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
of Western variants of the basic Thai breeds that are well known, such
the Balinese, the Oriental, the Havana Brown, the Snowshoe, and the
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
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
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.
Streets of Bangkok
Seal point naps in front of a
Bangkok shop house, oblivious to the horrendous traffic noise and
Mackerel tabby watches traffic passing
by his owner's news stand.
Another young mackerel tabby naps
on busy sidewalk.
Handsome red tabby on sidewalk
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.
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.
tortoiseshell female, but with lots of white, among the
potted plants decorating the side of a house on the klong.
tortie point female with cobalt blue eyes let us know that
she had a loud, Siamese-style voice, too. Here
she is again.
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.
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
A mink and white
cat is our best guess on
this one, i.e., the Tonkinese mink pattern with a lot of white. Not
how well you can see it with your browser, but the eyes were an even
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.
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
This very young
ticked tabby kitten, half-starved but still beautiful, sits above a
trash-filled gutter on the temple grounds.
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
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.
Bred By Thai Breeders
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
Oriental felines, were busy running around like little gremlins having
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
Two adult female seal point Siamese
take in their view of the tropical garden.
Seal point Siamese female walks
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.
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
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
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
and body lovingly all over his human friends, occasionally stopping to tidy himself up.
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
is not mentioned in the poems as such cats must have existed at the
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
described the "chocolate Siamese" as having seal brown points,
and usually eye color of a "blue" somewhere intermediate between true
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
back to Burma. Such plunder may have included some of the extraordinary