Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

European Burmese

European Burmese

Ancestry: Domestic cats from Southeast Asia
Place of Origin: Burma (now Myanmar)
Date of Origin: 1930
Accepted by: ACA, ACFA, CFA, and UFO under the name European Burmese (championship); CCA and CFF under the name Foreign Burmese (championship); TICA under the name European Burmese (accepted for registration only as of May 01, 2014)


The European Burmese is an athletic, muscular, elegant cat of foreign type, according to the CFF breed standard, although the ACFA and CFA standards call for a cat of moderate type, with gently rounded contours. The European Burmese falls between svelte and cobby in body style. Any resemblance to either is regarded as a fault. The hard, muscular body is of medium length and size, and is heavier than it appears. Adult males weigh 10 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 7 to 10 pounds. The chest is strong and rounded in profile, and the back is straight from shoulder to rump. The legs are rather slender with the hind legs slightly longer than the front, but both are in proportion to the body. The feet are small and oval. The tail is medium length and not thick at the base; it tapers slightly to a rounded tip.

The head is in proportion to the body and is carried on a medium-length neck. The top of the head is slightly rounded between the ears, which are set well apart. Viewed from the front, the head forms a short wedge, with wide cheekbones tapering to a short, blunt muzzle with a visible nose break. The jaw is wide at the base, and the lower jaw is strong, as is the chin. The ears are broad at the base, medium in size, set well apart, and have slightly rounded tips and a slight forward tilt. The eyes are large, alert and set well apart. The top line of the eye is slightly curved with an oriental slant toward the nose, and the lower line is rounded. Eye color is lustrous and bright yellow to amber; deeper color is preferred.

The coat is short, fine, close-lying and very glossy with a satin-like texture. The fur is almost without undercoat. One of the main differences between the American Contemporary Burmese and the European Burmese, besides head and body type, is that a wider range of colors are accepted, including brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, and cream. One additional pattern is accepted: tortoiseshell, in brown, blue, chocolate, and lilac, combined with patches of red or cream in various shades. Patches of color are distributed over the whole body and the extremities— the patch distribution is less important than the other color details. In all colors, the cat’s underside is slightly paler than the back. Though not a pointed pattern breed, the points may show some contrast, left over from the Siamese heritage. No outcrosses are allowed.

The names of the colors and pattern combinations can vary according to the cat association. In CFF, for example, lilac tortie is not accepted, but champagne tortie and platinum tortie are. Since TICA accepts the Contemporary Burmese in the additional colors of red and cream and the pattern of tortoiseshell, the European Burmese has had difficulty gaining acceptance in that association.


The European Burmese shares much of its early history with the Burmese, since originally both came from the same foundation stock. The breed comes from the bloodlines of Wong Mau, the foundation cat of the North American Burmese. Their histories diverge in 1949, when two of Wong Mau’s descendants were imported to Britain by Siamese breeder Lilian France. The male was named Casa Gatos da Foong, and the female Chindwin’s Minou Twm. Minou was already pregnant by an unrelated male, but lost her kittens while she was confined during the six month quarantine required for animals entering the United Kingdom. (Cats and other companion animals entering the United Kingdom and other European countries must be quarantined for six months at owner expense to prevent bringing rabies into the country, unless they qualify for a "pet passport" under the Pet Travel Scheme system, which was not available in the 1940s.)

France imported another female Burmese from the United States, Laos Cheli Wat, who had already proved herself healthy and fertile. Later, France imported another male, Casa Gatos Darkee. From these foundation cats the European Burmese was developed. The breed quickly gained popularity, and other fanciers began breeding programs.

Since the gene pool was limited in Europe, Siamese were included in Burmese breeding programs. Additional colors were added intentionally and accidentally; in 1964, a female blue Burmese in heat escaped and mated with a red tabby domestic shorthair. The litter included a tortoiseshell who was included in the breeding program. A brown female Burmese and a red point Siamese were deliberately mated, and a tortie and white barn cat carrying the recessive Siamese gene was mated to a male brown Burmese carrying the recessive blue gene. Many breeders contributed to developing the additional colors for the breed. Despite having a long European history, the European Burmese is a recent addition to the North American cat fancy. While the first European Burmese came to the United States from Europe around 1979, the breed wasn’t accepted as a separate breed in North America for another 15 years. Most associations didn’t accept colors beyond the original Burmese colors of sable, champagne, blue, and platinum, so breeders wrote a new standard describing the additional colors and pattern of red, cream, and tortoiseshell, and the moderate body style and head conformation of the European. CFA accepted the breed for registration in 1994, first in the non-championship miscellaneous class (except in international division shows, where they were eligible for championship). In 2000, CFA granted provisional status, and in 2002, CFA advanced the European Burmese to championship. Other associations followed. In 2014, TICA advanced the breed from Experimental Registry status to Registration Only, the second status needed toward the coveted championship status. Currently, he breed is accepted for championship by six of the eight North American cat associations. ACFA, CFA, and UFO call the breed the European Burmese, while CCA and CFF call the breed Foreign Burmese. Regardless of the different names, they are the same breed. The European Burmese is popular with fanciers who prefer its moderate type to the compact conformation and foreshortened face of the North American Contemporary Burmese.


Because the European Burmese facial type is not as physically extreme as Contemporary Burmese, the breed lacks the physical problems of some Contemporary Burmese lines, such as cranial deformities, eye tearing, and breathing problems.

While the European Burmese is usually a healthy breed, some lines have been found to possess the inherited genetic disease GM2 gangliosidosis, a degenerative neurological disease that causes swollen neurons and brain lesions, which lead to severe muscle tremors, loss of motor control, and eventually death. GM2 gangliosidosis is governed by an autosomal recessive mutation, so a cat must inherit the faulty gene from both parents to develop the disease. Cats who inherit only one copy of the gene do not develop the disease but are carriers, usually not detected until mated with a cat also carrying at least one copy of the gene. Matings between carriers on average produce kittens of which 25 percent inherit two copies of the gene and therefore are affected with the disease; on average 50 percent inherit one copy and become carriers. Fortunately, a genetic test has been developed and is available at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, California. This test reveals not only whether the cat is affected, but how many copies of the gene the cat possesses. Testing and culling affected breeding cats has helped reduce this threat. It’s wise to buy from a breeder who tests for this disease and provides a written health guarantee.

Some lines are prone to tartar buildup and gingivitis as well. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, tooth and bone loss. Untreated, dental disease can undermine a cat’s overall health. Feeding a high quality tartar-control dry food will remove some tartar, but European Burmese need annual veterinary checkups, periodic teeth cleaning by your veterinarian and, if your cat will tolerate it, regular tooth brushing using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush (a soft child’s size toothbrush can also be used). If you notice your cat wincing when you pet the side of her face, or notice that her gums appear red or inflamed or that eating seems painful to her, take your kitty to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

The European Burmese’s fine, close-lying coat usually requires little grooming. Even so, grooming your cat about once a week benefits her health. You can reduce hairballs and fur on your furniture and also become aware of the onset of health problems such as palpable tumors by running your hands over the cat. If your Burmese winces or exhibits pain during grooming, an appointment with your veterinarian is in order. Regular grooming can also help you bond with your European Burmese since she usually enjoys the extra attention.

Did you know?

Romanticized fables about the Burmese abound. According to legends, Burmese were temple cats and the pets of royalty long before the Siamese claimed that honor. Each Burmese cat was assigned a novice monk whose duties included indulging the every whim of his feline charge.


European Burmese are similar to American Burmese in personality. They are lively, highly intelligent and entertaining. Loving and loyal life-long companions, they enjoy spending most of their waking hours with the humans with whom they’ve formed bonds, playing interactive games, cuddling in warm laps or lying on top of their humans’ favorite reading material. Very active cats particularly when they are young, European Burmese enjoy performing acrobatic tricks from the highest perches in the house. They remain playful all their lives.

European Burmese are skilled at wrapping their humans around their silky paws. Very determined, they will outlast you in most battles of wills. Once they have got it into their heads to climb into your lap for a love-fest or to find out what’s behind that interesting closed door, you might as well give in and accept the inevitable.

European Burmese enjoy a good conversation with their people, particularly when they have something vital to tell you such as the empty condition of their food dishes, but are not as vocal as Siamese. Their voices usually have a hoarse, raspy sound, thoughtfully donated by their Siamese ancestors.

For the most part, they make good family pets and are usually good with other cats, cat-friendly dogs, and gentle children who play nicely, as long as the proper introductions are made.

European Burmese can become unhappy or depressed if left alone too much of the time. If you’re away for long periods, another cat companion will help keep your European Burmese company. If you have space for only one cat and work full time, consider a less people-oriented breed.

Breed Characteristics

Coat Length(s):Short hair.
Body Type:Moderate.
Grooming Requirement:Little grooming needed.
Activity Level:High.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Adults, seniors, and children (6+).
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Can be a handful.