Coat length is the only difference between the Siamese and the Balinese. The Balinese is a svelte cat with long, tapering lines, very lithe but strong and muscular. A medium-length coat covers its tubular body. Adult males weigh 7 to 9 pounds; adult females weigh 5 to 7 pounds. The head is a medium-size tapering wedge with a flat forehead, wedge-shaped muzzle, and good width between the ears. In profile, a straight line can be drawn from the top of the head to the tip of the nose. The eyes are almond-shaped, medium in size, and deep, vivid blue. They are not crossed and are set not less than one eye-width apart, with a slight slant toward the nose. The 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 long and tapering and without kinks.
The coat is fine, silky, and lies against the body so it appears shorter than it really is. But the hair on the tail is a sure giveaway that you are looking at a true Balinese. Semi-long, soft fur spreads out in a luxurious plume. Because the Balinese has no downy undercoat, you can spend more time playing with your Balinese than grooming him. The longer coat gives the Balinese a softer, less angular appearance than the Siamese and other breeds of similar type.
In CFA, the Balinese used to come in only four coat colors: seal point, chocolate point, blue point and lilac point, and one pattern—colorpoint, also called point restricted or the pointed pattern. However, as of May 1, 2008, the Javanese was declared a division of the Balinese, and additional colors were added. The Balinese palette now includes solid colorpoint in red point and cream point; lynx (tabby) point in blue, blue-cream, chocolate, chocolate-tortie, cinnamon, cinnamon-tortie, cream, fawn, fawn-cream, lilac, lilac-cream, red, seal, and seal-tortie point; and parti-colorpoint in blue-cream, chocolate-tortie, cinnamon-tortie, fawn-cream, lilac-cream, and seal-tortie point. Tortie point is a mixture of black and red or their dilute colors, blue and cream.
In 2010, the CFA Javanese standard and profile were eliminated, fully combining the two breeds into one. Other associations included those additional colors into the Balinese breed years ago.
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. Body color generally darkens with age. Allowable outcrosses depend upon the association. In CFA, permissible outcrosses are Siamese, Colorpoint Shorthair, and certain limited outcrossings with the Oriental Longhair in litters born on or before December 31, 2025. In CCA, Siamese and Colorpoint shorthairs are allowable outcrosses. In TICA, the Balinese is part of the Siamese breed group, which includes the Siamese, Oriental Shorthair, and Oriental Longhair; all are allowable outcrosses for the Balinese.
Today, fanciers have two styles from which to choose: the Extreme Balinese and the Old Style Balinese. The Extreme Balinese is the only one you'll see at cat shows—it has the svelte body style and wedge-shaped head described above. The Old Style Balinese has the stockier body style and the rounder head type of the Old Style Siamese, and has a medium-length coat. The Old Style Balinese is popular among cat lovers who remember with affection the sturdy, rounder Siamese of yesterday. According to Old Style fanciers, Old Style cats are healthier and hardier than the Extreme types. UFO accepts the Old Style Balinese, Old Style Siamese, and Old Style Colorpoint Shorthair; CFF accepts the Old Style Siamese; and ACA and TICA accept the Old Style Siamese under the name “Thai.”
You won’t see the Old Style Balinese at most cat shows, except perhaps in the Household Pet category, because it doesn’t conform to most associations’ breed standards, which call for the Extreme conformation. Still, if you’re looking for a terrific companion, rather than a show cat, the Old Style fits the bill. So does the Extreme—it just depends on your sense of style.
The Balinese, essentially a longhaired Siamese, was not intentionally created—at first. In fact, in the early 1900s Siamese breeders were horrified when longhaired kittens began appearing in their otherwise shorthaired litters. It's possible for two Siamese to produce longhaired offspring if both carry the longhair gene. Since long hair is a recessive trait, meaning a cat must inherit the gene from both parents to have long hair, cats can have one copy of the gene, carry it for generations, and pass it along to their descendants without exhibiting the trait themselves. But Siamese breeders were afraid that other fanciers would think they were using longhaired outcrosses in their breeding programs, which was, and still is, a major no-no.
How the Siamese bloodlines acquired the gene for long hair has been the subject of heated debate for many years, particularly in the early years. Some fanciers think it was introduced into the Siamese gene pool in Europe after World War I. Since the Siamese breed was almost obliterated during the conflict, other breeds and some random-bred domestic cats were used to revitalize the breed. The Turkish Angora—a breed with a silky, semi-long coat similar to the Balinese’s—was thought to have been one of the breeds used.
Today, many people believe the gene for long hair originated as a spontaneous mutation in certain Siamese bloodlines. It's certainly to the advantage of Siamese and Balinese breeders for that to be so, since a naturally created breed is more acceptable to the cat fancy than dubious crosses would be. However, no one really knows for sure, since few records were kept of the prohibited crosses.
Regardless of whether long hair was acquired through forbidden trysts or Mother Nature’s redecorating, most early Siamese breeders quietly gave away these occasional longhairs. It wasn’t until the 1940s that fanciers realized these lovely outcasts might make a worthy breed. At that time, New York breeder Helen Smith and California breeder Sylvia Holland began working with the longhaired cats born in purebred Siamese litters. No crossbreeding was used—only Siamese and the longhaired cats born from Siamese.
To say most Siamese breeders were not pleased with this new development is a huge understatement; they were afraid these longhaired interlopers would adulterate the Siamese’s pure bloodlines. Much hissing and spitting at the Balinese and their breeders took place before the breed gained acceptance. Balinese fanciers were persistent, however, and by 1970 all major North American cat associations accepted the Balinese as a breed in its own right.
Fanciers swear the Balinese is the best of the breeds derived from the Siamese, even though Balinese numbers are relatively low. According to CFA’s 2014 registration totals, the Balinese ranks 32nd out of the 41 breeds CFA recognizes for championship.