With its big, baby blue eyes, beautiful and distinctive pattern, and sleek, super-short fur, the Siamese is the most universally recognized cat breed. They are graceful, elegant, and long—long bodies, long heads, long tails, long necks, and long legs. The unique, tubular body is fine-boned, trim, elongated, svelte, and muscular. The head is a medium-size tapering wedge with a flat forehead and a fine, wedge-shaped muzzle. The wedge starts at the nose and flares out in straight lines to the tips of the ears, forming a triangle, with no break at the whiskers. In profile, a straight line can be drawn from the top of the head to the tip of the nose. Ears are very large, pointed, wide at the base, and set wide on the head, continuing the lines of the wedge.
The neck is slender, the legs long and thin, and the tail is long and tapering, without kinks. The almond-shaped eyes are medium in size, uncrossed, and deep, vivid blue. They are set not less than one eye width apart, with a slight slant toward the nose. Extreme males weigh 7 to 9 pounds; females weigh 5 to 7 pounds. Traditional males weigh 11 to 15 pounds; females weigh 8 to 12 pounds. Show cats cannot be flabby, bony, or fat. Balance and refinement are vital to the breed; all parts should come together into a harmonious whole, with neither too much nor too little consideration given to any particular feature.
Traditional Siamese are popular as pets, but they can be shown as pedigreed cats only in a few cat associations; UFO and TCA accept the Traditional Siamese under that name, CFF accepts the Traditional Siamese under the name "Old Style Siamese," and TICA accepts the Traditional Siamese under the name "Thai." While they cannot be shown in any other organizations (except in the Household Pet category), Traditional Siamese can be registered as Siamese in some associations. According to Traditional fanciers, the Traditional is generally healthier and hardier, and lacks many of the inherited diseases and conditions found in some Extreme bloodlines.
The Siamese’s fine-textured coat is very short, silky, and glossy, and lies close to the body. However, the defining feature of the breed is its pattern. In CFA and CCA, the Siamese comes in four coat colors: seal, chocolate, blue, and lilac, and one pattern—colorpoint, also called point restricted. Other associations accept the additional colors of red point, cream point, blue-cream point, lilac-cream point, and many colors in lynx point, tortie lynx point, and parti-color point. The points of the body—ears, face mask, feet, and tail—are darker than the rest of the body due to a temperature-controlled enzyme that creates greater depth of color at the parts of the body farthest away from the heart. These areas are a few degrees cooler, and so the color is concentrated in those areas. There is a clear contrast between the light body color and the darker points, and all the color points must be the same shade. Body color generally darkens with age. Type is considered more important than color. There are no allowable outcrosses.
The Royal Cat of Siam has been around for many centuries, but no one knows for sure exactly when the breed originated. According to historical accounts, these living works of art were treasured in their native land for hundreds of generations and were the companions of royalty and religious leaders.
The Siamese was described and depicted in The Cat-Book Poems, which confirms that the breed has existed in Siam (now Thailand) for many centuries. The manuscript was written in the city of Ayutthaya, Siam, some time between 1350, when the city was founded, and 1767, when the city was burned by Burmese invaders (the people, not the cat breed). The illustrations in the manuscript clearly show cats with pale coats and dark points on the ears, tails, faces, and feet.
Exactly when the document was written is unknown because the original, painstakingly handwritten and decorated with illustrations and gold leaf, was made of palm leaf or bark. When the document became too fragile, a fresh copy was made and the new scribe would sometimes bring his own interpretation to the work. This makes it difficult to date. But whether it was written more than 650 years ago or only about 250, it’s still very old—likely the oldest manuscript about cats in existence. A copy of The Cat-Book Poems is kept secured and preserved in Bangkok’s National Library.
Because the Siamese was so valued in its native land, the cats were rarely given to outsiders, so the rest of the world didn't become acquainted with the breed until the 1800s. Siamese cats were exhibited in 1871 in the first modern-style cat show at London's Crystal Palace. At the event, one journalist described the new breed as "an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat."
Others fell in love with the exotic breed’s unique color pattern and lithe, graceful body style. In spite of early naysayers and the difficulty of importing the cats, the Siamese rocketed to popularity in Europe. The first Siamese standard, written in 1892 in Great Britain, described the Siamese as "a striking-looking cat of medium size, if weighty, not showing bulk, as this would detract from the admired svelte appearance... often distinguished by a kink in the tail." At that time, the admired svelte appearance was not nearly as lithe as the Extreme Siamese type of today. Kinked tails and crossed eyes were common, although both are now faults.
The Siamese was brought to the United States around 1890 and quickly became established with the growing American cat fancy. Although the cat fancy endured ups and downs during the troubled years of the Great Depression and World War II, the Siamese maintained its popularity and today is one of the most popular shorthaired breeds. According to CFA’s 2014 registration totals, the Siamese is the sixth most popular shorthair, and ninth most popular overall.