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Native Siamese Cats and Other Cats 
in Thailand Today

Photo Showing Native cats of Thailand

These cats are all natives of Thailand, not pedigreed, just members of the splendid Thai race of native cats.  Photo Laurie Rosenthal.

Thailand deserves lasting fame and a big "thank you" from the human race for having produced several of the world's great breeds of cat. Some of us think Thailand produced THE world's greatest breeds of cat. They include the Siamese, the Korat, the Burmese*, the Tonkinese**, and another great breed not yet recognized in the West, the Khao Manee. And there are a number of Western variants of the basic Thai breeds that are well known, such as the Balinese, the Oriental, the Havana Brown, the Snowshoe, and the Bombay. If that's not enough, there are many, many other breeds of cat that benefited at some time during their histories from having at least a few Thai cat ancestors. The Himalayan is an extremely popular breed that falls into the latter category.

My husband and I returned from a trip to Thailand in 2001, during which we visited some Thai catteries, the home of a Bangkok cat lover/rescuer, and also took photos of literally every street cat that we saw. Since we love to hike for hours around places that we visit, and since Bangkok in particular has lots of cats wandering its streets and living on the grounds of its temples, we had plenty of photo-opportunities.

We encourage you to look at the photos below, study them, enjoy them, and draw your own conclusions. (However, please don't copy, reproduce, or redistribute the photos without permission. See the statement at the bottom of this page.) We think you will agree that the native cats of Thailand are still very special.

Along the Streets of Bangkok

Seal point naps in front of a Bangkok shop house, oblivious to the horrendous traffic noise and exhaust.

Mackerel tabby watches traffic passing by his owner's news stand.

Another young mackerel tabby naps on busy sidewalk.

Handsome red tabby on sidewalk in front of shop house. Reds and torties in various forms were extremely common wherever we went.

Red tabby and white cat takes refuge from street traffic against shophouse crate. Notice the kinked tail.

Along a Bangkok Klong (Canal)

This cat appeared to have the Tonkinese mink pattern, and was found strolling alongside a klong in a fairly nice neighborhood. Notice also the kinked tail.

Ticked tabby kitten on a nice morning by the klong. Ticked tabbies appear to be very common in Asia.

Same ticked tabby kitten as above later found stealing a drink of milk from tortoiseshell mother cat.

Seal point female seemed to feel that her grooming was rudely interrupted by the camera.

Another tortoiseshell female, but with lots of white, among the potted plants decorating the side of a house on the klong.

This adorable tortie point female with cobalt blue eyes let us know that she had a loud, Siamese-style voice, too. Here she is again.

Mackerel tabby grooming himself in the sun next to a big black trash bag. Hey, we meant it when we said we photographed EVERY cat we saw.

Cats Living With a Bangkok Resident

Lovely seal point female. She was already missing one eye when rescued from the streets by her current owner. And here she is again at play.

Tortoiseshell female with tail nearly nonexistent due to a severe kink. Kinked tails, and possibly also genetically bobbed tails, are extremely common in Thailand's cats. This cat was rescued from the streets.

Tortie and white female with a three inch tail terminating in a kink. This girl was also rescued from the streets, but is a different cat than the one in the line immediately above.

Seal point male with white paws. Given to the owner by a friend. Was reportedly bred by a Thailand breeder, but owner speculated it was more likely a "back yard breeder."

Homeless Cats Living at a Buddhist Temple in Bangkok

This black female greeted us with a very loud voice, as did her two kittens. All three were very sweet and friendly. Notice the severely kinked tail of one of the kittens.

A mink and white cat is our best guess on this one, i.e., the Tonkinese mink pattern with a lot of white. Not sure how well you can see it with your browser, but the eyes were an even mix of blue and green. The cat also had a very kinked tail.

Tabby and white adolescent napping under a table on temple grounds, one of the many cats who spoke to us with a very loud Siamese-style voice.

Tabby and white adult cat regards the camera from rain-splashed sidewalk on temple grounds.

Spotted white cat eating food while standing behind a metal sign on a concrete pillar. Unfortunately the photo was overexposed, but notice the lovely shape of this cat's head and eyes. The person who fed the cats was a woman from the neighborhood. She liked to place the food up high or behind fenced areas so that the cats could eat without the temple's homeless dogs bothering them.

This very young ticked tabby kitten, half-starved but still beautiful, sits above a trash-filled gutter on the temple grounds.

Slender tortoiseshell female, yet another Thai cat we saw that had the genetic red factor.

Kitten with the seal point Siamese pattern eats rice and fish next to his solid black mother.

The seal point kitten (again) now eating with an older black and white kitten. Notice the head shapes on these kittens, but also how thin they are. The seal point appeared to have a bad case of roundworms; his belly was quite distended.

This little sprite eating a meal on the shelf of a stone monument may have been a mink (Tonkinese pattern) kitten. In the photo you can just see evidence of darker point color on the kitten's nose, which was much more visible in person. But the body of the kitten was a solid amber color, and the kitten's eyes were faintly greenish blue. (Siamese pattern kittens usually have nearly white bodies, especially in the hot tropical climate of Bangkok.) Oh, and by the way, the young sprite had a kinked tail.

Striking mackerel tabby with beautiful ears, head, and eyes.

Temples cats dine together on rice and fish. The kitten has the seal point Siamese pattern. The cat at far left also has the Siamese pattern, but with a lot of white as well.

Tabby and white cat with finely sculpted head.

Cats Encountered on the Streets of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand

This young black cat of Oriental body type appears to be waiting for the buddhist monks. (The monks are the fellows in the bright orange-gold robes.) We weren't entirely sure whether the cat wanted to use the telephone booth or beg the monks for a handout.

Handsome family of cats belonging to a Chiang Mai shop owner. The grayish-looking female cat is a silver tabby, and the others are red tabbies and red and white tabbies. Most likely the father of the kittens is the large red tabby to the right.

Purebred Cats Bred By Thai Breeders

The following photos were all taken inside catteries, usually indoors, but sometimes outdoors under roofs and canopies designed to protect the cats from the tropical sun and rain. Often the cats, as one would expect of Oriental felines, were busy running around like little gremlins having a good time. Consequently, some of the photos are blurred or of lower quality than we would have liked, but we think you can get a fair sense of what the cats were like.

Two seal point Siamese, one adolescent and one adult. Notice the solid blue cat behind to the left; that is a Korat.

Seal point Siamese adolescent.

Seal point Siamese kitten skids to a halt.

Korats and Siamese study my husband's hiking compass, as Thai women watch from behind.

Khao Manee adult female. Martin Clutterbuck, a scholar of the Thai language and translator of the ancient Thai Cat Poems, told me that the Khao Manee is a breed that seems to have been developed in Thailand relatively recently, probably during the 19th century. Khao Manees are solid white cats. Ideally Thais like them to have one blue eye and one gold eye, but, due to the tricky nature of the genes involved, many Khao Manees will have two gold eyes, or as in the case of this pretty female, two blue eyes.

Two Korats and two Siamese play with a string.

Adult seal point Siamese female.

Siamese, Korat, Khao Manee, and young Thai woman play with my husband's compass.

Seal point Siamese stud.

Korat and Siamese playing with compass.

Two adult female seal point Siamese take in their view of the tropical garden.

Seal point Siamese female walks along a catwalk in her kennel.

Unfortunately blurred, but pretty head of adult seal point Siamese female. Incidentally, we noticed that Siamese cats often did not have complete masks in Thailand. We suspect it's because the temperature is nearly always between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, too hot for even Siamese color development.

We also saw several blue point Siamese, a tortie point Siamese, and a great many Burmese cats in the catteries we visited, but did not have the opportunity to photograph them. The Burmese cats in particular seemed to have a talent for scampering off into the shadows.

Cats Featured on the National Postage Stamps of Thailand

Siamese cat native to Thailand. The model for this cat was Chiangmai Wai, a seal point female bred by Ed and Malee Rose in Chiang Mai.

Burmese cat native to Thailand. The model for this cat was a Burmese bred by Ed and Malee Rose in Chiang Mai.

Khao Manee cat native to Thailand. The model for this Khao Manee was yet another cat bred by Ed and Malee Rose in Chiang Mai.

Korat native to Thailand. Unfortunately, I do not know which of the Thai breeders provided the cat that was the model for the Korat in this stamp.

The Siamese Cats We Brought Back to America

Chiangmai Piab of Sarsenstone, adult male blue point Siamese. Piab (pronounced "peeyup"), also known as Pippy, is from Northern Thailand. Pippy was bred by the same people who bred Wai, the cat used as a the Siamese model for the national stamps of Thailand (see above). In fact, Wai was Pippy's great aunt. Pippy likes to rub head and body lovingly all over his human friends, occasionally stopping to tidy himself up.

Arirat Kittiya of Sarsenstone, four month old female seal point Siamese. Kittiya (pronounced "kidya") is from Bangkok in Central Thailand. It's a little hard to keep up with Kid, as she believes in continually demonstrating how lively of scheming little mind and body the native Thai breeds are.


*The Burmese was given the name "Burmese" by Westerners. In fact, as reported by cat biologist Roger Tabor and others, the breed appears to have originated in Thailand.

**Many cat fanciers would classify the Tonkinese as a Western variant of the Thai breeds, a hybrid created by breeding Siamese to Burmese cats. However, I disagree with that classification. In Thailand the Burmese today is called the Thong Daeng ("Copper"). But the Burmese in North America and Europe nowadays is usually a very dark brown, not copper-colored. According to Martin Clutterbuck, translator of the Thai Cat Poems, the ancient Thai Cat Poems actually seem to describe a light Copper with eyes that radiate (blue eyes reflecting red light?). That would seem to have been a cat with the Tonkinese mink pattern. It is the Burmese that is not clearly described in the centuries-old Cat Poems. In The Legend of Siamese Cats (p. 3), Martin wrote:

Intermediate between [the Burmese] and the Siamese is the lighter Burmese, known as the Copper in the poems, and as Tonkinese by most cat associations world-wide. It is surprising that the darker Burmese is not mentioned in the poems as such cats must have existed at the time they were written.
The Tonkinese mink pattern occurs naturally among the street cats of Thailand today, and the "chocolate Siamese" described by the earliest British breeders of Siamese cats appear to have been mostly cats with the mink pattern. (In Frances Simpson's The Book of the Cat, published in 1903, she quoted a number of the early British breeders at great length. Those breeders described the "chocolate Siamese" as having seal brown points, chocolate bodies, and usually eye color of a "blue" somewhere intermediate between true blue and gold.) Lastly, an imported female cat named Wong Mau, now definitively known to have been a cat with the Tonkinese mink pattern, can be found far back in the pedigrees of most Siamese, Burmese, and Tonkinese cats living in the West today. Although documentation is lacking, one story is that Wong Mau was imported into the U.S. from Burma. But Burma borders on Thailand. Cats have been wandering over the border from Thailand to Burma for many centuries. Also, the Burmese people historically invaded Thailand and brought plunder back to Burma. Such plunder may have included some of the extraordinary cats of Thailand.

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