James Dean owned one. So did U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes and Queen Elizabeth II.
The Siamese cat has come a long way since first coming to America in the late 19th century. When introduced in London they were called, “an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat.” In recent years, Siamese have rated in or near the top 10 cat breeds in America based on Cat Fanciers’ Association registration statistics.
It’s hard to resist those striking blue eyes.
In celebration of April 6 as National Siamese Cat Day, here’s 10 things to know about the sleek and stylish breed.
Origin story: Siamese cats came from Thailand, then known as Siam. There’s still a debate about how old they exactly are, but the Thai manuscript “Tamra Maew” (“The Cat Book Poems”) seems to depict them. The work was created between the 14th and 18th centuries. They were also described as being held in high esteem by royal families. It was believed that after death the soul of a family member enters the body of a Siamese.
Special delivery: The cat gained widespread notice in the U.S. in the late 1870s when one was given as a gift to Lucy Hayes, the wife of 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes, by an American diplomat stationed in Bangkok. The cat’s name? Siam.
Pure poetry: Siamese cats go by a particular evocative name in their native Thailand — wichien-maat, which translates to “moon diamond.”
Attention, please: Siamese are intelligent, extremely talkative and affectionate, forming strong bonds with their owners and enjoying human company. They’re also known for following their owners around wherever they go.
Good point: Siamese are recognizable for their point coloration — a light-colored body paired with darker extremities, such as their dark paws and ears. Siamese kittens develop points when they’re a few weeks old. All are born with completely white fur. Traditional Siamese are particularly recognizable for their triangular heads (more modern variations have rounder heads) and deep blue almond-shaped eyes.
In living color: Most Siamese sport points in colors called seal, lilac, chocolate and blue, but other point colors include tabby, red cream and smoke.
But it doesn’t bark: Some Siamese enjoy fetching, running agility courses and walking on a leash. Siamese are also known to get along well with dogs and other cats.
Father figure: Siamese have been used to form many other cat breeds, including the Himalayan, Burmese, Tonkinese and Ocicat.
Famous by association: Celebrities who reportedly owned Siamese cats: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Landon, Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon.
But they’re famous on their own, too: Siamese have long been featured in movies. The two most notable starring roles: “Lady and the Tramp” and “That Darn Cat!”