Clever, active and endlessly curious, the Siamese is ready to rule your world
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
They aren’t necessarily the most popular cat breed -- that spot is held by ragdolls or Persians, depending on which list you look at -- but Siamese, nicknamed “meezers” by their fans, are arguably the world’s most recognizable cats. Vivid blue eyes, striking pointed coats (pale body with dark points on face, paws, ears and tail), rasping voices and a superior manner make them unforgettable.
The slinky cats date to the 14th century in Thailand, then known as Siam. But they didn’t come to the attention of Westerners in a big way until the last quarter of the 19th century: The era that saw the commencement of cat shows and the rise of the pedigreed pet. The first-known Siamese in the United States was a gift to President Rutherford B. Hayes and first lady Lucy Hayes from the American consul in Bangkok in 1879. They made their U.K. debut in 1884, gaining the moniker “royal cat of Siam.”
Early Siamese were more solid, with rounder heads than today’s runway-model sleek specimens. The old-style cats are now considered a separate breed, the Thai, by The International Cat Association (TICA) and the World Cat Federation. In their homeland, where they are still found, they’re called wichien-maat, which translates as “moon diamond,” and are considered to bring good luck.
Siamese kittens are born white and start to develop points a few weeks later. The classic colors are seal point, chocolate point, blue point and lilac point. Siamese themselves are limited to those colors -- and to a short coat -- but the breed has been used as a jumping-off point to create new breeds with distinctive traits. They include the Oriental -- described as a “nonpointed” Siamese -- which can be shorthair or longhair and comes in hundreds of combinations of colors and patterns, and the colorpoint shorthair, which comes in 16 point colors. Others are the Balinese, a pointed cat with long hair; the snowshoe, a white-pawed cat created by crossing seal-point Siamese with American shorthairs; the Tonkinese, created by crossing Siamese and Burmese; and the Havana brown, the result of planned breedings between Siamese cats and domestic black cats. Other breeds with Siamese ancestry include the Himalayan, ocicat, Javanese and Savannah.
“Siamese are one of the oldest and most famous breeds of cats,” says Heather Lorimer, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics at Youngstown State University and TICA genetics committee chair. “Many breeders wanted to incorporate some of their elegance, grace and intelligence into other breeds. Some wanted the svelte and elongated body type, longer head, larger ears or straighter profile. The single most sought-after trait, however, is their distinctive coloration. Many people wanted their breeds to include creamy colored bodies, dark extremities and those glorious blue eyes. Even Himalayan Persians, which have the opposite body type and head structure, got their pointed color through outcrossing to Siamese.”
Personality is another factor. It’s one of the reasons Siamese have been used in the creation of different breeds, says TICA judge and Siamese and Oriental shorthair breeder Toni Jones. “Siamese cats are extremely outgoing and smart, and that is a trait many breeders want.”
Chatty, curious, smart and loving, Siamese are known for their desire to be with their people and to run the household. They love to talk and will carry on conversations in a loud, hoarse voice. Expect them to be interested in everything going on around them. Siamese make it their business to open cabinets, turn on faucets or otherwise participate in household activities.
They are also known for being one of the cat breeds willing to walk on leash -- so they can go exploring, of course. They play fetch and enjoy learning tricks.
For your happiness and the cat’s, choose a Siamese if you’re prepared to live with an opinionated cat who wants to be involved in everything you do.
What diseases can
I catch from pets?
Q: My dog has giardia. Do I need to be worried that he could transmit it to me or the kids?
A: The good news is that the type of giardia that commonly infects dogs and cats isn’t the same as the one that commonly infects humans. In the rare instances that do occur, it’s usually because the person has a weak immune system.
But there are plenty of other zoonoses (zoe-uh-NOH-seez) -- diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans: parasites such as roundworms and hookworms; fungal infections such as ringworm; salmonellosis; and the deadly virus rabies. Keep in mind, too, that many infectious diseases in humans can also be transmitted to animals, including MRSA, the influenza A virus and COVID-19. In most cases, the risk is low, but either way, you and your family members should take basic hygiene steps to prevent transmission.
Kids are at high risk because their immune systems haven’t had a lot of training yet, as are seniors, whose immune systems may have diminishing strength, and people with illnesses such as cancer or HIV. But everyone should wash their hands with soap and running water after handling raw food or pet food or petting animals. Pick up dog poop and scoop the litter box daily.
On the pet side, the use of parasite preventives for dogs and cats and having them dewormed on a regular basis means they are less likely to acquire and transmit bugs that you don’t want to have. Rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs -- even if they spend most of their time indoors -- protect all of you from this fatal disease. It’s not uncommon for bats, which can carry rabies, to fly into houses, or for cats and dogs to escape outdoors, where they could come in contact with a rabid animal. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
bid burglars bye
-- Lots of people keep dogs not only for companionship but also because their barks are likely to deter thieves. Which breed has the loudest bark? According to Guinness World Records, golden retrievers rank No. 1, having been recorded at 113 decibels, about the same level as live rock music. Other breeds with loud voices include German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, Scottish terriers and redbone coonhounds. But any yap will do, burglars say in surveys; if they hear a dog, they tend to move on to somewhere else.
-- Eebbers, a bomb-sniffing vizsla-Lab mix who spent 10 years working for the Transportation Security Administration, is retiring, along with handler Jean Carney. His assignments over the years included providing security for two Super Bowls, the Indianapolis 500 and the Special Olympics World Games. The 11-year-old sniffer dog, who was the TSA’s oldest working canine, is going out on top, having recently won the agency’s cutest canine contest as well as the cover spot on the TSA’s 2023 canine calendar. Their retirement plans include lots of swimming, says Carney, who is looking forward to helping Eebbers enjoy a dog’s life.
-- Does your bee colony need a veterinarian? When bees get sick, the whole colony is affected, so it’s important to keep them healthy -- especially since they are a vital part of our food production system through both pollination and honey production. Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine is making sure that more veterinarians are prepared to recognize bee colony health hazards such as pathogens, pests and parasitic mites and prescribe antibiotics or other medications by offering a three-week rotation in honeybee medicine. Yes, that’s a thing! The Michigan Pollinator Initiative has more information here: pollinators.msu.edu/programs/bees-need-vets/bee-vet-resources. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.