Breeds

Birman Cat vs Siamese Cat: What’s The Difference?

Are you considering bringing a new feline into your home? If you plan to spend your money on a pedigreed breed, you likely want to pick a cat that best suits your lifestyle. The Birman and Siamese are two purrrfectly lovable cats that make great family pets. While these breeds share specific characteristics that might make them difficult to distinguish at first look, they are quite different in appearance, temperament, and activity level. Read this guide to decide which breed best fits your lifestyle.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: March 27, 2023 | 10 min read

Birman Cat Vs Siamese Cat

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As any cat parent can tell you, adding a kitty to your home can be extremely rewarding. We fawn over pedigreed felines, but your standard domestic has just as much love to give as a fancy cat. Still, it can be beneficial to invest in a particular breed. Whether it’s concerns about allergies, grooming requirements, child safety, or any other factor, it’s reasonable that a person might choose a specific breed that matches their lifestyle needs. 

Let’s take a look at the Birman cat vs. the Siamese cat. At first glance, you will see two adorable, creamy-beige cats with dark color points and bright blue eyes. But what makes these two fancy cats different? Let’s dive in because there’s a lot to learn.

Breed History

Both the Birman cat and Siamese cat have a rich history filled with tales praising the greatness of these breeds. Interestingly, both were said to be temple cats held in high esteem by their human companions.

Birman Cat Breed History

Birman Cat walking on white background
Today, all major cat registries accept the Birman breed.

The Birman cat originated in Myanmar, formerly Burma. The Birman, also called the “Sacred Cat of Burma,” is said to have once been the companion of temple priests. As the story goes, the Biman received their beautiful coat and stunning blue eyes as a reward for their loyalty and dedication.

The Temple of Lao-Tsun was built to worship the blue-eyed goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. One of the priests, Mun-Ha, had a white cat named Sinh that would sit beside him as he kneeled before the statue of the goddess to pray. One night, raiders invaded the temple and killed Mun-Ha as he was praying to the goddess. As Mun-Ha died, Sinh placed his feet on the priest and faced the goddess. The cat’s body turned from white to gold, and his eyes turned blue. Sinh’s legs turned brown, but where his paws touched his master, they remained white as a symbol of purity.

Sinh stayed with Mun-Ha for seven days. On the seventh day, Sinh died as well, and it is said that Sinh carried the soul of Mun-Ha to paradise. It is believed that since that day, whenever a sacred temple cat dies, a priest’s soul accompanies the cat’s soul to paradise.

Birmans arrived in France in 1919 but unfortunately did not flourish. In the 1960s, Birmans were imported into Britain, and from there, the breed was exported to countries worldwide. In 1967, the Birman became a recognized breed in the United States.

Siamese Cat Breed History

Siamese cat
Siamese cats are one of the oldest domestic cat breeds in the world and have a rich history.

Like the Birman, the Siamese cat has Asian roots and is believed to have originated in Thailand around the 14th century, when they first appeared in Thai manuscripts. Thailand was formerly known as Siam, where this breed gets its name. 

Legend says that the Siamese were temple cats to the King of Siam. Particular cats were valued by the king not only for their distinct and beautiful appearance but for their ability to guard the king. It is said that the cats would perch atop tall columns around the king’s throne, and if anyone were to threaten the king, the cats would jump down onto the person. From there, they would scratch the face of anyone who thought they could harm their master. Members of the royal family believed the Siamese would receive their souls when they died, so the cat would spend the rest of their lives in a temple to be pampered by monks and priests.

For an extended period, Siamese cats had crossed eyes and kinked tails. According to legend, a group of Siamese cats was tasked to guard a golden goblet for the Siam royalty. While performing their duties, the cats stared at the goblet so intensely that their eyes crossed. Because they had wrapped their tails around the goblet to keep it secure, their tails became bent. 

The Siamese breed debuted in Europe in 1871 at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in London. In 1879, the United States Consulate in Bangkok gifted a Siamese cat to the wife of President Rutherford Hayes, making it the first Siamese to arrive in the United States. The original Siamese cat was seal point only, meaning the cat had a cream body with dark brown points. As more colors developed, judges and fanciers recognized the additional coat varieties.

The Siamese became extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and along with this popularity, many breeders and show judges began favoring a more slender look for the Siamese. Through selective breeding, breeders developed an increasingly long, fine-boned Siamese with a narrow, wedge-shaped head. Today, we refer to this cat as the Modern Siamese, which has become the breed standard. Selective breeding also helped reduce the crossed eyes and crooked tails commonly found in this breed. The Traditional Siamese cat, also called the Thai cat, Old-Style Siamese, or Wichien Maat, is still popular today but is rarely found in competitions.

Size & Appearance

Despite often being confused with the Traditional Siamese cat, Birman have a look that’s all their own. Like Siamese, Birman have beautiful colorpoint markings and striking blue eyes, but you can always tell a Birman by their white snowshoes. Birman display white paws, which you won’t find on a Siamese cat. 

The Birman is a large cat, with males and females reaching up to 15 pounds. From end to end, the Birman can measure 15 to 18 inches long. This breed is a medium-length, sturdy cat with a Roman nose and strong jaw. They have a triangular head, but they have such a broad skull that their face appears rounded. Birman have small to medium-sized ears and round blue eyes that are set far apart, giving them a sweet expression. The Birman’s coat is medium-length, soft, and silky. 

Siamese tend to have a more slender frame than the Birman, especially when compared to the sleek body of the Modern Siamese cat. Male Siamese weigh eight to 12 pounds, while females range from five to eight. From nose to end of the tail, Siamese cats are 12 to 14 inches long. 

The Traditional Siamese cat has a large, apple-shaped head and a large, muscular body. Their eyes are rounder than the Modern Siamese cat, and their tail is slightly shorter. The Traditional Siamese has a natural-looking muzzle and large, pointed ears. The Modern Siamese has a long, lean body with a wedge-shaped head, oversized ears, and a long, thin tail. The Modern Siamese has more slanted eyes and a long muzzle and is usually larger than the more-traditional Siamese. All Siamese have short coats.

Coat & Colors

The Birman feature a colorpoint coat, white feet, and striking blue eyes. Kittens are usually born solid white and darken as they age. Birmans have a white-to-cream body and display four color points: chocolate point, seal point, blue point, and lilac point. Birman may also be tabby and tortie patterns. 

The Siamese cat can share a similar coat appearance to the Birman and also has a signature colorpoint coat. The Siamese may be a seal point, chocolate point, blue point, or lilac point, with body color being pale fawn, cream, ivory, or bluish-white. As with the Birman, the Siamese cat has vivid blue eyes.

Personality & Temperament

Cat lovers praise the Birman breed’s sweet, gentle, and affectionate temperament. This cat loves its humans and will happily follow you everywhere you go. The Birman is a curious breed that will adapt well to new people and situations. The Birman is an excellent choice if you desire a loving, friendly cat. As a caveat, Birman may become depressed if left alone too often, so you will need to be able to give this kitty plenty of quality time if you wish to avoid behavioral issues.

The Siamese is social, friendly, and affectionate. These cats love people of all ages, as well as cats and other dogs. Get ready for lots of cuddles. This breed is highly playful, active, and intelligent. Siamese can be insistent and are a very vocal cat breed, so plan to hear their opinion about almost everything. They thrive in large families or multi-pet households that can give them all of the attention and interaction they need to thrive.

Intelligence & Training

While training any cat can be difficult, the Birman is an intelligent cat that wants to please you and responds well to training. With a bit of patience, you’ll be surprised how much you can teach your Birman.

On the other hand, the acute intelligence of the Siamese may keep you on your toes. This breed loves climbing and exploring. Don’t be surprised if your Siamese cat opens doors, turns on faucets, and gets into anything they set their mind on. Trick training and other games come easily to the Siamese.

Activity Level

Birmans cats are playful and active. They will enjoy following you around the house all day long but will also be happy to take a long afternoon cat nap. The athletic Siamese is a highly-active cat demanding lots of attention and action. Make sure to provide this keep with plenty of interactive games and toys to prevent boredom.

Vocalness

Overall, the Birman is relatively quiet, with soft chirp-like voices. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Siamese exhibit a distinctive, legendary meowing. These cats always have something to say and are eager to share their thoughts on anything and everything.

Grooming

Despite the Birman’s long, beautiful coat, they shed much less than other long-haired breeds. Birmans cats have a single coat, making them unlikely to matt like other long-haired breeds. This cat requires minimal grooming. Give your Birman a weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush to keep their coat soft and silky.

Similarly, the Siamese should get a weekly brushing to maintain a healthy and shiny coat. This cat’s fur is thin and doesn’t shed as easily as other breeds, making them an excellent option for those with allergies.

With all cats, you need to trim your cat’s nails regularly. Trim your indoor cat’s nails every few weeks. A cat’s claws may crack or break without regular trimming, leading to pain or infection. Nail overgrowth can also spark mobility issues and chronic pain. Use a high-quality nail trimmer to make the job quick and painless. 

While grooming your cat, check their ears for signs of debris, and clean or treat them as needed. Both the Birman and Siamese are susceptible to periodontal disease. Regular brushing using pet-formulated toothpaste prevents damage to your cat’s teeth and gums.

Nutrition

While neither of these cats has specific dietary needs, it’s best practice to always choose a quality food that matches your cat’s age and activity level. All cats require a high-protein, meat-based diet for proper absorption of nutrients. Cats also use fat as a source of energy. Supplement extra fats for anti-inflammatory support and an extra glossy coat, but remember to feed in moderation. Too much fat can lead to obesity and other related health issues. Finally, cats are fussy drinkers. Consider wet food to keep your kitty hydrated. You can also soak kibble in broth or water as an excellent way to avoid dehydration. Fresh, clean water should always be available for your cat to drink.

Health & Lifespan

Birman Health Conditions

While the Birman is a healthy breed overall, it is susceptible to developing certain health conditions, including: 

  • Gastrointestinal disorders: vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Heart disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Kidney disease
  • Mouth and gum disease
  • Urinary conditions: Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), infections, and bladder stones

The Birman lifespan is 12 to 16 years. You can expect your Birman to live a long, happy life with a quality diet, daily exercise, and regular checkups with the veterinarian.

Siamese Health Conditions

While there are many prevalent health conditions within the Siamse breed, these appearances will vary in different breeding lineages; thus, it is crucial to know the family history of your Siamese. Take time to interview your Siamese breeders and get a full report on the family line and health history. Siamese cats are predisposed to the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer (lymphoma, mast cell tumors, thymoma)
  • Crossed eyes
  • Feline hyperesthesia syndrome
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Pica
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Lysosomal storage diseases
  • Mouth and gum disease
  • Sinus and respiratory problems
  • Separation anxiety
  • Systemic amyloidosis
  • Vitiligo

Despite these conditions, on average, Siamese cats live from 15 to 20 years.

As Family Pets

Both breeds are loving and affectionate and require lots of attention and play to be happy and healthy. Both cats are safe to have around kids, but you should always show your children how to respect an animal in their care.

Siamese tend to bond strongly with one special person. These cats crave attention and may show separation behaviors, like meowing loudly or peeing outside the litter box, if left alone too often.

Price & Costs

When purchased from a breeder, pedigreed Birman kittens can cost $600 to $3,000. Birman cats are still rare, so don’t expect to find one at a rescue organization. A Siamese cat may reach up to $1,000 for a pedigreed feline, though you can find a rescue Siamese and adopt for a couple hundred dollars or less. 

Both cats require regular veterinary checkups to prevent illness and maintain good health. It is especially crucial to monitor the health of your Siamese, as they are prone to more health issues than the average cat.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Tell The Difference Between Birman Cats and Siamese Cats?

The fastest way to distinguish a Birman from a Siamese is by looking at the paws. A Siamese cat will have dark paws, while a Birman will have white paws.

What Are Other Differences Between Birman Cat And Siamese Cat?

Besides appearance, there are many differences between these breeds. The Birman is quiet and relaxed, while the Simease is active and chatty. Both cats are sociable, but Simease tends to be the more social breed, happy to interact with strangers, children, or anyone else. While Birman prefer snuggling with their people, this cat doesn’t mind occasionally staying home alone. The Siamese needs activity and company throughout the day, whether it be a human or another cat.

Final Thoughts

While both of these cats are fantastic felines, they are different overall. Both cats are social, intelligent, and affectionate. They both crave attention and exhibit behavioral issues when their needs aren’t met. While the Birman tends to be a quiet companion, expect your Siamese to be a chatterbox. 

Still trying to decide which breed is right for you? Consider another cat often compared to the Birman and Siamese: the Ragdoll! Like the Birman and Siamese, the Ragdoll is an affectionate cat with a colorpoint coat and blue eyes. Our Seal Point Ragdoll Cat Breed Overview will tell you all you need to know about this popular cat.

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