Getting to Know the European Burmese

By Ebe McCabe
from The Cat Fanciers' Association Complete Cat Book

European Burmese is the CFA name for the ten-color Burmese breed developed outside North America. The name reflects the breed's origin and marks it as a different CFA breed than the round, compact, four-color Burmese breed. Besides having six more colors, the European Burmese are moderate, gently rounded cats with a longer body and head.

With their luminous eyes and striking colors, the European Burmese are exceptionally beautiful. Up close, their silky, close-lying coat and harmonious conformation become more evident. These cats are medium in size and length, with a solid, hefty body and remarkable yellow to amber eyes. Because the European Burmese are highly intelligent, affectionate and extremely loyal, they make outstanding pets.

Initially, the European Burmese were shaped like the original Burmese breed developed in California in the early 1930s. Some cat fanciers even considered them to be a dark, amber-eyed version of the Siamese. As time passed, the Siamese became longer and more svelte and the CFA Burmese became round and compact. But the European Burmese conformation has basically stayed the same.

When Burmese were first imported into England, the only accepted Burmese color was sable brown. In coat color, however, the English breeders endorsed variety. Long before any color but brown was accepted in the CFA Burmese, the European Burmese had become a ten-color breed (brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red and cream, and the brown, blue chocolate and lilac tortie colors)

Their Personality

European Burmese

The personality of the European Burmese consists of exceptional aplomb, calmness, and friendliness in the home or show ring. These cats have a delightfully inquisitive and playful nature that lasts all their lives. Often, European Burmese follow their owners around the home, and park themselves in the same room (or bed) as their human families. Snuggling, with the cat seeming to melt into its companion's body, is a favorite pastime.

European Burmese are very adept at getting what they want, including toys to play with and retrieve. Many purr constantly when held. Often veterinarians have remarked about being unable to hear anything else in their stethoscopes. One European Burmese attention-getter is sitting on the floor, staring at a person's face, and purring very loudly. Another is fearlessly casting its body at someone's feet, rolling and purring, completely confident of being rewarded with attention and affection. They love to scuffle, but their very trusting nature makes it important to treat them gently during play.

Many European Burmese adore children although a few do not. So, it is good to bring the family along when selecting a cat or kitten. The animals that enjoy children will gravitate toward them while those who do not will quietly make themselves scarce.

European Burmese need companionship. When their human family is out, other cats and friendly dogs make good companions. In homes without suitable companionship for much of the day, a more independent cat breed should be chosen.

The European Burmese are also known for their intelligence. Some even learn to open doors. Most European Burmese quickly make willing servants of their human families, and their owners consider the breed's engaging and laid back temperament equaled only by that of the Burmese.


When it comes to grooming, European Burmese require very little because of their short, close-lying coats and natural cleanliness. Regular face washing with a warm, damp washcloth (unsoaped) is proper. Weekly nail clipping and ear cleaning (with a Q-tip) are also needed. Occasional brushing can reduce the already minimal shedding from the short coat, but that is more a matter of owner preference than need. Most European Burmese keep themselves very clean and do not have to be bathed (except before being shown). If bathing is needed for hygiene, a gentle cat shampoo should be used.

Before entering a European Burmese in a cat show, getting detailed grooming advice from the cat's breeder or an experienced exhibitor is a good idea. Grooming a shorthaired cat is less involved than grooming a longhaired one. Still, a pre-show bath plus careful brushing and combing is required in addition to nail clipping. Doing it well takes practice. Because grooming skills are best learned by practicing under the eye of someone who grooms well. At cat shows, judges usually find the European Burmese easy to handle. And, because these cats are so friendly and easygoing, other people usually have no problem handling them either.

A European Burmese can be comfortably held close to one's own body by supporting the animal's chest with one hand or arm and supporting the cat's rear legs with the other hand. Many European Burmese prefer to be carried with their chest against their holder's chest with their front paws resting on their holder's shoulder.

Breed History

The history of the European Burmese is an interesting study of genetics and cat breeding. Dark chocolate brown, amber-eyed Siamese were reported in England in 1889 which indicates the Burmese gene has been in the Siamese gene pool for a long time. However, the Burmese did not become a unique breed until 1930 when Dr. Joseph Thompson began to develop the original sable Burmese breed in California. It was from California that the first two Burmese were imported into England in 1949.

A mere six brown Burmese from the United States were initially used to establish the breed in England. Later, several imports from the United States and a Burmese-Siamese hybrid from Malaya, were used to expand the gene pool. In 1952, the brown European Burmese were recognized for championship competition in England. Three years later, one of the original brown imports sired a blue kitten in a mating to one of his daughters. The new color was avidly pursued and blue was recognized as the second European Burmese color in 1960.

In 1964, red was introduced into the European Burmese in England by an unplanned mating between a blue Burmese and a shorthaired ginger tabby tomcat. A black and red tortie from that breeding was selected for further breeding. Two deliberate matings of European Burmese to red cats came next. One of these was to an English, red-point Siamese. The other was to an unregistered tortie carrying the Siamese gene. Selected offspring from those matings were bred back to other European Burmese. A difficult but highly effective breeding program to minimize tabby markings in the red and cream colors followed.

In 1969, several Burmese imports from the United States brought the chocolate color to England. Their offspring included the first chocolate and lilac European Burmese. Cream European Burmese were accepted for championship competition in England in 1973. When the chocolate, lilac, red, and all four tortoiseshell colors were then accepted for championship status in 1974, the breed achieved its present ten-color status.

The European Burmese breed spread throughout Europe and then to Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It is now one of the world's most popular shorthaired cat breeds and was recognized for registration by CFA in 1993 and achieved championship status in CFA shows beginning May 2002.

Today, the CFA European Burmese consist of imports into North America from overseas countries and descendants of these imports. No interbreeding is permitted between the European Burmese and any other breed (including the CFA Burmese). Moreover, only European Burmese with no North American Burmese on their certified pedigrees for at least five generations qualify for registration as CFA European Burmese. This measure protects the genetic and conformation distinctiveness of both the Burmese and European Burmese.

European Burmese are strikingly lovely cats that interact very well with people. Their marvelous temperament and loving nature are, by far, their most endearing traits. This is a very special breed best suited to homes where the cats become treasured family members. Once one owns and is owned by a European Burmese, it is typical to decide to never again be without one.

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