By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
When you see this type of cat, it’s clear it’s not your standard breed. While they have elegant but muscular bodies, their most attention-grabbing qualities have got to be their eyes, and, often, their noses and mouths: They look a little like someone has applied feature-defining makeup. It’s true that these kitties aren’t typical.
Some say their creation as a breed was accidental — an “oops” cross between two cats owned by Baroness Miranda von Kirchberg, a Burmese named Faberge and Sanquist, a silver chinchilla Persian — hence the name Burmilla. Vetstreet noted:
“When Bambino Lilac Fabergé, a lilac Burmese, escaped through an open door one evening in 1981 and met up with Jemari Sanquist, a male Chinchilla Persian, the result was four adorable shorthaired female kittens dressed in black-shaded silver. The cuteness overload led to a new breed, christened the Burmilla, after its progenitors’ breeds.”1
All girls, the kittens were named Galatea, Gemma, Gabriella and Gisella. The “oops” was an almost instant hit with cat lovers. The breed was recognized formally for the first time not even seven years later, in 1987. Global nods to the breed came from both Fédération Internationale Féline and The International Cat Association, the latter of which classified Burmillas as an “Advanced New Breed.”
Organizations in Britain, Australia, as well as The Cat Fanciers’ Association in the U.S., recognized them as a breed, as well. Another interesting characteristic of the Burmilla stems from the fact that the two breeds they came from were a blending of longhaired and shorthaired cats. The result is a double coat length on the Burmilla, described as short and semi-long. It’s not unheard of for shorthaired mothers to produce longhaired kittens.
Burmilla Breed Personality
Other descriptors of the Burmilla is their “sparkling” silver fur that’s tipped with the breed-recognized colors of brown, blue, black, chocolate, caramel, cream, red (yellow) or lilac tortoiseshell pattern. Typically weighing 8 or 10 pounds, these lovely felines have gently rounded heads but wedge-shaped chins, which is another testament of the breed’s parents. Their eyes are large, luminous and green, and their slender tails are long to medium length.
The Burmilla breed is described as having a well-rounded personality: inquisitive and mischievous, quiet and independent, with a great disposition and devoted to their human families. Like the Burmese half of their ancestry, Burmillas are also fine with other cats, dogs and children.
And like their Persian forebears, they’re playful and affectionate, and not the hyper night prowlers some cats have been noted to be. Like other cats, they enjoy being outdoors, but shouldn’t be allowed to leave your property unattended; an enclosed outdoor cat habitat may be the perfect situation for them. Cat Time describes Burmillas this way:
“The Burmilla brings together aspects of the Burmese and the Persian into one sweet, friendly package. He is quietly affectionate and gentle but more extroverted than the typical Persian. He is adventurous but a bit of a klutz, so put away breakables when he is around. Burmillas remain playful into adulthood. They love their people, but they aren’t excessively demanding of attention. When a lap is available, though, the Burmilla is there.”2
Caring for the Burmilla: Health and Longevity
Because Burmilla cats’ coats are silky, it helps make brushing easy, but it’s important to get the brush out at least once a week so they remain that way. Otherwise their coats are prone to tangling and matting, which is really difficult to deal with. The process also helps distribute oils from their skin, keeping their coats supple and shiny.
Terms cat experts are familiar with to explain where the biggest problem spots might be, especially if the Burmilla in question happens to have longer fur, include “furnishings,” which refer to the longer fur on their belly, behind their legs and on their chests.
Another thing that necessitates weekly brushing is that this breed tends to shed a lot. As for the Burmilla breed’s health, they’re generally quite vigorous, although some can develop a condition known as polycystic kidney disease, which can move to the formation of cysts in their kidneys, often leading to renal failure. For cats older than 10 years of age, chronic kidney disease can be a common problem.
Watching their water intake, making sure their protein intake is focused on quality and limiting the amounts of phosphorus and sodium are the best preventatives, but if your cat is already showing signs, doubling up on the maintenance is crucial. In addition, Burmillas, who can live to be upward of 15 years old, have been known to develop allergies, usually to food or fleas. Indications of a problem may be sores on their skin, inflammation and respiratory issues.3
Affectionate, Family Oriented and Sociable
Being the social animals they are, Burmillas also like cuddling and just being in the same room with you, if not right on your lap. The play might involve a rousing game of fetch, which this breed can be taught to do fairly easily, especially since they’re smart, curious and energetic.
Another thing Burmilla lovers have found is that, true to their dual roots, they love jumping up to and looking down from high perches, like bookshelves or even a refrigerator, so your cat will thank you if you provide a cat tree or some type of equivalent to keep them happy and active.
Whether you’re for or against humans creating new breeds, selecting and breeding for physical traits that people finding appealing has occurred for thousands of years. And the good news is that if you think a Burmilla is the right cat for your family, you can visit a local Burmilla or purebred cat rescue to find one who’s waiting for you.