What To Know About a Birman


In this Article

  • Characteristics of a Birman
  • Caring for a Birman
  • Health Problems To Watch For With a Birman
  • Special Considerations for a Birman
  • History of Birmans

Birman cats are loving, affectionate companions. They’re soft, long-furred pets that enjoy nothing more than spending the day at their owner’s side.

This breed is an ideal companion for many different types of families. They’re adaptable enough to handle any environment as long as they have someone to love and care for them. 

Characteristics of a Birman

Body size. The typical Birman cat size is medium to large. Males usually have larger bodies than females. 

The average weight for both males and females is 12 pounds. Talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your cat is too far underweight or overweight. 

Body shape. Birman cats are longer than they are tall. They’re heavy-boned and sometimes look quite stocky. They have strong legs that are in good proportion to their bodies. These end in large, rounded feet. 

Other Birman characteristics include broad heads that are longer than they are wide and full cheeks. Their heads are topped by medium-sized ears that are rounded at the tip. 

They have medium-sized muscles with Roman-shaped noses. The Roman shape has a distinct look, particularly when viewed in profile. Their noses start to change direction at their foreheads and rise up in a hill shape that then slopes down to the tip. 

The cats’ tails are full and don’t look either short or long compared to their bodies. 

Lifespan. The Birman cat’s lifespan is typical for a feline. They live an average of 9 to 15 years. This means that you should plan on spending a decade with this pet before choosing to adopt one, especially if you get one as a kitten. 

Coat. One of the most distinct Birman cat traits is their coat. They just have a single coat of medium-to-long fur. These coats should be very soft and silky when properly groomed. The coat should flare out around the neck, particularly in males. Their tails are also extra fluffy. 

All of the cats have some type of pointed coloration. This means that they have pale bodies with darker extremities. The darker points on their coat should include their: 

  • Face
  • Ears
  • Feet
  • Tails
  • Scrotums (in males)

The cats can come in all pointed colors available. These include: 

  • Seal
  • Blue
  • Chocolate
  • Red
  • Lilac
  • Cream

The kittens are born completely white and develop the darker colors as they age. Another distinctive trait of the breed is that their paws remain pure white, regardless of their other coloration. It sometimes looks like the cats are wearing white gloves. 

Eyes. All Birman cats have intense blue eyes that are medium to large and fairly round. They tend to be set a reasonable width apart. 

Personality. The Birman cat personality is incredibly charming. They’re gentle, loyal pets. 

These animals do have the curious, outgoing traits that are common to most cats, but they’re also very affectionate. They’re sometimes called “velcro” cats because they tend to follow their owners around throughout the day. 

They’re very laid back and enjoy relaxing in the arms of their loved ones. They’re one of the easiest breeds to handle and shouldn’t cause you too much trouble.  

The Birman cat temperament isn’t overly aggressive or particularly challenging. But they could easily be shy, fearful, and skittish — particularly in new situations.  

Caring for a Birman

Grooming. Since these cats don’t have a heavily shedding undercoat, they’re fairly easy to groom. You should brush them about once a week with a metal comb to keep their long fur looking its best. Luckily, their coats don’t easily mat or tangle despite their length. 

They will shed their winter coats in the spring. You’ll need to comb them more frequently at this point to keep them from shedding all over your clothes and furniture. 

Keep a sturdy scratching pole available for them at all times to satisfy their natural scratching instinct and protect your furniture. 

Keep their nails trimmed and clean their ears regularly. You should also brush their teeth regularly with a veterinarian-approved toothpaste to help prevent dental disease. 

Feeding. The Birman cat breed doesn’t have any unique feeding requirements. They should do well on high-quality dry kibble. Find a brand that your pet enjoys. 

Go ahead and give them treats — just use moderation so that treats don’t start to interfere with your cat’s normal diet. 

You also need to make sure that clean water is available for your cat at all times. The fresher the water, the better. 

To increase the amount that your cat drinks and prevent dehydration, experts recommend keeping their water at least three feet away from their food. Cats’ noses are sensitive to the smell of food, so proximity could limit how much they drink. You can try also try a filtered fountain in place of a bowl.

Exercise and mental stimulation. These cats have moderate exercise needs. They’re quieter than some breeds, but that doesn’t interfere with a very playful side. 

You should engage them with toys and give them lots of attention daily. This breed is even capable of learning to fetch and chase balls. They enjoy spending time with other animals and will likely play with them as well.

Like most cats, Birmans need to satisfy their curiosity. Find toys that make them think to provide some mental stimulation. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all the vaccinations your pet needs, but all cats should get a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

  • Feline distemper
  • Feline herpes virus
  • Calicivirus
  • Rabies

You should also discuss non-core vaccinations with your veterinarian to see if they’re right for your pet. For cats, this can include vaccinations like the one for feline leukemia virus.

All cats are susceptible to flea infestations. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. You should follow the directions for these very specifically. Use them at any time of year that your cat needs them. 

Heartworms are less common in cats than in dogs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a treatment for heartworms in cats. This means that your best bet is prevention. Have your veterinarian check your cat for signs of heartworms on an annual basis. Also, have your cat take a preventative that your veterinarian recommends. 

Health Problems To Watch For With a Birman

There aren’t any unique health issues for the Birman breed. But your cat could still be susceptible to common cat problems. 

Birman cat health issues could include: 

  • Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This is the most common form of heart disease seen in cats. It’s believed to be an inherited condition. As it progresses, it can result in heart failure, paralysis of the hind legs, and even sudden death.
  • Hemophilia. This refers to several different blood clotting disorders that lead to your cat bleeding too much. Your cat may appear completely normal until after a certain event, like surgery. At that point, the bleeding can become fatal. Your veterinarian should test this at-risk breed before attempting any procedures. 
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) susceptibility. FIP is an infection that all cats can carry dormant. It only becomes problematic in certain cases, and that rate seems to be higher in Birmans than in other breeds. The condition damages blood vessels and leads to fluid buildup. There is currently no cure, and the disease is fatal. 
  • Eye problems. These include cataracts, which cause your cat’s lenses to become cloudy and opaque as they get older. They can be treated with surgery, but cats tend to adjust to the issue while they age. Another eye condition is called eyelid agenesis. This is where your cat’s upper eyelid doesn’t form properly, leaving the eye exposed and dry. It’s treated with reconstructive surgery. Corneal sequestration is a problem where a black dead spot forms on your cat’s eye. It could be treated with surgery, but the best step is to prevent it from occurring. Have your veterinarian regularly examine your cat’s eyes for signs of problems. 

Special Considerations for a Birman

Before you adopt a Birman, there are some things that you should keep in mind. They’re great for households with small children and other pets. They’re gentle creatures that get along well with others. 

They also need lots of attention from their owners, preferably while being held in your arms. This means they can be great for older people who don’t want an intensely energetic kitten running around their living room. 

Birmans also have a unique voice. Many people love their soft, chirping mew.  

History of Birmans

Legend has it that the Birman breed got its distinct looks from its life with Kittah priests at a Burmese temple. There are many different versions of the story. One claims that they got their white paws from the pure soul of a dying holy man and their blue eyes from gazing up at a blue-eyed goddess.  

The first official record of these cats is more recent. They were shown at French shows in the 1920s and were recognized by the Cat Club of France in 1925.

The cats were almost entirely wiped out during World War II. There were only two left in France at the end of the war. These were used to keep the breed going. Their kittens were bred to fluffy varieties like Persians until their numbers increased. 

The coloration of these cats also increased around this time. They originally only came with seal points. Blue points were introduced in 1959 from a cross to a blue Persian. Other colors were added later by British breeders. 

They were imported to the U.S. in the 1960s and were recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association in 1967. They’re consistently one of the top 10 favorite breeds and have even been used to create new lines, like the ragdolls. 

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images


American Heartworm Society: “Heartworm in Cats.” 

The Cat Fancier’s Association: “About the Birman.” 

Cornell Feline Health Center: “Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks,” “Fleas.” 

Europetnet: “Birman.” 

Harlingen Veterinary Clinic: “Birman.” 

The International Cat Association: “Birman (BI),” “The Birman Breed.”

search close