Mr Owen Gould, brought a pair of the cats back to Britain for his sister, Mrs Veley (who went on to be co-founder of the Siamese Cat Club in 1901). The cats were shown at the Crystal Palace in 1885, and the following year another pair (with kittens) were imported by a Mrs. Vyvyan and her sister. A small number of cats were brought in over the next few years, and together these formed the base breeding pool for entire breed in Britain.
As a result of thousands of generations of selective breeding and the pressures of competition there are now actually two subbreeds of Siamese – the modern show Siamese, and the traditional or "apple-headed" Siamese. Modern show Siamese have been bred to be extremely elongated, with bodies slender to the point of emaciation, and a Y-shaped head with an extremely long muzzle and extra-large "batwing" ears. The traditional Siamese are much sturdier, with a round head and ears more in proportion to their size. Siamese cats often have a kink in their tails, because the original breeders saw that as a unique feature of the breed. In recent years the kinked tail has been considered a "flaw" and breeders have largely eradicated it from the Show Siamese. Both breeds of Siamese have almond-shaped eyes and like all Oriental cats they are extremely talkative and demanding of attention. They often will engage themselves in crazy antics to get the attention of their people, and often attach themselves to one human in a household. As they are "wired for sound", they can meow loud enough to compete with fire and rescue equipment. Siamese cats are generally believed to be highly intelligent (by cat standards), and their behaviour usually reflects this.
All Siamese have a creamy base coat with coloured "points" on their muzzles, ears, paws and lower legs, and tails. The darker Siamese have a darkening of their back and hindquarters as well. Originally Siamese were all seal-pointed, but now they have been bred in all of the standard cat colours including red, lilac, blue, chocolate, tabby and "torty" or tortoise-shell. In the United Kingdom, all pointed Siamese-style cats are considered to be part of the Siamese breed. In the United States, however, only four colorations are considered Siamese: seal point, blue point, chocolate point, and lilac point. Oriental cats with colorpoints in colors or patterns aside from these four are considered Colorpoint Shorthairs in the American cat fancy.
The dark coloration on the coat is produced by an enzyme that is heat-sensitive; it fails to work at normal body temperatures, but becomes active in cooler areas of the skin (such as the ears, legs, tail and face (which is cooled by the passage of air through the sinuses). All Siamese kittens, although pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of life in colder parts of their body. By the time the kitten is four weeks old the points should be clearly distinguishable enough to recognise which colour they will be.
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