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The Difference Between Siamese And Balinese Cats

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The Difference Between Siamese And Balinese CatsIf you have ever looked at a cat that you thought was a Siamese but under closer inspection didn’t quite look Siamese anymore, you have just seen a Balinese. A Balinese looks like a Siamese with long hair. Is that the only difference between the two?

What Are the Differences Between Siamese and Balinese Cats? The simple answer is that Balinese have a longer coat length. Even though the two cats are related, the history of how they came about is different. Because of their fur, Balinese need different care. However, since both breeds are related, they share many features that make them ideal pets for many.

Because cats are complicated, nothing is simple when it comes to them. After all, they have three names. At least according to T.S. Eliot, whose book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats inspired the musical Cats. Some people might say that Siamese and Balinese are just two names for the same cat breed. They’re wrong. Let me tell you why.

Physical FeaturesDiets

The Two Breeds Have Different Histories

A Siamese is an old breed that is at least several hundred years old. Their name, Siamese, suggests they came from Siam (which is now called Thailand). Some historians think they were the descendants of sacred temple cats. Others suggest that they are the offspring of an “Egyptian cat” mating with a “wild cat” of Siam.

Experts are also divided on their role in Siam society.

  • Some say only the Royalty of Siam could own Siamese cats.
  • Some claim people believed that they were sacred.
  • Some argue they were just exotic-looking cats whose purpose was to guard the royal temples?

Which of these things is true? Since no one knows, you get to pick which theory sounds best to you. I like to combine all three: sacred cats the royalty used to guard the temples. Yes—I’m one of those people who always default to D–all of the above.

Historians agree on one thing: a manuscript that dates between the 14th and 18th century which was discovered in what is now Siam described a Siamese cat. This manuscript, called Cat Book Poems, had a description of a pale cat, except for its dark face, feet, ears, and tail.

People Used Legends to Explain Siamese’s Features

Several legends exist that attempt to explain how the cats came by several of their features—being cross-eyed and having a kinked tail.

Legend One: The Missing Goblets

One of my favorites is about a couple that went looking for a royal goblet that had gone missing. When they found the goblet, the male ran off (so typical, right?) to let the king know it had been found.

He left the female behind so she could protect it. Afraid she might lose it, she wrapped her tail tightly around the goblet, creating the kink. Then she stared at the goblet (and her tail) until her eyes were permanently crossed.

Legend Two: The Drunken Priest

Another legend also has the male running off, this time in search of a priest. The two Siamese lived at a temple. They wound up being de facto guards because the priest was a drunkard. Sometimes he disappeared for days (on a bender, I suppose). When the two Siamese that lived at the temple could no longer take it, the male left in search of a new priest. The female cat stayed behind to keep watch on the sacred goblet (What’s up with goblets, anyway?). She stared and stared at the goblet until—you guessed it—she became cross-eyed.

All this staring had exhausted her, so she decided a nap was needed. And she wrapped her tail around–you guessed it—the goblet. The kittens in her next litter were all born with squinted eyes and a curve in their tails.

Legend Three: The Princess Taking a Bath

Still another legend says that a Siamese Princess was bathing in a river. She was so afraid of losing the precious jewelry that she held onto the jewelry by kinking her tail. This legend says nothing about her eyes, so I count it as a half-legend.

Unfortunately, such legends do not exist for Balinese cats. It’s one of the differences between the two breeds. You’ll see why when we get to how the Balinese originated. It is a tale quite different from the Siamese.

Even how they came to the United States is different.

How the Siamese Came to America.

The first Siamese cats came to America as a gift. A diplomat in the American consul in Bangkok gifted a female cat to Rutherford B. Hayes. It was a long journey: from Thailand, she traveled to Hong Kong, then San Francisco, before finally arriving at the White House.
Nearly 100 years later another Siamese arrived in the White House:

“President Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, brought her Siamese cat named Shan with her to Pennsylvania Avenue when her father became president in 1974. Susan and Shan even made the cover of People Magazine!”
Source: Presidential Pet Museum

How the Balinese Came to America

balinese cat

They were born here. Seriously.

The first Balinese cats were registered in 1928 by an American couple. The cats that became to be known as Balinese were Siamese that were born long-haired due to a genetic mutation.

Most cat breeders at the time didn’t call attention to the Siamese born with long hair. Long-haired Siamese cats did not fit the breed descriptions, and breeders did not put them into cat shows. This all changed in the 1950s.

The Balinese’s History is Not Based on Legends

Some people call the Balinese magical–They have little history and seemed to appear in the cat world. Think that if you want, but the historical record is clear.

  • In 1928 the first Balinese were registered
  • In the 1955 Marion Dorsey started breeding long-haired Siamese cats
  • In the 1960s Helen Smith also began breeding the long-haired Siamese
  • In 1963 the breed was first officially recognized
  • In 1970 the Cat Fancier Organization acknowledged a Balinese as a breed

No myth or legends in the Balinese’s history. Just the hard work of several women who fell in love with the long-haired Siamese. If you want to know even more about the early history of Balinese cats, follow the link to a copy of the CFA Yearbook.

Hair Length Is the Biggest Difference Between the Breeds

Because of the work of the women mentioned above, Balinese cats are now considered a separate breed. The most significant difference between the two breeds is hair-length. Balinese have

  • A single coat of hair
  • No undercoat
  • Fine and silky hair anywhere between half an inch two inches long
  • A plume on its tail that can be up to fine inches long

The Balinese can take care of itself, but it’s not a bad idea to help it take care of its long hair. Sometimes an adult Balinese needs to have its hair combed. Use a shampoo for long-haired cats if you want to wash your Balinese.

They Have a Fascinating Similarity in Coats

Both Siamese and Balinese are born with white coats. The warmth of the womb somehow blocks the cats’ color gene from reaching the fur. Exposure to cooler temperatures allows the pigment to start showing up.

They develop their “point colors” in the weeks following birth. Why? Because the womb is very warm and blocks the cat’s color gene from reaching her fur. Following the birth and being exposed to the cooler atmosphere for a few weeks, Siamese kittens will start to develop pigment around their faces, tails, and paws.

Are Their Temperaments Different?

Not much. Both cats are outgoing. They might look regal and sophisticated, but in their hearts of hearts, they are acrobatic, singing clowns. They are active cats who will follow you around, play with their toys (get them some, or they will use yours), and get into everything.
They are not lap cats. If there are no cat climbing frames in the house, they will make their own. Or instead they will take what you own—closets, shelves, tables—and climb on them.

Many owners report Siamese and Balinese are nothing like other cats. I have heard owners compare them to dogs in their friendliness, playfulness, and desire for attention. People report that they fetch things, walk on leashes, and demand to be in the same room.

Neither cat enjoys being left alone. If you work long hours, you might want to think about getting two of them so they can entertain each other.

Keep Them Thinking To Avoid Trouble

Because of their temperaments, make sure these cats have puzzle toys that let them problem solve. Want some ideas on what kind of puzzle toys would be suitable for them? I don’t know why a website called The Dog People has a page for cat games, but it does. One look at the Grass-Patch Hunting Cat Puzzle Toy, and you’ll wish you were a cat.

Think of Siamese and Balinese as dog-cats and teach them tricks (with treats as rewards), toss small balls for games of fetch, or train them to run agility courses (Yes, these exist!) An organization called Catagility has tournaments.

And if you want people to turn their heads as you walk past, train your cat to walk on a leash and stroll through the park.

Their Most Obvious Personality Feature

Both cats are incredibly talkative. They talk a lot. They will “talk” your ear off. If you want a quiet cat, you don’t want a Siamese or Balinese. If you don’t believe me, watch this YouTube video and see what happens 45 seconds in after another, much quieter cat, strolls by.

Did I say they talk a lot?

Some folks say that Balinese have slightly softer tones to their voices and talk a little less than Siamese. A little less will still seem like a lot if you prefer a quiet cat.

How About Their Diets?

Both breeds have similar dietary needs. They need food that is fairly high in protein and animal fats, low in protein, and easily digestible. The last one is key because both breeds are prone to heredity amyloidosis—a condition that can lead to liver failure. Because of their flatter faces, pay attention to kibble size—they might have a difficult time picking up smaller kibbles.

Regardless of what kind of food you choose, you have to be careful of the same thing for either breed: overfeeding them. Americans often super-size their portions and do the same for their kitties. Then their overweight kitties are saddled with the same health problems—obesity, heart conditions, and diabetes to name the most common.

Since they are more active, Siamese and Balinese are less prone to be obese. Still, leaving a bowl of dry food out for your cat to snack on might not be a good idea. It’s better to create a twice-a-day feeding schedule. Just make sure you stick to it. Sleeping past feeding time will not go unnoticed.

Often times, sites recommend buying premium food for reasons such as these:

  • Premium cat food contains fewer fillers.
  • Nutrients in premium cat food are more densely packed.
  • A cat is satisfied with smaller servings of premium food.
  • Cats pass less waste when they eat premium food.

Although this advice is fairly standard, there is a reason why you should consider paying more for food if you get either a Siamese or Balinese. These cats are expensive, to begin with, especially if you purchase a purebred cat. Expect to pay a minimum $600 for a Balinese kitten. A purebred Siamese, with prices ranging from $250 to $500, will seem like a bargain. However, prices can climb even higher depending on how much you are interested in pedigree

Many people are turning to rescued stray cats from an animal shelter. If you decide you want to adopt, you will probably have to go with a Siamese. A recent search of the ASPCA website found over 900 Siamese cats but not a single Balinese.

If you are interested in adopting a cat, you can head to the ASPCA website or contact your local animal shelter.

The Real Scoop On Siamese And Balinese Being Hypoallergenic

You might be one of the 6 to 10 million Americans allergic to cats. You’ve heard that the Siamese and Balinese cats are hypoallergenic. It’s half true. But are Hypoallergenic cats actually free of allergens?

In a word—no. Hypoallergenic cats produce fewer allergens than other cats. However, no cat breed is completely allergy-free. That’s because all cats produce a protein (called Fel D1), which is secreted by the cat’s sebaceous glands. (Don’t you feel like an expert now?). This protein gets spread once a cat licks her coat.

Actually—warning: this is going to be a little gross–it gets spread after the spit dries and becomes airborne. Then it floats around looking for a warm home. Your nose and sinuses work quite nicely.

However, some cat breeds produce less of this Fel D1. Less Fel D1 means fewer allergens floating through the air. One of these is—drum roll—the Siamese.

Oh no, check that. It’s actually the Balinese. That’s right—the long-haired Balinese is more hypoallergenic than the Siamese. As I said, though, no cat is 100% hypoallergenic (unless you can somehow get it to stop licking its coat).

In Conclusion: Complicated Cats Tell Complicated Stories

On the one hand, the main difference between Siamese and Balinese cats is their hair. But there are other differences in their history, their popularity, their price. With these two cats, the deeper you dig, the more you find.