The elegant Siamese is a true extrovert – clever, curious, and vocal. Elegant and enchanting, Siamese cats have made it big in classic movies of the past. Even if you’ve never seen a Siamese in anything but pictures or films, you can imagine one draped lithely across the starlet’s shoulders. Elegance is inevitable when dealing with a Siamese.
If you’re interested in a feline friend with a personality larger than she is and you appreciate a cat who nimbly leaps and climbs her way through your home to insist on her rightful place in your lap, you’ll love adding a Siamese to your household.
Siamese cats have a distinct color pattern, physical characteristics, and personality traits. Purebred Siamese parents will always produce the pattern known as colorpoint, although the base color of each individual’s coat may vary. Individuals from the same litter may show differences in appearance or personality, so spend time with your kitten before you commit to her. You won’t know what she’ll look like for months. Regardless of how her color develops, she’s a unique individual who needs your love and care as she grows.
The first Siamese imported to the United States was a gift from the American Consul in Bangkok to President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife in 1879. After what was likely a long and harrowing journey to the White House, “Siam,” as they came to call her, was a favorite of the First Daughter. Siam sadly took ill after several months in her new country and succumbed. Although orders were given to preserve her body, presumably through taxidermy, it has never been found.
Recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) in 1906, the Siamese was one of the original breeds of pedigreed cats. Distinctly different from the other breeds initially recognized including the Persian and the American (Domestic) Shorthair, the Siamese was unique in color and form. Longer and more slender than other early breeds, the Siamese’s distinctive blue eyes link to its striking coat pattern. Siamese cats express the recessive colorpoint gene, which is only expressed if both parents pass it.
Perhaps you have a cat whose ancestry you don’t know. Today, a genetic test can determine if your cat carries this Siamese (Himalayan) colorpoint gene. If it does, it has the Himalayan mutation somewhere in its genetic history, and it likely came from a Siamese or Himalayan cat generations back. If you’re trying to see if the test is worth the money, you’ve probably noticed other traits associated with Siamese cats in your companion.
Size And Appearance
As often happens with a pedigreed breed, fashion dictates form. Modern show-style Siamese cats are extreme versions of the traits that made older-style Siamese look different from other cats of their day. The original cats brought to the United States and the United Kingdom were lithe, athletic cats but not remarkably slight. Their faces were rounder than the extreme type we see today. Through the 1950’s, 60’s, and ’70s, breeders selected Siamese cats for their longer, slimmer heads. The most recent style of Siamese is quite extreme. The modern show-style Siamese has a very elongated head and a flat profile.
The Siamese head became flatter and more chiseled, but it’s not the only part of the cat that has evolved due to fashion. Everything in the breed standard suggests lithe elegance. Body, neck, legs, and tail descriptions all center on the word “long,” with svelte, slender, slim, and thin intermixed.
Purebred Siamese cats have blue eyes. The gene that controls this is the same, giving them their distinctive colorpoint pattern. Their eyes are almond-shaped and slant in harmony with the wedged shape of the face. Although the breed standard states that the Siamese cat’s eyes should not be crossed, this breed’s crossed eyes are a trait often seen in this breed. Their strabismus is due to a genetic mutation that may be related to their coat pattern and blue eyes, which means the centers of their retinas are shifted slightly off-center. Crossing their eyes slightly brings their field of vision into focus to see a single image with binocular vision.
Siamese cats are known for their voice and willingness to use it. They are social and express themselves through their meow and body language. Intelligent and curious, Siamese cats make fascinating companions. The Siamese wants to be in your lap and is not the type of cat to hide away from people. Patient owners can teach Siamese cats to walk on a leash, but like most intelligent animals, these cats have definite opinions about what they do and when they do it.
Coats & Colors
Her blue eyes and ombre shading are linked to specific gene mutations. The mutation is called Himalayan and isn’t limited to only the Siamese and Himalayan breeds. If both parents pass along the Himalayan gene, you’ll have a kitten with light body color and darker extremities, or “points.” Siamese kittens are born white. Your kitten won’t appear colorpoint until ten to twelve days old, and they continue to darken as they age.
The CFA recognizes four colors in the Siamese breed, seal point (fawn to cream body with darker seal brown points), chocolate point (ivory body with warm, milk chocolate brown points), blue point (bluish-white body with cool, deep slate blue points), and lilac point (glacial white body with frosty pinkish-grey points).
A fascinating aspect of the Himalayan pattern is the science behind it. The Himalayan mutation alters tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin (pigment) production. Melanin is what controls color, and the mutation makes warmer temperatures deactivate the enzyme. The warmer the area of the body, the less melanin is produced to color the coat. This partial albinism allows the base coat color to be still seen but at different concentrations. The cooler parts of the body, the extremities, have more color because they have more melanin production in the hair follicles. A double dilution is responsible for the lighter two colors of Siamese, but they are also based on black and brown basic coats.
They’ll appreciate being curried to loosen shed hair and then brushed with a soft bristle brush. They’ll enjoy it more than they require it, but brushing does stimulate oil production in the hair follicles and helps keep their skin healthy and coat glowing. Like all cats, they’ll need their nails trimmed, and brushing their teeth helps prevent periodontal disease.
Unless your Siamese kitten has a health problem, you’ll have an easy time keeping cat hair to a minimum in the house. If you own a Siamese mix, remember that a mix brings traits from both parents, and if your kitten’s other parent is a long-haired, heavily shedding breed, you may have more grooming and clean-up ahead of you.
Most importantly, cats want to feel safe in their homes. There should be plenty of hiding places and designated areas for their food and water away from their litterbox. Household items may pose a hazard to your curious companion. Your Siamese will be active and athletic. You’ll have a climber who needs an outlet for her energy. Providing cat trees and scratch toys will help her find appropriate outlets for her desire to climb and scratch.
Exercise & Training
Your Siamese will likely be energetic and curious. Although the term cat nap exists for a reason, Siamese cats are dynamic and agile. Their light-boned frames weren’t made to carry much extra weight, either. If your cat begins to put on weight, approach the fix not just by limiting calories but by adding opportunities for exercise to her day.
Siamese cats accept training better than some breeds, so training them to walk on a leash may be an option. It takes the proper equipment and a lot of patience. Not only does being able to get out and about safely outside keep him healthy physically, but it can also alleviate boredom and improve indoor behavior.
Common Training For Cats
- Use the scratching post or cat tree only.
- Keep claws retracted when playing with people.
- Eliminate only in the litter box.
- Biting is for toys only.
- Games and tricks.
- Standard commands like sit, stay, roll over, jump, high-five, play a game, time to eat, come here, etc.
- Familiarity with the grooming process.
- Familiarity with being bathed.
- Riding calmly in the car.
Because purebred Siamese cats have some genetic predispositions, you’ll need to understand how her ancestry brings some health concerns that “run in the family,” so to speak. All modern cats face health problems from obesity and teeth and gum disease, but there are some specific health disorders to which they are more susceptible than other breeds.
Amyloid protein can build up in the brain of human dementia patients, but in cats, it can accumulate in the internal organs. Amyloid buildup can cause organ failure. While there’s no cure for amyloidosis, diet and medication can support the affected organ.
Megaesophagus is precisely what it sounds like. The tube to the stomach (esophagus) acts as if it is stretched out. Food never makes it to the gut but instead is regurgitated. Siamese cats have some genetic predisposition for megaesophagus. If your kitten regurgitates food frequently in a tube shape, consult your vet. Feeding your cat as she “stands” or changing the consistency of his food may help, but the prognosis is poor for animals with this condition. They often aspirate pieces of food, which causes pneumonia.
Lymphoma, thymoma, and adenosarcoma strike Siamese cats more than many other breeds. Lymphoma causes the production of abnormal white blood cells, and symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, and labored breathing. A blood test can check for lymphoma; luckily, it is often treatable with chemotherapy. Thymoma is a specific type of lymphoma that can occur in the chest of younger cats but also responds well to chemotherapy. Consult your vet to see if regular blood screenings for lymphoma are appropriate for your Siamese. Adenosarcoma can cause sudden vomiting and diarrhea because the tumor can constrict the intestines. With such symptoms, consult your vet to see if surgical intervention is needed.
Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome
Just as anesthesia means without feeling, hyperesthesia means feeling things excessively. Affected cats become hypersensitive to touch and may cry, run away, or try to gnaw the sensation away. Your veterinarian will determine the root cause of symptoms and, if necessary, prescribe medication to lessen your Siamese cat’s discomfort.
Convergent Strabismus And Nystagmus
Convergent strabismus isn’t a problem in Siamese cats, but you may notice it in them and possibly in Siamese blends. Strabismus means that the cat’s eyes are crossed, and nystagmus is the rapid side-to-side movement her eyes may exhibit. In Siamese cats, these conditions don’t appear to decrease their vision.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) causes blindness. It is a recessive genetic trait, so a cat can pass it on to its kittens even without showing the disease, and it usually doesn’t strike until cats are one and a half to two years old. Anyone considering breeding their cat should have it tested to see if it carries the gene. Still, in the case of an accidental litter, a carrier parent may inadvertently perpetuate the gene. There’s no cure for PRA, but with your help, your cat can learn to manage her surroundings.
Don’t despair if you find your Siamese sucking on her blanket, tail, or any soft material, don’t despair. She’s self-soothing like a toddler who sucks her thumb. You may not be thrilled about her choice of a pacifier, but it doesn’t indicate a health problem.
Separation Anxiety Syndrome
The only downside to a cat who wants to be with you is that she wants to be with you more often than you might be able to support. Many of us work outside the home, and if your cat becomes nervous or bored when you leave, she’ll need a non-damaging way to alleviate her stress. If you’re able to keep a consistent routine from day to day, your cat will adjust accordingly, but if you work a rotating shift or are on call, leave plenty of toys and food puzzles to keep her busy until you return.
Breeders & Kitten Costs
Because this kitty is purebred, the price of a kitten will vary based on color and whether she’s a show or pet quality kitten. The kittens won’t immediately be recognizable as Siamese, so make sure you see the parents and have a guarantee. The colorpoint pattern doesn’t emerge until kittens are about a week old and continues to darken as they mature. A pet-quality Siamese may cost $600 to $800, but a show-quality kitten from a recognized breeder could cost as much as $2,500.
You may find a Siamese mix kitten free from a backyard or accidental breeder. The owners may ask you to reimburse some of the veterinary costs, but you’ll also be able to start a relationship with a vet who has already met your kitten and has vaccination records on file. A backyard breeder may not offer health guarantees, but they should be able to answer your questions and show you your kitten’s parents (unless the sire was simply a temporary visitor). Be wary of anyone selling kittens who won’t answer your questions or seems to produce many litters yearly.
Preparing For Your Kitten
Before bringing your kitten home, get the supplies you’ll need to take care of her. Have her litter box and the food you plan to feed waiting for her. You may wish to have a bed for her, a crate for transport, some toys, and grooming tools. If you don’t already have an established relationship with a local veterinarian, be ready to locate one for your kitten’s first vaccinations and a general wellness check. Expect to spend about $150 to $400 for your kitten’s supplies if you’re starting from scratch.
If you decide temperament is more important than color and you’re on a budget, consider a Siamese mix. There may not be many breeders advertising these mixed kittens, but you can check with local online resources. If you have Siamese breeders in your area, they may be able to steer you in the right direction. Your veterinarian may know of available kittens in your area and check local rescue and shelter pages regularly.
Rescues & Shelters
Check your local shelters regularly for kittens or cats with blue eyes and the colorpoint pattern. You can’t know all the breeds in the mix, but there’s likely Siamese. Purebred Siamese cats are always in demand, so breeders will try to limit accidental litters because they will probably not show the recessive gene. Depending on your needs, you may find a kitten with the look and temperament to make you happy at the shelter. The Humane Society of the United States, your local shelter, and your veterinarian are reliable resources for finding reputable shelters and rescue groups. You can expect to pay a shelter fee of between $60 and $120 to get a cat with a Siamese pattern.
Check your local shelters and rescue groups in late Spring and early Summer if you’re in the market for a kitten. They’ll likely have a vast array. If you are willing to adopt an older cat, you’ll be able to see the adult and interact with her one on one. There are many advantages to adopting a mature cat. Most kittens are playful but settle as they approach adulthood. When you meet an adult cat, what you see is what you get. You’ll have a much clearer picture of the personality you’ll be living with for the rest of your cat’s life.
You can’t go wrong with a Siamese if you’re in the market for an interactive, talkative feline companion. She will be a medium-sized cat who loves to leap from spot to high spot as she follows you through your home. She’s likely an agile climber but equally content to cuddle in your lap. You’ll need to monitor her weight and discuss her Siamese lineage and associated health risks with your veterinarian.
Play with your cat to provide exercise and strengthen your bond. This interactive, active cat will hopefully live as long as fifteen years. Remember that each cat is a unique individual. Your kitten’s full colorpoint pattern wont fully emerge until she’s around two years old, so take plenty of pictures of each phase along the way. Animals bring joy to our lives; when a Siamese loves you, you’ll be reminded, probably loudly, every day. Show her your love in return with regular veterinary care, proper nutrition, and a healthy, attentive environment.