Beautiful, sociable and with a distinctive meow, Siamese cats are truly one of a kind. Originally from Thailand (which used to be called Siam, hence the name Siamese), these cats have always carried a mysterious air about them. One of the mysteries is how this breed made their way from Siam to North America to become the twelfth most popular cat breed in the United States, per the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). Read on to discover more fun facts and trivia about Siamese cats.
History of the Siamese Breed
Even the Siamese’s origin is mysterious. Some historians say that Siamese cats were raised by Buddhist monks. Others say that royalty first owned them. When a member of royalty died in Siam, it was believed that a Siamese cat would receive their soul. That lucky cat would then live out the rest of its days in a temple, being waited on by monks who fulfilled its every need.
The Siamese first appears in a book called the Tamra Maew (translated into “The Cat Book Poems”) from sometime between the 14th and 18th centuries. So it’s clear that the Siamese is a very old breed. In Thailand, where Siamese cats are from, they are called the wichien-matt, translated to “Moon Diamond.”
It is believed that the Siamese cat was brought to North America sometime in the late 19th century. Some stories say that a U.S. naval officer picked up two Siamese cats while in Southeast Asia and brought them home with him on his ship. Other stories claim that an American friend of the King of Siam was gifted Siamese cats.
One of the first “notable” Siamese cats in history that was brought to the United States was given to President Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife, Lucy, in the late 1870s as a gift by a diplomat from Bangkok. He told her at that time that his gift to her was the first attempt to send a Siamese cat to America. Lucy named the cat Siam, but unfortunately, he only lived for one year after landing on U.S. shores.
In addition to being shipped to the U.S. in the late 1870s, the Siamese breed also showed up at the world’s first major cat show, held at London’s Crystal Palace in July 1871. This was reportedly the first time any Brit had ever seen a Siamese cat, and some of them weren’t impressed, calling it unnatural and “a nightmare.” Shortly after that, British Consul-General Owen Gould brought two Siamese cats, named Pho and Mia, from Thailand to live with him in London in 1894. These two cats, along with their offspring, were shown at the cat show at London’s Crystal Palace in 1895. These cats were much more well-received than their predecessors had been 24 years earlier.
Physical Traits of the Siamese Breed
Originally, Siamese cats were known to have crossed eyes and kinked tails. These traits were seen as undesirable by cat breeders, and they were bred out of the breed through selective breeding. Some modern-day Siamese cats still have crossed eyes or crooked tails, but they are in the minority.
Siamese cats also had stockier bodies and rounder faces in the past than they do now. Again, these traits were eliminated through selective breeding. Today’s Siamese cat is much leaner and fine-boned than its ancestors.
Interestingly, Siamese cats cannot see as well in the dark as other cat breeds. Because they have lighter colored eyes (usually blue), their eyesight is thought to be weaker than that of other breeds. They also lack a certain tissue in the eye that reflects light through the retina.
Coloring of the Siamese Breed
You will notice that a Siamese cat’s coat is usually white, but its eyes are darker, as are its facial features, and its paws look like they’ve been dipped in dark paint. This is due to a temperature-sensitive enzyme, causing the cat to develop color on the cooler areas of its body, and stay lighter on the warmer torso area of its body. In fact, when Siamese kittens are born, they are pure white, and don’t develop the color tip points until they are a few weeks old. These Seal Points can be dark brown, blue, chocolate or lilac colored.
Personality Traits of the Siamese Breed
Siamese cats are known to be people lovers. They are quite sociable and love to cuddle, bonding very closely with their humans. They will follow their owners around the house like a dog. Siamese cats are also very good with children, strangers, and other cats. However, don’t leave your Siamese cat alone for too long, as their sociable nature makes them prone to depression if they become lonely. This is why Siamese cats are often adopted in pairs.
Siamese cats are known to be curious and very intelligent. They can be trained to play fetch, walk on a leash, and give high fives. Their curiosity also causes them to get into trouble around the house, so keep things secured and locked away if you don’t want your Siamese getting into them!
Siamese cats are quite talkative, with a low-pitched, loud cry to tell its owner its needs. Chatty and lovable – that describes the Siamese breed to a T.
Weight of the Siamese Breed
The average male Siamese cat weighs from 11 to 15 pounds. The average female Siamese weighs eight to 12 pounds. One Siamese cat, however, weighed much more than this. In 2003, a Siamese cat named Katy from Russia grew to 50 pounds! This was due to the fact that her owner gave her hormones to stop her mating, but these hormones caused her appetite to increase.
Litter Size of the Siamese Breed
Siamese cats typically give birth to four to six kittens. In 1970, however, a Siamese cat in the United Kingdom famously gave birth to 19 kittens! Four of these were stillborn. This litter was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest litter of domestic cats ever, a record that stands today.
Famous Siamese Cats in Popular Culture
Siamese cats have been all over popular culture, in the movies, literature and other media. Some of them include:
- 1965’s film, “That Darn Cat!,” featured DC, or Darn Cat, a Siamese tomcat
- 1963’s “The Incredible Journey” also featured a Siamese cat named Tao
- 1958’s film Bell, Book and Candle featured a Siamese cat named Pyewacket
- In 1955, animated Siamese cats Si and Am were in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, singing the famous “Siamese Cat Song” (You likely remember its lyrics…”We are Siamese if you please…We are Siamese if you don’t please”)
- A Siamese cat is mentioned in Bob Dylan’s 1965 song, “Like a Rolling Stone”
- Nermal, Garfield’s friend, is depicted as a Siamese cat in Garfield: The Movie
- Meowth, a popular Pokemon character, is based on a Siamese cat
Other Famous Siamese Cats Throughout History
- Two Siamese cats at the Dutch embassy in Moscow in the 1960s were credited with finding 30 microphones hidden behind a wall in their ambassador Henri Helb’s study.
- Actor James Dean owned a Siamese cat, given to him by actress Elizabeth Taylor in September 1955 while working on the set of the film “Giant.” Dean named the kitten Marcus, after his uncle. Sadly, Dean died shortly after receiving this gift.