Birman Cat: The Sacred Cuddle Monster

Image of a Birman cat on a street on an autmn day
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

Before you bring a new kitty home, it is best to first do a little bit of research about the needs of your new feline companion. Many new cat owners make the mistake of going by appearances alone when choosing the cat breed they want to adopt when they should have considered whether the cat is suitable for their lifestyle or not. Appearance-wise, the Birman cat is hard to beat. However, with Birman being a pure breed, these cats are generally susceptible to hereditary diseases, so you’ll want to consider your options carefully.

Despite the potential hereditary diseases, if looked after properly, this breed can live a long and relatively healthy life. If you are looking for a cat that will fill your life with love and commitment, then Birman is the right choice for you. Their stellar looks aren’t the only thing that attracts cat lovers to this breed. They have a very easy-going personality—making them perfect for homes with children or dogs.

close-up image of a birman cat sleeping

In this article, we will introduce you to the mysterious history of this breed. We will also talk about Birman cats’ personality, how to take a proper care of your cat to ensure that she will spend many years as your companion, the common medical conditions you’ll have to watch out for with this breed, and the physical traits that make this breed so irresistible.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Very Adaptable

  • Grooming: Moderate

  • Health: Average

  • All Around Friendliness: Very Friendly

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate

Cat Breed GroupSemi Long-Haired, Purebred
Weight6-12 pounds
Lifespan12-16 years

The origin story of the Birman cat is rather mysterious, but we can say with certainty that this breed’s playful nature and adaptability makes it a perfect choice for people who want an affectionate companion. This breed is originally from Burma where it was a companion to the temple priests, but it is nowadays widely kept as a domestic cat.

Birmans are medium-sized cats, with tendencies to become large. They are heavy-boned, and that makes them look chubby. Males are often larger than females. Their broad face, Roman-shaped nose, wide ears, and round, sapphire blue eyes are the signature marks of this breed.

Their coat is silky and medium-length. They don’t sport an undercoat, so they only shed moderately—despite being semi long-haired cats. Their coat is fairly easy to maintain and needs brushing only two times a week. Symmetrically white paws (or “socks”) are the trademark of this breed.

Birman cat sitting on a cat tree

A Birman cat will provide you with daily affection, but he also requires the same devotion and dedication from his owner. This breed likes to get involved in the daily activities of his owner and will follow him around the house as puppies do. They are friendly, playful, curious, and generally quiet cats with a gentle personality.

Overall, this breed is generally healthy and will be an affectionate and loving companion to their owner for many years. The Birman cat’s playful, adaptable, and loyal personality makes them a perfect choice for homes with children and other pets. The combination of their wonderful personality and looks makes this breed an absolute favorite of cat lovers all over the world.

Main Highlights

  • This breed is originally from Burma, and they used to be kept strictly as the companion of temple priests.

  • Birmans are extremely loving and affectionate towards their human companions, but they seek the same amount of devotion from their owner.

  • They are very playful cats that enjoy spending time with children and other pets—especially dogs.

  • Birmans are moderately active cats. Daily play sessions are enough to maintain their shape and mental health.

  • The variety of different colors they come in, their silky fur, and deep blue eyes are the features of Birman cat that captivate cat lovers around the world.

  • Their single layer coat sheds moderately, which makes them perfect for owners who don’t want to spend days cleaning their house.

  • Birmans have a long lifespan, but as all purebred cats, they are prone to some hereditary conditions.

Breed History

No clear record of this breed exists, but according to legends, this breed acquired its majestic looks thanks to divine interference. It is said that a blue-eyed goddess rewarded a temple cat’s devotion to his priest by turning his white coat golden, his yellow eyes blue, and left the cat’s paws white as a symbol of purity. It is said that priests who have passed on get to be reborn in these cats’ bodies. This breed is also known as the Sacred Cat of Burma.

Around 1919 two Birman cats were brought from Burma to France by a Frenchman and an Englishman. It is said that they were a gift from the priests to these men who helped defend their temple. The male Birman didn’t survive the trip, but luckily the female was pregnant upon her arrival in Europe. Her offspring are the ancestors of all of today’s Birman cats.

Image of a Birman Kitten

In 1925 the Birman was registered as an official breed by the French Cat Registry, and although this breed isn’t originally from France, it is widely considered as a French breed. The Birman cat was exported to the United States in 1959 and to Great Britain in 1965. They were officially recognized as a breed by the British Cats Registry in 1966, and the American Cat Fanciers Association followed in 1967.


The Birman cat is a medium to large cat with a strongly-built body, a round head, a Roman-shaped nose, and round, deep blue eyes. All these features come together to give this breed their spectacular look. Male cats are larger and weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. Female Birmans are smaller and weigh from 6 to 10 pounds.

Personality and Character

Birman cat personality can be described as calm, affectionate, and loving—both towards their owner and other people. This breed likes to play and it is likely that they will chase your kid, dog, or cat around the house, but they also enjoy being chased. Birmans won’t mind if you have other pets; they like the company of other cats or dogs. For them, the more, the merrier.

Image of two Felonie Birmans

Usually, this breed likes to follow their owners around the house and be involved with daily activities. They tend to follow their owners as puppies do. Your cat will assist while you make the bed, wash the laundry, or during other household activities. This breed is not overly vocal, but the Birman will always let you know when it is cuddle time.

Birmans are extremely loyal to their owners, and this breed shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. As much as they give, they seek the attention and company of their owners even more. They are highly intelligent and are able to learn from observing their owners’ behavior, so don’t be surprised if your Birman knows how to open the door, or if he can drink water from the tap.

Health and Potential Health Problems

Birman cats have an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years. Although, with proper care, they may be able to live longer. Just like with other breeds, proper care includes regular vet check-ups, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, a balanced diet, and proper dental care.

Close-up of a birman cat and a red flower

With that being said, this breed is generally healthy, but it is susceptible to certain hereditary health conditions.

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the walls of the cat’s heart thicken—keeping it from pumping blood properly. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, and lethargy. The serious effect of this condition is the formation of blood clots that usually result in pain in the hind legs—and in worst case scenario, paralysis. Although there is no cure for this disease, early diagnosis can help manage the clinical signs of this condition.

  • Congenital Hypotrichosis is a genetic condition which causes cats to be born without their coat. Usually, only a few kittens—if any—of the whole litter are affected. There is no specific treatment or cure for this rare condition. Special shampoos can be used to improve the quality of their skin.

  • Corneal Dermoid is a rare condition which is characterized by the growth of hair on the surface of the cornea. This condition will typically manifest early on in the cat’s life. Symptoms include excessive tear production, pawing at the eye, and signs of irritation. If you notice any of these, symptoms take your cat to the vet. Depending on the severity of the case, the treatment may range from eye drops to surgery.

  • Spongiform Degeneration is a neurological disease that causes a slow degeneration of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include hind-limb weakness, uncoordinated movement, and it can be detected in kittens that are at least 7 weeks old.

  • Hemophilia B is a blood clotting disorder. It can be extremely dangerous if not diagnosed in time because if a cat sustains internal injuries, they can bleed out. Birman is one of the breeds that are affected by this condition, and it is best to test your cat before any surgery.

  • Cataract is a common disease in older Birman cats, and it can lead to blindness. The first sign of this disease is clouding in the eyes. As the disease progresses, your cat sees less and less until they are completely blind. This condition may be treated with surgery to remove the cataract, but as this disease progresses slowly, most cats can adapt to losing their sight. The choice of action is up to you and your vet.

These conditions are genetic, and that means that they may occur sooner or later. We mentioned them, so you will have all the right information that will help you tailor a better preventive health care plan for your cat. With that being said, there are chances that your cat won’t get any of these conditions and will spend his entire life healthy.

Care Features

As with any cat breed, you need to take care of your Birman’s dental hygiene. It is recommended that you brush your cat’s teeth daily to prevent the development of periodontal disease. It is best to start doing this at a young age, so your cat will get used to this routine. But if you have difficulty brushing your cat’s teeth, you can always use dental wipes or rinses.

You should trim your cat’s claws every couple of weeks. If you are not sure you can do this by yourself, take your cat to the groomer or the vet. Also, Birmans often have eye discharge that needs to be regularly wiped. Use a damp cloth to wipe the corners of your cat’s eyes, and never use the same area of the cloth for both eyes. If there is an infection, you can spread it this way.

Two Birman-cats in a womans hands

Check your cat’s ears weekly, and if you notice that they are dirty, use a mixture of half water, half apple cider vinegar and remove the dirt with the cotton ball. If your Birman is an indoors-only cat, keep her litter box always clean. They are particular about their bathroom hygiene, and a clean litter box will diminish the chances of something nasty ending up on your cat’s coat. If having to clean the litter box so often starts getting tedious for you, consider teaching your cat how to use the toilet.

Their silky fur is fairly easy to maintain because it doesn’t have an undercoat. Despite its length, their fur doesn’t mat, and the shedding is minimal. You need to comb your cat twice a week to remove dead hairs and to distribute the skin oils. During the spring your cat will shed his winter coat and may require an additional combing or two to remove all of the excess hairs.

Two littlle birman kittens sleeping

We know that cats, in general, aren’t the biggest fans of bathing, but if your Birman cat doesn’t mind an occasional dip, you can use that to your advantage in reducing shedding. They prefer to be showered over being immersed in the bathtub. This is also a great way to keep your cat’s fur spotless if he is allowed to go outside the house.

Feeding Schedule

All cats are by nature carnivores—that means that their diet should consist of lots of protein. The best protein sources for Birmans include chicken and fish. You can cook the food for your cat at home, or you can opt for tinned food or kibble. Just be sure that you are buying high-quality food. Don’t go overboard with the tinned food—too much of it can loosen the stool.

Birman cat taking a treat from his owner

The best choices for treats are cheese and biscuits. Treat your cat moderately, because overfeeding can lead to obesity and many other health problems. Also, it is important that your cat always has unlimited access to fresh water.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Their silky coat is medium length, and without undercoat—which makes it less prone to shedding and matting and easier to maintain. They are recognized for their “gloves” or “socks.” All four of their paws are white. They also have a white V-shaped area on their back legs, which are called “laces.” Only Birmans who have perfectly symmetrical “laces” and “gloves” can compete in cat shows.

Three birman cats looking at something

Kittens are born completely white, and as the cat gets older, it changes to his distinct color of fur. For example, a seal point Birman has cream-colored fur that is slightly lighter on the belly and the chest.

On the other hand, seal point Birmans have ears, face, legs, and tail that are darker in color than the rest of their body like with Siamese cats. All these mixtures of colors and those piercing blue eyes give Birmans a most adorable appearance.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The easy-going Birman is a perfect addition for families with children. They enjoy the attention they get from kids and love to play with them. Birmans don’t like to be the only pet, and they are happiest in homes with other cats and dogs. They are friendly with dogs, but as with any other cat, it is best to make the first introductions while your dog is secured on a leash.

Wrap Up

Overall, this breed is highly intelligent, friendly, affectionate, and devoted to their owner. Because they seek the same amount of devotion in return from their owner, they are perfect companions for homes with children and other pets. There should always be someone around to keep them company.

This breed is prone to some hereditary conditions, but it doesn’t mean that your Birman cat won’t have a perfectly healthy lifespan. If you care for them properly, they would have a higher chance of celebrating their 16th birthday. Although, it’s best if you could screen the available options carefully before you adopt one to pick a Birman that’s not prone to succumbing to a hereditary condition.

birman cat resting on a tree

The first thing you should do is to make a list of breeders that deal with Birman kittens. After that, you need to do a little bit of research about their reputation. You can do that by checking cat societies, friends who also have this breed, and by talking to a respectable vet. After that, it is easy to cross off the ones that got bad reviews. If the breeder is registered, it is more likely that you will get a healthy kitten with a pure bloodline.

Most of the breeders are people like you who love cats and take care of them, but there are those who do it only because they want the money and keep kittens in bad conditions. Because of that, you should always visit a breeder before choosing to buy a kitten from them. If the breeder refuses to show you the place where he or she keeps the kittens or is unwilling to answer your questions, it is best to stay away.

a young woman holding a birman cat

Reputable breeders won’t separate the kittens from their mother earlier than 10 weeks; some breeders keep them together up to 16 weeks. If anyone tries to sell you a kitten younger than 10 weeks, you should refuse and continue your search for a better breeder. You should also inquire if the breeder separates the sick cats from the healthy ones, and always ask to take a kitten to be tested by your vet before you decide to buy them.

If you’re willing, we recommend that you check some of the local shelters to see if you could adopt abandoned Birmans instead of buying one from a breeder. You will spend a lot less money for the initial vet bills and the purchase of your cat.

Are you looking for the constant companionship that Birman cats offer? Or maybe you need a cat that’s a bit more independent, but no less gentle? If you have firsthand experience and you have a story to tell about what it’s like to live with this amazing breed, please share your experiences with us and our readers in the comment section below.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.