You’re in a quandary. A friend has offered you a pet cat, a beautiful Siamese with blue eyes, the unmistakable dark face of a Siamese, and an off-white fur. Her eyes are giving you that Take-Me-Home looks cats use when they want something from you. And what does this cat want? She wants you to take her home. You hesitate, wondering if a Siamese will make a good pet.
Do Siamese Make Good Pets? Siamese cats are good pets. They are friendly, active cats with distinct personalities who make excellent companions. Siamese cats are intelligent cats who are highly trainable. However, Siamese cats have a different meow, and they are extremely talkative. Due to their activity level and intelligence, they can cause more mischief than other cats.
Siamese cats also are more dependent on human interaction that many other cats, so keeping them alone for long is not advised. But whether they make good pets is determined on what you want from a cat.
To help you make a wise choice, you need to know what you want from a cat. Consider these things before deciding to get a Siamese cat:
- How much affection do you want from a cat?
- How important is it that your cat be child-friendly?
- Does your cat need to be dog-friendly?
- How energetic do you want your cat to be?
- Do you need a cat to be intelligent?
- Do you want an independent cat?
- Should your cat be friendly to visitors and strangers?
- Will a Siamese be expensive?
If any of these questions are essential, then you have come to the right place.
Siamese Cat’s Love To Meow
Nothing meows like a Siamese. Unless it’s another Siamese. Nicknamed Meezer by some, their frequent vocalizations are the second most recognizable feature.
They talk a lot. And I mean a lot. Common descriptions for their meows are, in alphabetical order: annoying, baby-like, constant, demanding, endless. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Just in case you don’t, here’s a short (merciful) video.
As you can see (or hear), their meowing ranks as the number one reason NOT to get a Siamese. Score one against the Siamese.
Why Do Siamese Cats Meow So Much
A typical description of their meow is baby-like. I’m sure many of us have been someplace where a baby cries and cries (and cries). Although it can be grating to an adult, from a baby’s perspective, it is an attempt to communicate that it needs something—food, sleep, or maybe a diaper change. Does a Siamese use its meow for similar reasons?
Researchers in England compared the meow that cats make to a baby’s cry and discovered something interesting: cats have a cry that experts call a “solicitation cry.” This cry is one they use when they want something and are trying to manipulate their owners to provide them with what they desire. What these researchers at Sussex University in England documented is that the frequency cats use when they want something is the same frequency human babies use.
It seems that cats have figured out how to use their cry to trigger a natural, mammalian response to help. Their meow trippers our need to nurture our offspring. Pretty clever, right?
Getting Siamese Cats to Stop Meowing
There are ways (or at least some people claim) to get a Siamese to talk less. But people also use behavior modification techniques:
- Make sure your kitty is healthy. If your foot was broken, you might start crying too.
- Take your pet into a room with other pets or people to communicate it is part of the family
- Pet him when he is quiet
- Start by training your cat to sit
- Be quick to reward your cat when she is quiet
Even if these techniques might work as some folks claim (for example, Dr. Sophia Yin), they seem to require more time than many of us have. And rewarding your Siamese when she is quiet—well, she has to be reserved first!
No one gets a Siamese because they meow so much. However, the reason they meow might make them a perfect pet for you.
Siamese Cats Need Attention and Lots of It
Do you want a cat that sits on the couch most of the day? A cat that is happy to be on its own? Then forget about a Siamese. But if you want a cat that will be a companion, then you can hardly get a better cat than a Siamese. The reputation they have of being standoffish and mean is false. Maybe movies like Lady and the Tramp contributed to their reputation? But the opposite is true.
Siamese cats are social cats. Unless they are mistreated, they will bond strongly to you. They require human companionship more than almost any other cat breed. Not only are they social cats, but they are also very affectionate, male cats a little more so. They use different signals to show their affection. These include
- Weaving their tails
- Blinking slowly
- Following you around (a lot of following)
- Rubbing their cheeks against you
- Bunting their heads
Like dogs, cats communicate their affection vocally. They will purr, chirp, and trill as a way to show their affection. Combined with other affection body language, their purring indicates they love and trust you.
They use their tails, for example, to indicate different emotions, including fear, anger, and affection. If your Siamese twirls its tail around your legs, they are happy. The same is true if they rest their tail against your body.
Blinking is another physical sign of affection. Sometimes you will notice your cat looking at you with half-closed eyes and blinking slowly, what some people call “cat kisses.” Show them some love by looking at her with your eyes half-closed. Blink slowly, and maybe your cat will send you even more “kisses.”
Cats will follow you anywhere (and I mean anywhere). This is another reason that Siamese cat owners will say their cats sometimes remind them of dogs. Take comfort that your Siamese trusts you and enjoys your company. Of course, there is a not-so-subtle message—don’t ignore me.
Cheek rubbing and head bunting are two other behaviors that show affection. Rubbing their cheeks is their way of asking, “Don’t you want to snuggle?” It is also a way to rub some of the scents from their glands on to you as a way they mark you for ownership. Head bunting (don’t confuse it with head butting) is a gentle tapping of his head against you. Like the cheek rubbing, it is also a way to transfer those scents of affection and ownership.
Their Affection is a Double-Edged Sword
Since they are so affectionate, you need to consider if a Siamese cat fits your lifestyle. If you want an entertaining companion, you might want to get one. If you want a pet that will become independent and self-sufficient, then a Siamese might not be a good option.
Siamese Cats Interaction with Dogs and Kids
Will a Siamese cat get along with a dog?
A better question is–will a dog get along with a Siamese? Dogs that are territorial and possessive have a more difficult time adjusting to a new pet—dog or cat—that is equally possessive. An aggressive dog might be none too happy sharing his territory with a cat determined to become the most important pet in your life. Consider the following:
- How do they act around other small animals or children when you are taking them for a walk? Aggressive behavior then is a sign they will do the same with a new cat
- When you have visitors to your house, are they welcoming, or do they become aggressive if the visitor is not interested in them?
- What is their reaction when another animal wants affection from you?
If you observe aggressive tendencies in your dog, then you might want to pick a different cat, such as a Siberian or Ragdoll.
Ensuring They Will Get Along
Let’s say you have decided that the Siamese and your dog will get along (or at least tolerate one another). Here are some suggestions to help get them off on a good foot (or paw).
- Have a way to cats to get away from a dog who is being a little too playful. A bed might not be good enough—dogs have a way of turning that into a game.
- Provide them with accessories, like cat shelves. Not only will they help a cat get away from a dog, cat shelves, like this one, but you can also always hang an inexpensive shelf.
- Some people will install a cat door that leads to another room.
- A sturdy and tall bookcase will also work, as long as your cat has a way to get to the top.
You might decide you need to use a more deliberate approach. If so, take these steps:
- Set up a separate room for your Siamese to live in at first. Put all of her toys, scratching posts, and cat towers in this room temporarily. Visit often. You will hear when a visit is wanted. You will also hear that you shouldn’t have left.
- Next, it’s time for the first introduction. Don’t wait too long, unless your idea of a good time is listening to a Siamese meow. She won’t give up.
- When you take your dog into the cat’s (temporary) room, it’s best to hold your dog by its collar so you can pull him back if needed. Let them get a look at each other, perhaps smell each other.
- Then it’s time for goodbyes. Take your cat back to her room.
The next step will depend on whether they were hostile to each other or were curious. Hostility will require more of the short introductions. Build up the time they spend with each other while still holding your dog by his collar once they can stand each other’s company for a few minutes its time for the next step, which is holding your dog by a leash. This provides the dog with a chance to get to know the cat a little better while still being under your control.
Once they have gotten used to each other under these controlled circumstances, you should let your Siamese roam the house. But be patient—even if the two have decided to live together, it will probably take a little while until your new Siamese feels at home.
Again, deciding if a Siamese cat will be a good fit for you depends on the temperament of your dog and your willingness to devote some time to help them learn to get along.
Siamese Cats Love Kids
A friend of mine tells a story that one day she came home to find her daughter and her cat having tea. And the cat was wearing clothes borrowed from one of her daughter’s dolls. “No way she would ever let me do that.”
Not only do Siamese love cats, but they also let kids get away with things they would never allow an adult to do. Hang them upside down, dress up—as long as it isn’t hurtful, the cat will most likely put up with it if a kid is doing it.
Maybe being so active themselves, Siamese cats don’t mind the continuous, frenetic activity, and the bonding behavior of kids. While a more sedate cat might wish the kids would leave her along, a Siamese cat craves the attention and activity.
If you need a cat that will get along with kids, score one for the cat.
Siamese Are Energetic Cats
Siamese cats don’t settle down. They like to move, to be active, to explore. They don’t want to sit still. Don’t expect three-hour naps in the middle of the day. Your Siamese needs stimulation, which is why it is highly recommended you have a variety of toys for them. A colorful ball, a catnip-filled toy mouse, even a toilet paper tube can be used as cat toys. If you want to get your DYI on, you can search the Internet. Here’s some ideas to get you started.
Siamese Cats Are Smart
It’s hard to find anyone who says otherwise. Anecdotes abound all over the internet about their intelligence. Don’t believe me—Ask Google. Bet yet, ask a reliable source, such as Dr. Berit Brogaard, who researches memory:
“The cerebral cortex of cats is greater and more complex compared to that of dogs.”
She goes on to explain that if brain size was an accurate measure of intelligence. Neanderthals, for example, had brains that were much larger than ours, yet they are not considered more intelligent. Surface folding and brain structure are more important, and a cat’s brain structure is 90% similar to ours. A cat has about 300 million neurons in their cerebral cortex while a dog has 160 million.
If you want to see how smart your cat is, there are several tests you can try. These are tests commonly used by researchers studying animal intelligence.
- The Pointing Test. Grab a couple of cups and some treats. Put a treat in one cup repeatedly, until your cat gets used to it being in that cup. Then put the treat in another cup and point at it. If it follows your finger, then it can respond to new information. If she passes, then up the ante and use a third cup. See if your Siamese cat can pass the three-cup game.
- The Mirror Test. Find a washable marker and put a big dot on your cat’s forehead. Then watch what happens when he walks in front of a mirror. If he stops and tries to wipe the mark away, then your Siamese has shown self-awareness. Many researchers consider self-awareness a sign of intelligence.
Or, you can train your cat to do many things you expect a dog to do—fetch, walk on a leash, jump through hoops, even (according to some) use a toilet and flush. Or, wait until she figures out how to open up cabinets or get into the refrigerator.
You can spend all day watching cat videos on YouTube (trust me, I know), but if you want an explanation of how you could train a Siamese, check out this video.
If you want a smart cat, score one for the Siamese.
Siamese Don’t Require Much Grooming
A Weekly Coat Brushing
Many short-haired cats don’t require a lot of grooming since they generally take good care of themselves. A Siamese won’t have to have its coat brushed daily—once a week a proper brushing is sufficient for them to keep up their appearance:
- If possible, use a comb with soft bristles. Short-haired cats don’t require hard-bristled brushes like some longer-haired breeds.
- Go slowly, a section at a time. The cat won’t complain since she is getting quality time with you
- Don’t brush against the grain. A short-haired cat will be uncomfortable.
- Use a soft towel to wipe down the cat’s coat when you are done
Affectionate cats that they are, a second or third brushing won’t just be tolerated, but welcome.
A Bi-Weekly Nail Trimming
All cats need to have their nails trimmed every other week. (Most veterinarians and cat experts don’t recommend declawing. For more info, the Humane Society has an excellent article about it.) Trimmed nails will discourage clawing and keep the claws healthier. If you have never trimmed a cat’s nails before, here are some essential tips:
- Although human nail clippers will work, cat groomers often use a variety of scissor-style clippers that are readily available. Idle Cat provides its recommendations for the top nail clippers for cats.
- If you use human nail clippers, make sure they are sharp. It’s not like your Siamese will sit patiently for long anyway, and she will want this to be over quickly.
- After you get her in your lap, gently squeeze the toe so that she will extend the claw.
- Time to clip the sharp nail. If you want blood to draw blood or create extra discomfort, then cut into the pink part at the base.
- Most owners don’t clip the rear claws as often since Siamese don’t normally use them for scratching
- Some people take their cats to the vet for a pedicure
No matter what kind of cat you have, all cats need to have their claws trimmed. Doing so is no different for a Siamese, so this is neither
A cat will not require a lot of grooming, no matter what the breed. A Siamese might need a little less than a long-haired cat, but not enough that it should be a deal-breaker. We’ll call this a toss-up.
A Little Dental Care
All cats need dental care. As Dr. Marty Becker writes:
“The numbers say it all: By the time they are 2 years old, 70 percent of cats have some type of gum disease.”
If you are dealing with a kitten, you’re in luck. You can get a kitten used to having her mouth handled by gently rubbing her teeth (after lifting the lip, of course). This way, your cat will get used to having you handle her mouth.
Before you grab the toothbrush, try using a damp gauze pad first to rub the teeth. Once your kitty is comfortable with that, then graduate to a small toothbrush (you can also find finger brushes made for pets). You will need to have toothpaste made for cats (some of the ingredients in your toothpaste are unhealthy for cats). Put a little on the brush and brush gently.
Your goal is to brush a few teeth at a time, especially with your Siamese if you can get one side done, great! Save the other side for another day.
Another option if your cat refuses to let you brush their teeth is to use dental rinses or sprays made for cats. Edible chews can at least scrape teeth clean, which is better than doing nothing.
Again, all cats need dental care, not only a Siamese. So this is not a reason to say no to a Siamese.
Siamese Health Risks
Obesity is a risk amongst all cats, the Siamese included. Cats all need dental care, should receive vaccinations as recommended by your veterinarian, and be treated for parasites as required.
Asthma is a common condition among cats, with Siamese being more at risk. A possible sign that your Siamese has asthma is a wheezing cough that sounds similar to a hairball cough. However, cats vomit up hairballs. If your cat cough is reoccurring or extended, consult your vet. He or She will be able to prescribe treatments that can help your cat
Siamese cats do have genetic predispositions to several other conditions. Although a vet can provide further explanations or resources for them, we can provide an overview of several:
|Amyloidosis||Proteins collecting inside organs such as the pancreas, kidney, or liver, causing those organs to fail||Diet and medication can be used to help the affected organs function better|
|Megaesophagus||If the esophagus doesn’t contract properly, food does not go into the stomach but stretches out the esophagus. If your cat continually vomits after eating, consult a veterinarian. Cats with this condition sometimes inhale bits of food into their lungs, which can lead to pneumonia, so don’t delay calling your vet||Changes in diet, particular postures while eating, and prescribed medications can help manage the problem|
|Lymphoma||A type of cancer more common to Siamese cats than other breeds. This cancer causes some white blood cells to develop abnormally. It can be detected with a blood test, so have your vet screen your mature cat annually.||Very treatable with a high success rate when chemotherapy is used. Unfortunately, treatment is expensive and requires a long-term commitment|
|Thymoma||A type of lymphoma that begins in the chest.||Cats affected with thymoma are typically young. Chemotherapy is also a successful treatment|
|Mast cell tumors||A type of skin cancer that should be removed as soon as they are discovered. They are small, raised, firm, and hairless lumps. Because they often become itchy, some cats hurt themselves by scratching and even chewing the lumps.||Removing them with surgery has a high success rate.|
|Adenocarcinoma||A type of intestinal cancer typically found in older acts. This cancer causes tumors that grow around the intestines, eventually swelling large enough that the intestines no longer allow materials to flow through. Sudden or severe vomiting, blood in the stool, or diarrhea can be symptoms.||Can be successfully removed through surgery|
Siamese cats have crossed eyes, and the medical term for this is convergent strabismus (remember this for your next Pub Quiz!). This is not considered a congenital disability in Siamese cats because it’s a normal condition in Siamese. If you see a Siamese’s eyes quickly moving from side to side, they have Nystagmus. Again, this is considered normal in Siamese. Neurologists have studied this condition and determined that a cat’s brain sorts out all the shifting images so that it doesn’t see double!
Some Siamese bloodlines have Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Cats who have this condition suffer vision loss. It is a progressive condition, meaning that the cat will first develop night blindness, typically around age two, and over the next four to six years will become blind. There is no cure or effective treatment for this condition, but thankfully, it is rare.
The News Is Not That Bad
Yes, Siamese cats are prone to certain diseases and conditions. However, other breeds are prone to different conditions. Also, most of these conditions are rare. But raising your awareness of what can occur and—more importantly—what to look for—was meant as a guide, not a downer. Most cats lead happy, healthy lives.
Call this a toss-up.
Hopefully, knowing as much about Siamese as you do now will help you make an informed decision. Sometimes the pleading eyes do the trick, and before you know it, you have a meowing cat going home with you. If your heart wins out over your head, at least you will know what you have just gotten yourself into.