Beautiful, affable and smart as a whip, a Siamese cat has it all. More than a few artists have been wooed by their charms, which have earned these graceful animals a place in temples and palaces all over the world (even the White House played host to one). Here's everything you should know about the companionable critters.
1. The Best-Known Variety of Siamese Is the "Seal Point"
Remember the singing felines from Disney's "Lady and the Tramp"? They're what breeders call "seal point" Siamese cats. Animals of this color scheme have whitish bodies with dark brown patches of fur on the tail, paws, ears and facial area. Those extremities are known as "points."
2. But Other Color Morphs Are Available
"Chocolate point" Siamese resemble their seal point brethren, but the brown markings on the former are a bit lighter. Conversely, "blue point" cats have blue-grey extremities. And on the stunning "lilac point" color morph, the same parts of the body display pinkish-grey hair.
3. The Breed's Had a Long History
The "Tamra Maeo," also known as "The Cat Book Poems" and "The Treatise on Cats," is a manuscript written during Siam's Ayutthaya Period that might date all the way back to the 14th century C.E. It describes numerous cat breeds — and at one point, the text mentions a pale-furred feline with dark hair on some of its extremities. Historians think this could be the oldest written description of a Siamese cat. At all rates, the felines would become popular wedding presents in Siam (which now goes by the name Thailand). Foreign dignitaries used to receive these cats as gifts. By the 1870s, this breed was making appearances at European cat shows.
4. They're Quite Vocal
Siamese cats meow loudly and often, especially when they want something from you. Some owners find their talkative nature endearing, but if it's a quiet pet you're after, this probably isn't the right fit.
5. One of Them Lived in the White House
In 1878, an American diplomat named David B. Sickles shipped a female Siamese cat to Washington, D.C. as a gift for Lucy Hayes, the sitting First Lady of the United States. (Her husband, Rutherford, was America's 19th president.) The cat was named "Siam" and she used to freely roam the White House — until her sudden, tragic death in late 1879.
6. Being Gregarious by Nature, Siamese Cats Love Company
Endlessly affectionate, the cats like to follow their humans around and jump into open laps. Because they crave interaction, experts warn that these animals may develop separation anxiety if left alone for prolonged periods.
7. This Was One of the First Breeds Recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association
The world's largest pedigreed cat registry, the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) launched in 1906. At the onset, it only recognized half a dozen breeds: the Persian, the Russian Blue, the Manx, the Burmese, the Abyssinian and of course, the Siamese cat. But today, cats of over 30 additional breeds are also eligible for CFA registration.
8. They Display Partial Albinism
Siamese cats have those "pointed" fur patterns because of a gene which renders most of their hair colorless. But this only works at high temperatures; the gene doesn't kick in until after a fetal Siamese cat has left the warmth of its mother's womb. Even then, the fur on the tail, paws, snout and ears stays dark because those portions of the body don't retain heat very well.
9. Cross-Eyed Specimens Used to Be the Norm
Genetics can be a cruel mistress. The same gene responsible for the whitish fur and dark extremities gives Siamese cats beautiful blue eyes. Unfortunately, because of the unusual pigmentation in their retinas, cross-eyed Siamese cats were once commonplace. In recent years, however, selective breeding has resulted in fewer cats with this particular trait.
10. Kinked Tails Are Also Getting Bred Out of Them
Perpetually bent tails are another trait that's fallen out of favor with Siamese cat breeders. Once upon a time, they were a distinguishing characteristic of the breed, but show-ready cats no longer possess them.
11. A Related Breed is Known as the "Thai Cat"
Western breeders slowly molded the Siamese cat into an extremely sleek animal with an elongated skull, bigger eyes and very little body fat. During the 1950s, some fanciers reacted to this trend by producing heftier cats designed to more closely resemble the ancestral stock. Thus, a new breed — dubbed the "Thai cat" — was born.
12. One Cranky Siamese Cat Inspired a Beloved Comic Strip Character
"Get Fuzzy" is a popular (and hilarious) strip that graces hundreds of newspapers across the country and won the National Cartoonists Society Award in 2002. One of its key players is Bucky Katt, a disaffected Siamese cat with a mile-wide mean streak. Creator Darby Conley said the character was modeled after an unfriendly feline of the same breed that was owned by a personal friend.