By Jennifer Phillips
Siamese cats have held a special place in the hearts of many throughout history. Their striking looks and unique personalities make them stand out among the variety of breeds of cats. The fondness for Siamese cats can be seen by their many appearances in art, books, poems and movies. They were considered guardians of Buddhist temples and it was believed that they developed special powers upon taking on this duty, intervening on behalf of the dead. Siamese cats have not forgotten their royal history and still expect royal treatment.
In Siam, now Thailand, they were only kept and bred by the royal family and known as “Royal Points,” When someone of high rank died, the royal family would select a Siamese cat to receive the soul of the deceased. Then the cat would be moved to a temple to live out its life in luxury, eating the best food served on golden plates, with monks and priests acting as their servants and worshiped as guardians of temples. The earliest recorded history of Siamese cats was in Russian engravings in the late 1700s, where they were recognized by their distinctive markings.
Siamese cats were introduced to Europe when the British Consul-General Gould brought a breeding pair home from Siam as a gift for his sister in the 1884. Westerners found this breed of cat to be very intriguing and fanciers began importing them to create a breeding stock. The first Siamese cat to come to the U.S., named Siam, was a gift to First Lady Lucy Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes, from the American Consul in Bangkok in 1879.
The unique beauty of the Siamese played a big part in their popularity today. They have big blue eyes and a cream coat, with color points on their feet, tail and face. The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes 4 different color points in Siamese cats. Originally, most Siamese cats were Seal Points, but some were born with variations that become the other 3 colors. The Seal Point Siamese has a cream colored body with very dark brown to black points. There is a dilute version of the Seal Point called a Chocolate Point which has an ivory colored body and milk chocolate colored points. Another is the Blue Point, which has a bluish tinted body with deep blue points. The dilute of the Blue Point is the Lilac Point which has a white body with light grey points.
The formation of the color points is somewhat unusual. Their unique pattern and blue eyes are caused by a type of albinism, resulting from a mutation in an enzyme involved in melanin production causing it to be heat-sensitive. The enzyme only becomes active in cooler areas of the skin, causing dark coloration in the coolest parts of their body, including the legs, tail, and face, which is cooled by the air passing through the sinuses.
Siamese cats can win you over with their loving personalities. They are very intelligent, social cats that like to be a part of whatever you are doing. Some cats can be taught tricks, like how to fetch a toy when thrown, which many say makes them dog-like in behavior. They can be very vocal, mimicking their owner’s pattern of speech, even making sounds that resemble the cry of a baby. They have a very playful, active nature about them that usually stays with them into adulthood.
Siamese cats are a fun and interesting addition to any household that enjoys cats. They are such fun loving animals that want enjoy as much time with you as they can, whether it’s playing or curling up with you to take a nap. They are loyal companions that will keep you entertained and laughing throughout their lifetime.