British Shorthair and Burmese cats are both fascinating breeds. On one hand, there’s the round, amiable-looking British Shorthair with her big eyes, Cheshire Cat smile and unusually thick, crisp coat. on the other, there’s the sleek, exotic Burmese with her satin fur and graceful, muscular body. If you’re planning to add a cat to your household, you need to know as much as possible about the breed you’re interested in. That’s where this page comes in. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about British Shorthair and Burmese cats and learn which breed is right for you.
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What you need to know about British Shorthair cats
The British Shorthair has quite an august history, starting with the arrival of Egyptian cats in Roman Britain, taking in the very first cat show in Victorian London, and culminating in their current resurgence as perhaps the most popular pedigree breed in the UK. British Shorthairs pop up everywhere in popular culture, from Tenniel’s illustration of the Cheshire Cat (modelled on the trademark smile of the British Shorthair) to modern advertisements. British Shorthairs are very popular feline actors because of their patience and telegenic good looks.
The main thing you need to know about the British Shorthair is that she has her own ways of demonstrating affection and may prefer not to be picked up or cuddled. There are outliers and exceptions but the British Shorthair isn’t a fussy, clingy cat and probably won’t spend long on your lap. She prefers to express her deep loyalty and love for her humans in other ways: you’ll often find her trotting from room to room to spend time with you, supervising your daily activities with a quiet meow from time to time. These friendly, soft-spoken cats are full of love, just a little reserved.
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What you need to know about Burmese cats
The first thing to know about the Burmese is that there are two competing standards for the breed and that not all major registries recognise both. The Traditional standard, also known as the British or European Burmese, is long and lean. These cats have narrower wedge-shaped heads, oval paws and almond-shaped eyes. The other standard is the American Burmese, sometimes called the contemporary Burmese, is more blocky. They have a broader head, round paws and a huskier build. All Burmese cats are sturdy and muscular; the phrase used by cat fanciers is “like a brick wrapped in silk”. This refers to the strong, heavy build and beautiful satin coat of the Burmese.
They truly are magical cats, with their shimmering fur in a range of gorgeous colours from chocolate brown to light silvery fawn shades. All Burmese share a single female ancestor, a chocolate brown cat named Wong Mau. Wong Mau was brought to the US from her native Burma and bred with an American Siamese cat. The first Burmese cats all shared their mother’s rich brown colouration but later on kittens with other colours were produced. Some of these alternative coat colours have since been adopted as part of the Burmese standard.
If you want to buy a show-quality pedigree British Shorthair kitten, you might find yourself looking at a bill for a few thousand. The exact cost will depend on the age of the cat, whether your British Shorthair is of “show” or “pet” quality and various other factors. One big difference will be where you buy your cat. The US seems to be the most expensive place to buy a British Shorthair (I’ve seen show-quality kittens go for upwards of $5000 in the US, although $1000-2000 is more common). The figure most commonly bandied about in the UK is £1200, although there is a great deal of variation on either side. In Australia, you might get away with a lower price tag – under $1000 (AUD).
Don’t cut corners by getting a kitten from a backyard breeder. If this really is too rich for your blood, you can reduce the price by buying a mix or an adult cat. Adult retirees are about one-third to half the price of a kitten, while rescue cats are even cheaper. You can read more in: How Much Does A British Shorthair Cat Cost (US/UK/AU)
Burmese cats are cheaper than British Shorthairs but you should still brace yourself for a shock. Pure-bred pedigree Burmese kittens go for between $600-1000 in the US and £500-800 in the UK. In Australia, the cost might be a bit lower but in general, you probably won’t get much change out of $700-800 (AUD). My advice is to bite the bullet and pay the higher price for a properly bred pedigree Burmese kitten. If this really is too rich for your blood, you can reduce the price by buying a Burmese mix (do still buy from a reputable breeder, though). If I was desperate to own a Burmese, I would look for a retired show or breeding animal (about a third of the price for a kitten) or a rescue cat (about the price of a large pizza). These go for a much, much lower price and are often wonderful companions.
Whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation of buying from a less reputable breeder. Giving a home to an older cat is a much better plan than handing over money to a backyard kitten mill.
The stereotypical British Shorthair is lazy, stoical, friendly and a bit too fond of their food. While they probably won’t want too many cuddles or a lot of lap time, they are very human-centric cats and love attention. They’re very calm, patient, gentle creatures, slow to anger and not at all destructive. This breed is quite independent; while they enjoy your company and will actively seek it out, they are very good at taking care of themselves and can safely be left at home during the day. In most individuals, the only time you’ll see them lose their cool is when something sets off their strong predatory response.
They are very eager hunters – note that they will go after small pets as well as vermin and should not be allowed near birds or small mammals you don’t want to be turned into lunch. Some people describe British Shorthairs as non-vocal; mine have always been chatty, though quiet.
Burmese cats are smart, curious and playful. Unlike the British Shorthair, they don’t slow down as they get older. Burmese cats are permanent kittens in some ways, quite high-energy and very eager to enjoy a game or toy. While you might have to give an older British Shorthair a bit of encouragement before she’ll participate in a game, your Burmese cat is likely to be the exact opposite – nudging you to get up and join in whatever shenanigans she’s getting up to.
This breed repeatedly gets compared to dogs in terms of their strong attachment to humans. Burmese cats readily become emotionally attached to their humans and are very demonstrative. Burmese cats are talkers, like the Siamese cats they’re partly descended from; however, I find their vocalisations less intrusive than those of the Siamese. A Burmese cat has a sweeter meow.
British Shorthairs can easily live for as long as 20 years. The delicate health of some pedigree breeds can be a concern but the British Shorthair has few heritable health conditions (haemophilia and cardiomyopathy can occur but are rare). They’re very sturdy felines who should give you little concern as long as you provide good nutrition and make sure they get regular checkups like any other cat. Anecdotally, I’ve found that British Shorthairs are at least as healthy as any mixed-breed cat – maybe healthier, since a good breeder will take extra care to avoid selling kittens with health issues.
A lack of exercise and a tendency to overeat can cause obesity in this breed (they’re supposed to be chunky but not too chunky). You should also keep an eye out for any dental issues. Later in this article, we’ll talk in some more depth about how to keep your British Shorthair in good shape.
The Burmese are a healthy cat with an average lifespan of 10 to 17 years. She does sometimes suffer from heritable conditions. These can include bone deformities, which often resolve themselves as the kitten grows up. These cats sometimes develop osteoarthritis. The condition is manageable but should not be neglected. Rarely, Burmese can have heart problems or develop glaucoma and other eye disorders.
Even more rarely they may suffer from a condition called feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which makes them hypersensitive to touch and to pain; another very unusual condition that can affect Burmese cats is orofacial pain syndrome, which causes discomfort around the mouth and face but which generally goes away on its own. Some cats are prone to stones in the urinary tract and unfortunately, this breed is one of them; keep an eye out for this sort of issue, as it can cause a lot of unnecessary distress.
Large and solid, the British Shorthair tends to be on the heavy side. Male and female kittens aren’t particularly dimorphic at birth but as they grow into cats the males become significantly larger than the females. By the time the kittens are ready to leave their mother and join a new home, there’s a visible difference between boys and girls. A British Shorthair will have attained most of its adult size by the end of the first year but they do keep growing after that. British Shorthairs can take from three to five years to reach their full size. Weights vary dramatically between males and females. It’s generally agreed that four to six kilos is a healthy weight for a queen cat; toms should be in the region of six to nine kilos in adulthood. I have seen larger British Shorthairs, of course, but you should take care that your cat isn’t getting too heavy.
Burmese cats are considered a small to medium-sized breed. They are compact kitties but their solid little bodies weigh rather more than you might expect – it can be quite a surprise when you first pick one up. As kittens, they start small and pack on about a quarter of a kilo per month (very roughly), with the odd growth spurt. Adult cats of this breed should weigh in the four to a six-kilogram range. Burmese cats are not a markedly dimorphic breed but males can get a little bigger than females. A Burmese queen cat can safely weigh up to five-and-a-half kilos, toms up to about six. Cats who are much heavier than this may develop health problems. (Because they’re so active and playful, Burmese cats are not especially prone to becoming overweight. It can happen if they’re fed excessively and not given enough playtime to burn off the additional energy.)
WITH KIDS AND DOGS
The friendly, sociable British Shorthair is a great match for dogs and children. They rapidly become very attached to younger members of the household – when I was a child, our British Shorthair kitty used to follow me everywhere. They’re remarkably patient cats and refrain from hissing or scratching even when pestered; where some cats would offer a warning nip or an angry claw, the typical British Shorthair response is to head for the nearest bookshelf and simply put themselves out of reach. True to their reserved nature, they infinitely prefer a dignified withdrawal to an unsightly spat – good news for very small children who haven’t yet learned not to grab at their soft fur.
British Shorthair cats are good with (cat-friendly, non-aggressive) dogs and generally do well with other cats, too. I would not hesitate to recommend these cats to any home with both dogs and children — they’re a very good fit.
A Burmese cat is also a good fit with children. Youngsters instinctively join in with the Burmese’s playful antics and love their affectionate natures. A child who enjoys extended cuddle time with pets will definitely get a kick out of the Burmese love of physical affection – they are dedicated lap-cats and very fond of being petted and stroked. (Smaller children should only interact with cats under adult supervision, as they can be rough with pets.)
The Burmese cat can be a bit of a prima donna and may vie with other animals for your attention. They are seldom aggressive or pushy about it, however, preferring to win you over with their playfulness and charm rather than barge in. They do well with dogs, although they’re less “puppyish” than some breeds; aggressive or badly-trained dogs may frighten them but a well-behaved canine who knows when to back off makes a great companion for a Burmese.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
The British Shorthair loves attention but prefers to receive it at arm’s length. Avoid upsetting your cat by being too insistent about physical affection. Quick cuddles and brief hugs are usually well-received but don’t try to press the issue. Their thick coat benefits from weekly brushing to prevent snarls and distribute the natural oils. As this breed can get gingivitis and dental problems, you should try – if your cat will allow it – to brush your British Shorthair’s teeth a few times a week. I’ve found that if you find a flavour of toothpaste the cat is partial to and use a finger-brush, the process can be made relatively painless. They can become very reluctant to exercise in later life — make an effort to play with your older British Shorthair so she’ll stay mobile and in good shape. Equipment such as litter-boxes needs to be large to accommodate this breed’s bigger frame. Check our full maintenance guide.
Burmese cats can develop eye problems so pay attention to any mucus build-up, redness or unusual blinking. Gentle eye-washing from time to time is good for this breed — your vet can advise you on this. Burmese don’t need a lot of grooming but brushing them during a mounting season can be helpful. They are remarkably fastidious cats and insist that their litter-box be changed regularly. Although not a large cat, their playful nature means they need quite a lot of space; resist the urge to let them roam outdoors, however, as they can get into trouble very easily. Keep an eye out for limping and pain when moving, as this can indicate arthritis. You should also be vigilant for odd eating and facial grooming behaviours; these can indicate orofacial pain syndrome.
Which cat to get really depends on your own temperament. If you prefer a reserved yet loving companion who won’t demand much in the way of energetic activity, a British Shorthair may be ideal for you. On the other hand, if you’re up for a high-energy kittenish ball of fun, Burmese cats are great. For a first cat, I would err very slightly towards my personal favourite, the British Shorthair. They’re undemanding, low-maintenance felines with docile, non-destructive natures — good for someone who’s not used to being a cat owner yet. Burmese cats are a bit more demanding and slightly more prone to health problems. Either is a fine choice, however. If you’re looking for a family cat, the Burmese is a lovely pet because she’s so cuddlesome and lively. With lots of people around to entertain her, a family home is a great place for this kitty. British Shorthairs are good family cats too but they also do very well with single or older owners. If you’re out at work all day they’ll probably just sleep; if you don’t have the energy for a permanent Burmese kitten, the British Shorthair’s quite happy to relax with you.