The Burmese Cat is mentioned in one of the poems of the ancient Thai Book of Cat Poems as a courageous, protective cat "Of magnificent appearance with shape the best/Coloured like copper, this cat is beautiful:/The light of her eyes is as a shining ray."
According to local folklore, these beautiful brown, golden-eyed cats -- presumably the ancestors of what we now know as the Burmese Cat -- were kept as sacred animals in the temples, monasteries and palaces of Burma. Pampered by the rich and holy, these revered felines were provided with personal servants in the form of student-priests. These servants acted as guardians to ensure the safety of their charges and were severely punished if they failed in their duties.
Occasionally, a single cat was presented as a special gift to a visiting dignitary, but apart from that they seldom left their Burmese strongholds. The story goes that a certain Major Finch, stationed in the East during World War II, who made good use of his spare time there by visiting Buddhist temples, saw many beautiful examples of these sacred brown cats. He called them "Rajah Cats," but it is clear from his description that what he was calling Rajah Cats and what we today know as Burmese Cats were one and the same. He claimed that they were the true "Royal Cats" and were held in high esteem in the Royal courts long before the pale-bodied Siamese Cats put in an appearance. In fact, in his opinion, the Rajah Cat was the parent form of the Siamese Cat, which in ancient times was viewed merely as a poorly colored, semi-albino version of this sacred, rich brown cat.
The first Burmese Cat imported into the United States was a female named Wong Mau, belonging to Dr. Joseph Thompson. In 1930, Dr. Thompson was working as a psychiatrist in San Francisco and was employing a rather unusual type of treatment. His enlightened form of therapy consisted of giving each of his rich patients a pregnant Siamese Cat to look after. The problems these patients faced, and the rewards they gained from raising a litter of kittens, were so successful in taking them out of themselves that they soon forgot their neuroses, started to look outward instead of inward, and rapidly regained their mental balance. Wong Mau was allowed to sit at Dr. Thompson's side during his consultations, and became the most important cat in the doctor's feline collection.
Burmese Cats are described as affectionate, alert, active, agile, sociable, inquisitive, athletic, ingenious, intelligent, curious, zestful, adaptable, lively, energetic, smart, playful, devoted, vocal, highly strung, rumbustious, boisterous, bold, bossy, stubborn and demanding. In general, their character is felt to be close to that of the Siamese. The name "Zibeline Cat," meaning "like the sable" -- that is, very dark brown -- was suggested as an alternative to the name "Burmese," but was never widely accepted.
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