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Ancestry: Pointed pattern domestic cats of Siam
Place of Origin: Siam (now Thailand)
Date of Origin: Unknown
Accepted by: TICA; CFF under name of Old Style Siamese, TCA and UFO under name of Traditional Siamese (championship)
The Thai, sometimes called the Traditional, Old Style, or Applehead, is a medium to large cat with a moderate body and head type. The body is long, substantial and solid, and is neither cobby nor svelte in type, nor in any way extreme. The cat presents a well-balanced appearance with all elements in proportion. The overall impression should be of a cat that is robust and muscular but also lithe and graceful.
The shape of the Thai’s head is the most important feature. The head can be described as rounded and broad compared to the Extreme Siamese, although it still has that distinctive Oriental look. The ears are alert, not overly large, medium in length, almost as wide at the base as they are tall, and rounded at the tip. They are set as much to the side as on the top of the head. The eyes are medium to slightly large with a very full almond shape, but not oriental, and set slightly more than an eye width apart. A line from inner corner through outer corner of eye meets the outer base of the ear. The eyes are always blue; deep blue shades are preferred. Brilliance and luminosity are more important than depth of color.
Thai males weigh 11 to 15 pounds; females weigh 8 to 12 pounds. Show cats cannot be flabby, bony or fat.
The Thai's coat is silky with very little undercoat. It doesn't have the “painted on” appearance of the Extreme Siamese, but the coat is definitely close-lying. The length is short to very short.
The defining feature of the breed is its pattern. In TCA, CFF, and UFO the Thai comes in one pattern, colorpoint, also called point restricted, and four coat colors: seal, chocolate, blue and lilac. However, TICA also allows red point, cream point, blue-cream point, lilac-cream point, and colors in lynx point, tortie lynx point, and parti-color point. White markings are not permitted.
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. In TICA, the only allowable outcross is the Siamese, used when genetic diversity is needed. No outcrosses are allowed in TCA, CFF, and UFO.
No one knows for sure exactly when the pointed pattern cat of Siam originated. Known in its native land as the Wichienmaat, the Siamese was described and depicted in The Cat-Book Poems, indicating the breed has existed in Siam (now Thailand) for around seven centuries, and possibly much longer. According to these historical accounts, these living works of art were treasured for hundreds of generations and were the companions of royalty and religious leaders.
The Cat-Book Poems was written in the city of Ayudha in Siam sometime 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 work, 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 copy. This makes it difficult to date. But whether it was written more than 650 years ago or only 300, 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 breed as "an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat."
Others fell in love with the exotic breed’s unique color pattern, personality, and 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 lithe appearance was not nearly as svelte as the Extreme type of Siamese today. Kinked tails and crossed eyes were common then as well, although both are now considered faults in show cats.
The Siamese was brought to the United States around 1890 and quickly became established with the developing and enthusiastic 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.
In the early 1900s, breeders set out to improve the original breed, and over decades of selective breeding, the Siamese became more and more extreme. By the 1950s, some Siamese cats in the show ring had longer heads, bluer eyes, finer boning, and slimmer bodies than the Siamese common at the turn of the century. Many people liked the changes in the Siamese, while others preferred the older, more moderate look of the breed. In this decade, the two types began to diverge, with one group becoming more extreme in style and the other remaining moderate. However, by the 1980s, moderate type Siamese were no longer considered show cats, except in the household pet category; mainstream breeders were breeding for a much more extreme cat, and being rewarded for their efforts by show judges.
In the 1980s, the first breed clubs dedicated to the moderate style, Traditional Siamese appeared in Europe and North America, such as the Traditional Cat Association (TCA, Inc.), which formed in 1987 “To Preserve, Protect, Perpetuate, and Promote Traditional Cats.” While their original focus was on the Traditional Siamese, they soon expanded to protect and promote other traditional versions of breeds that had undergone extreme changes, such as the Persian.
In 1990, the World Cat Federation in Europe changed the name to Thai to differentiate the traditional form from the extreme Siamese, and granted the breed championship status. In 2001, breeders began importing pointed cats from Thailand to establish a healthy gene pool for the Thai breed and to preserve the genes of Southeast Asia's native cats while they are still distinct from extreme Western cats, which had acquired certain hereditary genetic diseases and conditions due to the inbreeding done to develop the extreme body style and head type. In 2007, TICA granted Preliminary New Breed status to the Thai, and in 2009 promoted the Thai to Advanced New Breed, making it possible for breeders in North America and Europe to work together and show together under a single breed standard. In 2010, Thai was granted championship status by TICA. The breed is also accepted for championship by CFF under name of Old Style Siamese, and TCA and UFO under name of Traditional Siamese.
Thais are generally healthy and it’s not uncommon for them to live up to 15 years and sometimes 20 if kept inside. According to Thai fanciers, the Thai is generally healthier and hardier than the Extreme Siamese, and lacks many of the inherited diseases and conditions found in some Extreme bloodlines. Responsible TICA breeders are working hard to make sure the Siamese used for outcrossing are free of inheritable diseases. However, it’s wise to ask your potential breeder how carefully she screens her breeding stock. Discuss outcrossing with your breeder before agreeing to buy, and ask what steps she has taken to insure the health of her cattery’s kittens. Buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
Photos of pedigreed Siamese cats in the early 1900s look remarkably like the Thai of today, before the svelte, Extreme Siamese that’s widely accepted by most cat associations was created by selective breeding. Breeders of the Thai are dedicated to preserving the native pointed cat of Thailand as closely as possible to its original form.
Thais are very intelligent, self-assured, playful, determined, curious, active, and have a highly developed sense of humor. They love their human companions with a passion. Living with Thais is a bit like living with active children. They’ll get into everything you own, jump to the top of your highest door and teeter there, grinning down at you like the Cheshire Cat. They like a bird’s eye view of the daily action so don’t be surprised to see your Thai at the top of your curtains or your highest book shelf. But their favorite game is to follow you around and help you with every activity. If you open a drawer to put away socks, Thais will leap right in to help you arrange them.
Thais are great talkers. They aren't as loud and raspy as their extreme Siamese counterparts, but they're still plenty chatty. They’ll greet you at the door when you come home and chat away about their day, or perhaps complain about the vast amount of time you’ve been gone. They also communicate with taps of their paws or by jumping on your shoulder and putting their face next to yours. Some will then give you head presses or kitty kisses.
More than most breeds, Thais need their daily allowance of affection and love. If they are ignored or neglected they become unhappy and depressed and may act out, using their high intelligence to make you aware of their displeasure. Since they are vocal cats, they become even more vocal to get your attention if they feel you aren’t paying them their due. Thais are also sensitive to your tone, and loud reprimands hurt their tender feelings. If you must spend much time away from home, a compatible cat companion will help keep your Thai from becoming lonely and bored.
As long as Thais get their required worship, love and attention, they are great companions. They are easy to maintain and need little grooming; once a week is usually suitable. For those who want a close companion, this is your breed. Thai are usually good family pets and are tolerant of children six and older, as long as the children are taught how to properly handle cats and don’t play too rough. According to fans, the Thai is the most wonderful, loving, entertaining cat in the known universe. They are one of the best home entertainment systems money can buy.
Size: Medium to slightly large
Coat Length(s): Short hair.
Body Type: Foreign.
Grooming Requirement: Some 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