Anyone in the market for a Siamese kitten will often have a similar experience. You want a Siamese just like the lovely one you had as a child, or who just passed away at a ripe old age. You go to local breeders, you look in magazines, you attend cats shows, but what you most often find is a cat that looks quite different from the large robust cat you remember. By comparison to the cat you remember, the modern version of the Siamese is emaciated, with large bat-like ears, an elongated head and pencil thin legs. You might ask yourself, "Is this really a Siamese?"
The short answer is 'yes', but this is certainly not the same type as you remember. Chances are what you recall is a large robust cat with a round head, normal looking ears, and lovely blue eyes. What you remember is now called a 'Traditional Siamese, or 'applehead' Siamese, while the one that dominates the show ring now is known as the Modern Siamese.
If you wonder out loud about what happened, different breeders may give you very different explanations, but the truth is clearly available in any history book.
While the Siamese 'Kinked Tail" has become a 'fault' it should be noted that in the early shows it was mandatory for a Siamese to have a kink in its tail to be considered a true Siamese. Over time this trait fell from favor and was bred out of the breed as much as possible. However it is so imbedded in the genetics that it still appears occasionally in some lines more than others. Since it does not affect the cat's health in any way, many breeders have become tolerant of this trait as long as the kink cannot be seen and can only be felt by running the fingers down the length of the tail. Whether desirable or not, the kinked tail is part of the history of the Siamese as indicated by the following legends:
It is said that there was once a Siamese Princess who was frightened of losing her rings while she bathed in a stream. Looking around for somewhere convenient to place her jewelry, she noticed that her favorite cat had crooked his tail for her benefit. Ever since that time all Siamese cats have been born with a tiny kink at the end of their tails to hold the Princess' rings.
A young cat took his wife into the jungle to search for a royal goblet that was missing from one of the Siamese temples. Upon finding the treasure, they decided that the female should remain in the jungle to guard it while the male went back to the city to inform the priest of their discovery. So the little cat took up her position among the leaves and tangled foliage, her tail twisted around the stem of the goblet to make quite sure that no one would try to take it away. Four nights later her husband returned to find he was the father of five sweet little kittens. But, in spite of her new responsibility, the loyal mother cat had not forgotten her earlier trust. Indeed, so conscientious had she been in her protection of the goblet that a permanent kink had developed in the end of her tail. What was more, all five kittens had a similar kink in their tails !
The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognised breeds of Oriental cat. The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is believed to be from South-East Asia, and may be descended from the sacred temple cats of Siam (hence their name). The breed was first seen outside their Asian home in 1884, when the British Counsul-General in Bangkok, Mr Owen Gould, brought a pair of the cats back to Britain for his sister, Mrs Veley (who went on to be co-founder of the Siamese Cat Club in 1901). The cats were shown at the Crystal Palace in 1885, and the following year another pair (with kittens) were imported by a Mrs. Vyvyan and her sister. A small number of cats were brought in over the next few years, and together these formed the base breeding pool for entire breed in Britain.
An example of an "apple-headed" Siamese catAs a result of thousands of generations of selective breeding and the pressures of competition there are now actually two subbreeds of Siamese - the modern show Siamese, and the traditional or 'appleheaded' Siamese. Modern show Siamese have been bred to be extremely elongated, with bodies slender to the point of emaciation, and a Y-shaped head with an extremely long muzzle and extra-large 'batwing' ears. The traditional Siamese are much sturdier, with a round head and ears more in proportion to their size. Siamese cats often have a kink in their tails, because the original breeders saw that as a unique feature of the breed. In recent years the kinked tail has become a "flaw" and breeders have largely eradicated it from the Show Siamese. Both breeds of Siamese have almond-shaped eyes and like all Oriental cats they are extremely talkative and demanding of attention. They often will engage themselves in crazy antics to get the attention of their people, and often attach themselves to one human in a household. As they are wired for sound, they can meow loud enough to compete with fire and rescue equipment.
All Siamese have a creamy base coat with coloured "points" on their muzzles, ears, paws and lower legs, and tails. The darker Siamese have a darkening of their back and hindquarters as well. Originally Siamese were all seal-pointed, but now they have been bred in all of the standard cat colours including red, lilac, blue, chocolate, tabby and torty or tortoise-shell. In the United Kingdom, all pointed Siamese-style cats are considered to be part of the Siamese breed. In the United States, however, only four colorations are considered Siamese: seal point, blue point, chocolate point, and lilac point. Oriental cats with colorpoints in colors or patterns aside from these four are considered Colorpoint Shorthairs in the American cat fancy.
The coloration of the coat is determined by an enzyme that is heat-sensitive. All Siamese kittens, although pure cream or white at birth, develop visible points in the first few months of life in colder parts of their body. By the time the kitten is four weeks old the points should be clearly distinguishable enough to recognise which colour they will be.
Many Siamese are cross-eyed to compensate for the abnormal uncrossed wiring of the optic chiasm, which is produced by the same albino allele that produces coloured points.
A show SiameseRecent Siamese cats have been named 'Serengeti' when they are crossed with Bengal cats. The Serengeti often is almost indistinguishable from a normal Siamese. Siamese cats crossed with Burmese cats are known as 'Tonkinese'