Burmese Cats – Companions, Temple Guardians, Or Ultimate Weapons?

Thai templeOur beloved Burmese cats have always had a close connection with temples and monasteries in Asia. A recent article in the Sacramento Bee suggests that cats have been welcome guests for centuries, at monasteries all over the world.

The author and journalist, Kim Campbell Thornton, paid a recent visit to Gachen Lama Khiid at Erdenetsogt in Mongolia’s Khangai Mountains. She reports, “nearly the first thing I saw was a cat sunning himself outside the temple.”

“Is it common for monasteries to have a cat?” I asked.

Our guide, Batana Batu, translated his [the monastery’s head lama’s] response. Yes, he said. The cat is there to protect food stores from mice.

Cats have served as pest control at temples and monasteries throughout the world for centuries.

Medieval catThornton’s article continues to describe the symbiotic relationship between cats and monks the world over. In Medieval Europe, cats were employed to keep rats and other pests from eating the stored food. Cats also helped prevent mice from nibbling on manuscripts. Monasteries even budgeted a small amount per week to provide for their sentry cats.

The Egyptians benefitted from a partnership with cats, being among the first to use their hunting talents to manage pests such as snakes and rodents.

The article also briefly mentions the origins of the Burmese breed:

Several cat breeds are reputed to have originated as monastery or temple cats. The legend behind the Burmese is that Buddhist monks regarded the shorthaired brown cats as embodiments of gods.

Quite an impressive heritage!

Chicago rat infestationWe’ve also learned that cats are now being considered by the city of Chicago as an “ultimate weapon” in their war on rats. Rats there are causing some serious concerns for the public health, transmitting diseases such as drug resistant C. Diff and MRSA. Officials have called in the Tree House Humane Society to provide cats to “work” as mousers! Many locals are pleased that “jobs” have been found for feral cats that previously would have been euthanized.

Two important online resources, PestWeb and Pet360, consider Burmese to be among the top 10 breeds for controlling pests. We agree, having seen them in action!

Egyptian god Bast

Embodiments of Gods, or just plain felines, today’s Burmese cats provide their humans with much more than simple mousing, of course. They are devoted companions, very affectionate and playful. As the breed continues to recover from its genetic crisis, we expect Burmese cats to become increasingly popular as pets and in the show world.

You can read more about the Burmese genetic diversity issue here. Feel free to comment below!

(Bast sculpture  image courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

A Genetic Emergency For Burmese Cats?

We ran across a post the other day from a fellow Burmese breeder in the UK. She is concerned about the poor genetic health of the Burmese, as are we here at Carmelkats. In fact, she believes the Burmese breed is in crisis.

Chrissy with Thai-born Burmese Mook Dta - Genetics Burmese cats
Image courtesy of Ayshazen Thai Burmese Cats

Chrissy Russell runs a small breeding operation something like ours, called Ayshazen Thai Burmese Cats. And like Jenny, the founder of Carmelkats, she is deeply concerned about the lack of genetic diversity within the Burmese breed. Ms. Russell cites a recent study by the The Feline Genetics Laboratory at the University of Missouri, which seems to indicate a genuine crisis for the breed.

Why the concern about the genetics of Burmese?

Over the years, Burmese have been inbred to excess. This inbreeding has resulted in some extremely serious – even fatal – genetic diseases. Kittens are dying young of truly horrific conditions such as Burmese Head Defect and Feline Orofacial Pain Syndrome (FOPS). Changing the way Burmese cats are bred can avoid these terrible consequences.

Ms. Russell advocates outcrossing to suitable breeds, and importing native Thai-born cats as a source of fresh genetic material. We both also support Wat Taphan Temple Cat Care as a means of ensuring that Thai-born breeds not only flourish, but remain available to improve the genetics of our beloved Burmese.

The Burmese Breed Crisis - The Case For Using Thai-Born Cats - Genetics Burmese cats
Image courtesy of Ayshazen Thai Burmese Cats

What can be done?

You can read her article (PDF) here and the University of Missouri study (PDF) here. You might also consider supporting Wat Taphan Temple Cat Care with a donation. It will also help the situation greatly if you take action.  Contact cat breeding associations such as The National Alliance of Burmese Breeders and The Cat Fanciers’ Association to insist that the genetic health of the Burmese is put ahead of cosmetic considerations of breeding strictly for show.

Together, we can save the Burmese from a painful extinction, and make the breed strong and healthy once again.

Please feel free to contact us any time with any questions.

Help Thai Temple Cats

Hi, all!  We Temple-Cat-Care-Exterior-via-Carmelkatsthought this time we’d share some information about one of our favorite international cat rescue efforts – Wat Taphan Temple Cat Care.

Wat Taphan Temple Cat Care is located in Thailand, and they do some remarkable work there, rescuing and rehabilitating cats from the streets of Bangkok.

Carmelkats is happy and honored to assist their effort, in a small way, for a number of reasons.  Not only are they doing great humanitarian work, but they also help us to get strong healthy cats to use in our outcross programs.  A simple $5.00 donation every month would mean so much to them.


If you wish to help support their efforts, you can send funds via PayPal to wttcc@outlook.com, or contribute through their page at https://www.youcaring.com/wat-taphan-temple-cat-care-452272

You can also follow Wat Taphan Temple Cat Care on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/templecatcare/

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us any time.

(Click thumbnails for full-sized images)