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Cattitude on PetLifeRadio.comThomas Dock, host of Cattitude

Tom Dock
Cat Reporter
Veterinary News Network

Siamese Cats



What feline creatures have been called both “an unnatural nightmare kind of cat” as well as a “living, breathing work of art that shuns a display shelf in favor of a lap”? It’s the Siamese…easily the world’s most recognizable breed of cat!

Siamese are one of the oldest of the cat breeds, described as early as 1350 in manuscripts surviving from Siam. A perennial favorite at cat shows, Siamese have unique personalities that match their one of a kind coloration. Join us for a trip back in time as well as a little science lesson as we describe what to many people represents the ultimate in feline beauty.

And, direct from the source at the Veterinary News Network, a brief overview of diseases that we can get from our pets. Understanding these zoonotic diseases and how to prevent them is an important part of pet ownership.

Questions or Comments? Email Tom at: tom@petliferadio.com


 

Announcer: Hello kitties, and welcome to my world!  I would come over and say hello to you, but it's just as easy for  you to come to me! Yes, yes, come in, you've come to the right place! This is where you learn everything there is to  know about your furry, feline friends. I'm talking about cats! Yes I know, we are paws-itively perfect pets.

What do you mean, I have attitude?  Why, of course I do! I'm a cat! It's called Cattitude!

As I was saying, this show is all about cats, cats, and - mmmm - oh, yes, cats!  So let me introduce you to my accomplice - I mean, assistant, and host of Cattitude, Tom Dock! Okay Tom, tell them how wonderful we cats are; it’s okay, you have my permission.

Tom Dock:  Welcome to Cattitude, on Pet Life Radio. I'm your host, Tom Dock, and I want to thank you all for joining us  today.  This is our inaugural show, and we're going to be kicking things off by talking about my favorite breed of cat,  and that would be the Siamese cat.

I know a lot of you out there love the Siamese as well. The Cat Fanciers' Association ranks the Siamese as No. 6 in  popularity; that was as of 2006. And certainly, we know that's down from the heyday of the Siamese, back in the 50's  and 60's, but still a very popular cat across the United States and probably one of the most recognizable cat breeds  throughout the whole world. So we're going to focus on Siamese today, and talk about their history, why they are the  way that they are, and just give you a great in-depth look into this wonderful breed of cat.

After we take our mid-break during our half hour, we are going to talk about zoonotic diseases. Now these are diseases  that you can pick up from your cat, and so we'll talk about ways that you can keep yourself, your family and, of course  your cat healthy and happy. We need to take a short break now to talk with our sponsors, but before we do, I want to  give you guys a trivia question; something to think about during the break.

Go back to your childhood. Remember the movie "Lady and the Tramp" from Disney? What a great movie. There were  two cats in that movie that came to live with Lady. Their names were Si and Am, and of course, they were Siamese  cats.  And they really, I think they depict what most people think of as Siamese; always getting into things, being very  vocal, even somewhat arrogant, I guess. But there was a song that they sang when they first arrived, and we know it as  The Siamese Cat Song. What I want to know is, who sang that song in the original movie? Think about that, and we'll  have the answer for you when we come back, right after these messages.

(Repeated later in the recording)First Voice:  Ooh, do I hear a can being opened? I believe I smell tuna! Cattitude will  return after these messages. That should give me enough time to investigate what's going on in the kitchen. Don't have a hissy fit; we'll be right back!

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Announcer: Let's Talk Pets, on PetLifeRadio.com

First Voice: How dare they open a can of tuna and make a sandwich out of it?  I can see why some of my celebrity pals prefer lasagna.  Well, anyway, I did manage to grab myself the Canary while I was in there. (chirping sound) Quiet, bird,  we're going to hear the rest of my show, Cattitude. If you behave, I may not eat you. Until later - hmm. Okay, Tom, you may continue. (End of part of recording that is repeated).

Tom Dock:  Okay, welcome back to Cattitude.  Now did you get the answer to the trivia question? Who was the original  singer of the Siamese Cat Song in the movie "Lady and  the Tramp"?  The answer is, Peggy Lee. Peggy Lee also  brought us great songs like "That's Why The Lady Is A Tramp" and "Fever", and what's interesting is, she did both  voices of Si and Am, and I think she did an absolutely wonderful job.

Interesting thing, though, I was looking for the Siamese Cat Song on line, and I actually found a web site where there  were reggae versions, and rap versions and hip hop versions of the Siamese Cat Song, so I thought that was pretty  amusing.

But we're not talking about songs today, we're talking about the Siamese cat. Now the Siamese, as you probably  realize, originated in Siam, which is now Thailand. And in their language, the Siamese cat is known as wichien-maat,  and that means "moon diamond" in the Thai dialect. And to many people, the Siamese cat is really the ultimate in feline  beauty.

Let me read you a quote from the Cat Fanciers' Association:

"A striking, contrasting color pattern on an elegant frame, all made dramatic by dark blue eyes, capturing the  imagination of cat lovers the world over."

Really, I couldn't find a better quote than that. That really describes Siamese almost to a T.

Now Siamese are one of our older cat breeds, and manuscripts that were kept back in the 14th century, around the  year 1350, actually describe the Siamese. This is a set of manuscripts that has survived known as the Cat Book  Poems, and they describe the pale-bodied, dark-pointed cats that were running around Siam at the time. 

Now I know some of you are out there saying "Well how can Siamese be an old breed then, if it's only about 700 years  old?", and some of you are probably people who have had dogs as well. We've been breeding dogs for literally  thousands of years. It's been estimated now, and our best evidence shows,  that we domesticated the dog back about  13,000 years ago.

Now our cats have only been domesticated for roughly about 4,000 years. And also, our dogs were bred specifically to  do certain purposes. Whether it was guarding the sheep, whether it was chasing badgers or maybe pulling a cart, our  dogs all developed into the breeds we know today over thousands of years, but that hasn't been the case with cats. 

Most of our cat breeds actually have shown up just within the last 100, 150, maybe 200 years. It was really the 19th to  20th centuries that saw just a proliferation of cat breeds out there. So when we talk about Siamese being an older  breed, 700 years actually is quite an older breed, when you're talking about cats.

The Siamese cats were originally thought to be kept by the priests and the royalty and the Royal Family of Siam, and  some of the myths that go along with Siamese go back to those days, when they were used as temple guards, if you  will, for some of the valuables in the temples. And the myth is that Siamese cats have kinked tails because they were  supposed to guard these valuable vases, and they would walk up to the vase, and they would curl their tail around it,  thus kinking it, and stare at it so hard that they would cross their eyes, and again, that was another myth about Siamese  cats, that they had  crossed eyes. And although there were a lot of cats with crossed eyes, it was actually genetic in  basis, and we're going to actually talk about that here very shortly.

The Siamese cats actually first came to the Western world in about the late 1800's, came to the United States and to  England, and to many who were not used to seeing this color pattern, I found a quote that actually said that they were  viewed as an unnatural nightmare kind of cat. Well certainly something happened, because they won the hearts and the  loyalty of many people, and became very popular very quickly.

Before we talk about their popularity, let's talk a little about how Siamese cats look the way that they do.

Siamese cats are actually part albino, believe it or not. There is an enzyme involved in the pigment production of the  hair coat. Now all of us, all mammals that have hair, are going to produce pigment, so that's why some of us are  redheads, there's blondes, and of course, you think about the dogs being black and red, and all the different cat colors  out there.

Well this enzyme, in Siamese, has a mutation in it
that does not work at normal body temperatures, only
at cooler temperatures. So what happens is,
you get a lessening of pigment production across
the body of the cat, which is normal body
temperature, but at the extremities, like the feet,
the ears, the nose and the tail, where the body
temperature is cooler, it produces more pigment,
so you get a darkening at the points.

The first Siamese cats that came over were Seal Points, which is a black color, a black pigment at the points, so they  had black ears, black noses, black tails, and there were a lot of other mutations that were showing up in the show ring,  but judges were just tossing them out, saying "No, these cats can't be shown."

We now see those mutations as specific color points. There is the Seal, of course, which is the black, which we have  already mentioned; Chocolate Points, which are a brown color; Blues, which are kind of a gray and actually a dilution of  the Seal Point (you go from a black to a grey), and then Lilac, which is a dilution of the Chocolate Point, and these lilacs  almost look like they are frost colored, absolutely gorgeous cats.

There is a little bit of controversy over these colors as well.

Here in the United States, the Cat Fanciers' Association says if you're a Siamese cat, you can only be these four  colors, Seal, Chocolate, Blue or Lilac color points. If you're any other color - you have red on your points, tabby,  whatever - then you are known as a color point shorthair.

Now in England, those other colors can be shown as Siamese, and so you will see Siamese over in England and in  Europe that have Flame Points, red at the extremities; Torti Points, Lynx Points; I even read recently about a Silver  Tabby Point. So really, any color that you can find in any other cat can be shown as a pointed Siamese over in England.  These cats will darken with age; their bodies will get darker as get older, so if you have a Blue Point or a Seal Point and  you're thinking about showing them, really best to try to get them shown early, when they're a year or two years old,  because otherwise their body is going to darken up and they're not going to win any points from the judges.

We've talked about the blue eyes of Siamese cats; that is one of their most distinctive features. We've been lucky that  we've bred out the cross-eyed nature. Interestingly enough, the cross eyes are linked to the color points. When you  breed for getting those color points, like a Seal or Chocolate, then there is a gene that came along for the ride that  caused these crossed eyes. Now luckily, we've had some great breeders in Siamese backgrounds that have gotten rid  of the crossed eyes; also gotten rid of the kinked tails, so you won't see those in the show rings anymore.

Our final controversy over the bodies of Siamese is to talk about the body types themselves.

In England, they prefer a thicker-bodied cat with more of a round head, while here in the States, we prefer more of a  long, angular type of cat. In fact, if you talk about and read what the Cat Fanciers' Association has to say, they actually  say that the original Siamese cats were very lean and angular, had more of a wedge-shaped head with very wide-set  ears.

And they talk about, in the 50's and 60's; actually right after World War II, where the popularity of the Siamese was  soaring so much that there was a lot of very bad breeding going on, and we see that happening a lot with people who  are just  unscrupulous. They decide to breed for profit. In dogs it happens all the time, whatever the most popular dog  is in the movies that year is going to be a popular dog breed.

The American public obviously loved the Siamese cat, and so there was an overall quality suffering because of the  supply. People were just breeding and breeding and breeding; a lot of indiscriminate breeding going on, and as the  Cat Fanciers' Association says, "Cats with heavy boning, round heads and washed-out blue eyes began to appear in  increasing numbers, a sure sign of mixed ancestry."

I don't know that I agree with the Cat Fanciers' Association so much, because on Wikipedia.org right now, I typed in  "Siamese cat" and I'm looking at a picture of the first British Siamese champion in 1898, and here's a cat that has got a  round head and pretty thick body compared to the very long and lean bodies that we see in the show Siamese right  now here in the United States.

So there's a little bit of controversy going on with that; you've got the old-style Siamese, or Appleheads, as they're  called. In fact, over in England, they're actually showing them as Thai cats instead of Siamese now, and then you've got  our show Siamese, which are the very lean cats, the tubular-looking cats, with the big Roman noses and  wedge-shaped heads.

Whether you like the old style or the show style of Siamese, everybody loves the Siamese personality.  When people  talk about Siamese and they use adjectives, there is almost always the word "extra" in front of that adjective. So there's  extraordinary, extra-vocal, extra-demanding, extra-curious. They get into so much trouble because of what they do. And  believe it or not, the personality of these cats probably comes straight from their coloring, which is kind of an interesting  phenomenon if you really think about it.

Let's talk about their coloring for a second and how that can affect their personality.

If you're a Siamese cat and you've got this pale body and dark points, you're going to stand out and you're not going to  be able to be camouflaged very well.  So that's going to hurt you in 2 days. One, if something's hunting you, you can't  hide as well. And Two, if you're hunting something, you're going to st and out and your prey is going to see you more  easily, so you're not going to survive as well.

Normally, natural selection would take care of that; natural selection would go ahead and weed out that type of  deformity, really; it's not a deformity to us but it would be in the natural world.

So Siamese have really come to be very dependent on people, because we are selecting for them and this has  obviously been happening for several hundred years, because remember the Siamese cats were actually depicted  way back in the 1350's. 

Also, their vocalizations, I think, go along with them being very dependent on us. For most cats, they vocalize in a range  that is above our hearing, so it is the ultrasonic range. If you hear a mama cat talking to her kittens, a lot of times you  hear a chirping going on; well, that chirping is only part of what she is saying when she is talking with her kittens. Most of  the rest of it is happening well beyond what we can hear. But for Siamese, they have chosen to bring their vocalizations  back into the range that humans can hear. And again, this makes sense; if you're trying to get food or attention or  something, you can't talk in an ultrasonic range and expect us mere humans to hear you, so you're going to have to  bring your vocalizations down.

That's why, I think, that Siamese cats are perceived to be more talkative. I think it's simply because they talk in a range  that we can hear a lot better.

But Siamese cats are certainly cats that love to be in your lap. They love the affection, they love to get into your  newspaper, into the bed; I know my Siamese cats always love sleeping right at the top of the bed, right on my pillow,  right next to me. And for a lot of Siamese cat owners, they have to almost treat them like babies and start getting those  little child protective locks for the drawers and Lazy Susans and things like that, because the Siamese cat will certainly  get into it.

One wonderful thing about Siamese is that they don't need a lot of  grooming. We are very lucky, us Siamese lovers, in  that if we brush our cats a couple of times a week, we are going to reduce a lot of that shedding and they are going to  look very, very good, and plus it's time that they want to spend with us anyway.

Well we're at about a time that we need to take a break. When we come back we'll finish up talking about Siamese, and  we'd like to spend a little bit of time talking with you about zoonotic diseases; things that you can catch from your pet  and how you can prevent that. So stay with us - we'll be right back after these messages.

(Commercials)

(Repeated break to identical commercial break
by First Voice, with identical wording).

Tom Dock: Okay, welcome back to Cattitude; we're finishing up our discussion on Siamese cats, and we've gotten  through history and their personality and some of their grooming needs.

I want to talk a little bit about their health concerns.  Luckily for Siamese cats, they don't have a lot of hereditary or  congenital problems that we see real often. There is an eye problem that they have; it's called pendular nystagmus,  where actually the retina, in the back of the eye, seems to rotate a little bit and move, and what will happen is you'll look  at the cat in the eye and you'll see movement, but you're not really sure you see it.

Not really a problem for the cat, believe it or not. They may squint a little bit to kind of firm up their vision, but other than  that, they do pretty well.

There are some neuromuscular problems like muscular dystrophy in our Siamese cats, and they are prone to a certain  type of cancer known as an adenocarcinoma.  But again, good breeding practices and buying your Siamese cat from a  reputable breeder will help to make sure that you diminish any of the potentials for having a cat with a health concern.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and certainly our Siamese cats have been flattered quite  a bit. There are a lot of breeds that are related to Siamese, and that Siamese factored very heavily in the development  of.

One of the breeds is the Balinese, and the Balinese is simply a long-haired Siamese. Long hair in cats is a simple  recessive gene and for Balinese, if you've got long hair and you're a Seal Point, then you are a Balinese. You're a  long-haired Siamese, basically.

Again the same thing; the Balinese has the same four colors, Seal, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac; and then of course in  other registries across the world, some of the other colors like the Red points and stuff will show up as Balinese as  well.

The Siamese were very instrumental in developing the Himalayan cat. Now Himalayans are actually Persians and the  Persian figures much more strongly in their background, but obviously they've got the color points from their Siamese.  In the United States, again, Himalayans are shown as Persians; over in Europe it is not shown so much. I think they  show them in their own class as a Himalayan class, and you can get a lot of different coloring there too because of the  variety of the Persians.

There is an old obsolete term, that is, a color point long-haired or Javanese. You really don't see that happening with  cats very much any more; you don't hear about Javanese being shown here in the United States. We would call them  color point long-hairs. Those are the Balinese that are an odd color, that are not the Chocolate, Seal, Blue or Lilac.

The Burmese cat - This is a breed of cats that all descended from one specific cat. The cat's name was Wong Mau,  and this was a cat that was found in Burma in 1930, and she was brought to San Francisco and bred with Siamese.   Now the Siamese has been very instrumental in maintaining this breed, but really the Burmese have gone their own way  at this point in time.

Ocicats are developed from mixing Siamese and Abyssinians.  Snowshoes are Siamese and American Shorthaired  crosses.  Tonkinese is what happens when you go back now and you take the Burmese that we just talked about and  you cross it with a Siamese.  So they are pointed cats, they've got dark points, but they have also got a dark body.

And finally, there may be a development going on right now with 'Are we going to split the Siamese from the show  Siamese that we see here in the States and the old-style Siamese, or Thai cats, that are being shown over in Europe?'

So it's kind of an interesting time for Siamese cat lovers.

Now, there's been a lot of famous Siamese. We've already talked about Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp, but also  on TV, you might see Kit from Charmed, if you watch - I think it's on the CW Network, the three sisters who are witches;  they've got this little familiar and his name is Kit. And there's been a couple of other movies like That Darn Cat, which is  a 1965 Disney film, Syn was the title role in that movie. And there's been a couple of books, like Bell, Book and  Candle. Pyewacket was the name of the Siamese in that. Tao, from the novel The Incredible Journey, and Cross  Country Cat had a Siamese named Henry.

But Siamese have also figured in politics. Siam, which was the very first Siamese in the United States, was part of  Rutherford B. Hayes' White House; that was, President Hayes had the first Siamese here in the United States. And  then, in the 1970s, Gerald Ford; during his presidency his daughter had a cat named Sunshine. And following the Ford  presidency, when the Carters took over, Amy Carter also had a Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang.

So many famous Siamese cats, and that brings us to our close of Siamese cats today. I hope you learned a little bit  about them, and certainly, one of my favorite breeds, and certainly, just a cat that everyone can fall in love with. 

I want to talk a little bit about zoonotic diseases with you.

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that we can catch from animals, so from animals to people, and probably the most  feared of these would be rabies. And you can get rabies from your cat.  

Now luckily, here in the United States, because of our vaccine programs and our public health programs, we don't see  rabies very often anymore. In fact, most people who contract rabies do so because they've been handling bats, and  not dogs or cats.

But even as recently as the 30s, 40s and 50s, rabies was still a very, very big concern until we actually got the vaccines  out there and started vaccinating our dogs and cats and protecting them.

Now a lot of people are concerned about vaccines. They've heard a lot of bad things; they've heard that veterinarians  vaccinate too much and they can cause cancers and things like that. We'll talk about all that in a future show about the  vaccine controversies, but the most important thing you need to do is definitely vaccinate your cat, talk with your  veterinarian about the intervals that are needed.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners says that vaccinating a cat for rabies should be done keeping in mind  the local regulations, because some cities in some states want you to vaccinate every year. But in most cases, you and  your veterinarian should come up with a compromise, and about every 3 years, vaccinate your cat for rabies.  This is  not only for outdoor cats. You also need to vaccinate your indoor cats. 

Rabies is a fatal disease, and I can't stress this enough, people; if you would contract rabies,  there is a very, very slim  chance that you would survive, especially if you have not or do not undergo any sort of prophylactic treatment. There  has been one recorded case in history that somebody has survived rabies without getting the rabies shots, the  vaccines, after being bitten, so definitely, let's go ahead and make sure that we get our cats taken care of for that.

Most of our other things that we can get from cats revolve around bacteria.  Things like the MRSA, the  methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus bacteria that everybody hears about.  And yes, pets can have this too.  It's a  bacteria that's normally kept on the skin and in the nose and nasal passages, and people will die from this after they  acquire it from a hospital, where it's been subjected to so many antibiotics that now it's just resistant to a lot of different  things and it can actually cause problems.

The interesting thing about MRSA and our pets is that often, it seems that we spread the MRSA to our pets and then  they start spreading it back to us.  It's not a big problem in veterinary medicine. It may get bigger as we understand  more about it.

But right now, just good hygiene, that 's the most important thing. Wash your hands, especially after you've handled  your cat, especially after you've cleaned the litter box, and certainly before you go to eat something.  Just make sure  you're washing up and taking care of yourself and your cat.

If your cat shows any signs at all of being sick, go see your veterinarian. I can't stress that enough either.  A lot of  times, people think that cats are going to hide their disease, that they're going to take care of themselves because of  their independent nature, but certainly, we want to make sure that our cats are taken care of, so if you notice that your  cat's vomiting, if he seems lethargic, or if they're off food at all - cats need to really eat about every day - go see your  veterinarian. That will help nip things in the bud and hopefully lessen any problems that you might have.

Salmonella is another problem that we run into with cats on occasion, but it's not so much the cat's fault as it is that  people who decide that they want to feed their cat a raw food diet.

Now we won't get into that debate just yet - that will be an upcoming show that we can talk about - but Salmonella is very  prevalent in things like raw chicken, and so if the cat will eat the raw chicken, they may do OK, although there are a  couple reports of cats dying from Salmonella, but then, when they excrete their feces, the Salmonella is going to be in  the feces, and also, people just don't clean up after themselves well enough most of the time, and so they'll cut the  chicken to feed the cat with one knife and then use that knife to spread the peanut butter, or whatever and spread the  Salmonella into whatever they are eating. Cutting boards are always a big source of Salmonella when you don't clean  them in between preparing something like a chicken or lettuce or things like that.

So we really want to be careful and clean up after ourselves and make sure we clean in between feeding the cat, and  we'll talk about the whole raw food/commercial diet controversy in an upcoming show.

You may not think of parasites as being a big problem or causing zoonotic diseases, but fleas can actually cause a  problem for you and your family from your cat.

There is a bacteria called Bartonella, which causes cat scratch disease, and some people will call this cat scratch  fever, but really, cat scratch disease is the actual term, and although most people will recover from cat scratch disease  without any lasting effects, it can be literally deadly for someone who has a compromised immune system.

So if you're pregnant, if you're older, if you're taking any kind of chemotherapy or any kind of anti-rejection medication,  then your immune system's going to be compromised and could cause a problem. Keep your cat's nails trimmed back;  keep them flea-free, because, again, the bacteria probably comes from fleas. And it's more likely to happen from a  kitten than an adult cat, so if you're looking at adopting a cat, you could potentially go to the shelter, pick up an adult cat  and the chances of cat scratch disease will diminish greatly.

Other parasites that you need to be concerned about, especially if you have children and cats, are going to be  roundworms and hookworms. Almost all puppies and kittens are born with roundworms and hookworms, and these can  be transmitted to you and your family. 

Now keep in mind, the eggs and the larvae of these worms are microscopic; you cannot see them. So if it's the  teenager's responsibility to clean the litter box, you need to make sure that your teenager is washing their hands  afterwards, because it is possible that that new kitten could be spreading roundworms into the litter box, and then, of  course, if your teenagers are like mine, they do what they're supposed to do, and then they run and they go grab   something to eat, because my teenaged boys are always eating, but they don't bother to wash their hands, and of  course they put the potato chips into their mouth and then they can spread the roundworms that way.

About 10,000 people in the United States every year are diagnosed with roundworms, and the Centers for Disease  Control down in Atlanta, Georgia actually says that that number is pretty low, because most human physicians don't  think about roundworms in people very much.

So, my key points here:

There are a few diseases that you can pick up from your pets, but usually good hygiene practices, washing your hands  and not letting the cat lick your face, not sharing utensils with the cat, things like that, will help prevent any of that from  happening, and of course, go see your veterinarian any time that your cat appears to be sick or is off food for whatever  reason.

That's about it! We are out of time, and I wanted to thank the producers and the sponsors for our show today. And I  also wanted to let you know that you can feel free to email me at any time with a question or an idea for our show.

You can email me at tom@petliferadio.com, again, tom@petliferadio.com, and I wanted to say hello and thanks to  Doug and Marilyn, who have already emailed me. They are going to be getting a Norwegian Forest Cat, a very cool cat  breed, Marilyn, you're absolutely right. We'll talk about them in a few shows as well. But if you've got some ideas, I'd  love to hear them. I will do my best to answer your questions, and if it's health related, we'll get Dr. Bernadine Cruz, the  Pet Doctor, on Pet Life Radio, to join us and see what she has to say about the situation.

So thanks a lot for joining us. Go out and let your curiosity run wild. Let the fur fly, and come back and see us next time  on Cattitude, at Pet Life Radio. Bye Bye!




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