5 Things to Know About Birmans


1. Key Characteristics

  • Weight: 10–15 pounds for males, 6–10 pounds for females
  • Life Expectancy: 14 years

Birmans are medium to large cats with round blue eyes and muscular bodies often mistaken for ragdolls or ragamuffins. Their coats are light in color with darker points in varying shades.

They also have distinctive white bottoms on their paws often referred to as “boots” or “gloves.”

2. Where They Came From

The Birman comes from an enchanting myth originating in Burma. The breed was said to be a favorite among priests and obtained its unique coloring when a Birman comforted its human, a dying priest. The cat placed its paws upon the priest’s chest; after he passed, colors descended on the fur and the paws turned white to represent purity.

Exact dates vary, but the Birman is believed to have arrived in France in the late 1910s. The breed was recognized in France in 1925, England in 1966 and the United States in 1967. The Cat Fanciers’ Association awarded the breed championship status in 1972.

There is a tradition to naming a litter of Birman kittens that is still followed among breeders. Each year a letter is designated, and any kitten born in that year is given a name beginning with the specified letter, so the year for the letter X must be challenging, no?

Birmans are often mistaken for ragdolls or ragamuffins. By: Eric Isselee (Top: loganban)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Birmans are active, playful cats who love company in the form of people, other animals and children. Easy to train, Birmans are even described as doglike in their behavior — they fetch, drag toys and blankets around the house, and greet you at the door as a dog would.

A word to the wise: Be prepared to get more than 1 Birman unless you already have existing pets or someone who stays home most of the day. As mentioned, they really like being social.

4. Is This the Right Cat for You?

Exercise Needs

LOW: Birmans do not have any special exercise needs. They are recommended as indoor pets; their affectionate and friendly nature can make them an easy target for outdoor dangers.

Their physical activity should be similar to that of most cats (sleeping long hours, playing, running and jumping). Contact your veterinarian if you notice a decrease in activity or mobility; this could be a sign of a health issue.

Grooming Needs

LOW: The Birman does not have an undercoat, and the fur does not mat easily so grooming’s easy; 1–2 brushings per week are sufficient to maintain the coat’s softness.

Trim the cat’s nails as needed (usually once 1–2 weeks), and clean the ears and teeth to promote good overall health.

Health Problems

MEDIUM: Birmans are fairly healthy cats but have a propensity to become overweight or obese. Regulate their food intake to prevent this condition.

There is also a possibility of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) affecting the breed. HCM is the most common disease affecting the heart by thickening the heart walls and restricting blood flow. Symptoms are rare but might include weight changes, difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat.

5. Where to Adopt One

If you consider getting a Birman for your next pet, please check adoption resources — even purebred animals end up in shelters. Try Petful’s pet adoption page. (Select the “Cats” tab.)

Additional Resources

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