The Siamese cat is one of the most popular and distinctive cat breeds, often revered for their signature looks and exotic appeal. But where are Siamese cats from?
Siamese cats are originally from Thailand, officially named Siam until 1939. They were brought to London, and later the Americas, in the 19th century. Learn more about the origins and unique history of these special cats.
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Siamese Cat Origin
Siamese cats come from Siam, but there’s debate over how old they are. They are believed to be depicted in the Thai manuscript Tamra Maew (known as The Cat Book Poems), which was created sometime between the 14th and 18th centuries. These manuscripts are kept in the National Library of Thailand, with some in the British Library and National Library of Australia.
The Siamese Development in Great Britain
In 1884, the British Consul-General in Bangkok, Edward Blencowe Gould, brought a breeding pair of Siamese—Pho and Mia—back to Great Britain for his sister Lilian Jane Gould. She later co-founded the Siamese Cat Club in 1901. The pair produced three Siamese kittens—Ngai, Kalohom, and Khromata, who were shown at the Crystal Palace Show in London.
Unfortunately, the three kittens died not long after the show, but they made quite an impression in a short time. Siamese grew in popularity among Britons, who had become accustomed to British Shorthair and Persian cats.
By comparison, the Siamese are longer and leaner, with wedge-shaped heads and large ears. They also have a distinctive pointed coat. The impression wasn’t always positive. In fact, one person described the Siamese as an “unnatural nightmare of a cat”.
Still, breeding continued to form the base for the entire breed in Britain. It’s believed that most modern Siamese are descended from these original imports.
The Siamese in Modern Times
The Siamese is one of several cats mentioned in the Tamra Maew, though the first documented Siamese in the US was received by US President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. The cat was named “Siam” and was sent by the American Consul in Bangkok.
The popularity of the Siamese only grew, with many famous celebrities owning them over the years. Some notable owners include Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Michael Landon, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Lennon. Siamese cats have also been featured in films like Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” and “That Darn Cat!”
Modern breeders continue to preserve the Siamese bloodlines, though two types of Siamese are currently available: the modern “show-style” Siamese and the “Traditional Siamese”. Though both cats descended from the same distant ancestors, they share no common ones and form two sub-breeds: “Old-style Siamese” and “Applehead Siamese”.
Despite the differences between the new and old Siamese variations, they share a lot of similarities in their lithe bodies, wide ears, slender tail, and signature pointed coats. Traditional Siamese have tan bodies with darker points on the legs, tail, ears, and face.
There are several types of pointed coats that have developed, however, including seal points, blue (cool gray) points, chocolate points, and lilac (warm gray) points. These colors were not accepted in the show or breeding circles, but they’ve become popular among owners.
Several breeds were derived from the Siamese, including the Balinese, Birman, Burmese, Colorpoint Shorthair, Himalayan, Javanese, Ocicat, Oriental Shorthair, Ragdoll, Savannah, Thai Cat, Tonkinese, and Mekong Bobtail.
Siamese cats have a unique history and an enduring legacy in the cat world. They were close to royalty in their early history, shifting to the more modern interpretation of royal in the form of US presidents and celebrities. Now, the Siamese is still a popular breed that comes in many varieties and contributed to many other unique cat breeds all over the world.