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Norwich Bulletin - 11/15/2010

The Balinese

One of the top five cat breeds in popularity is the beautiful and intelligent Siamese. Now, take all of the well-known personality features everyone loves so well on this cat: chatty, outgoing and energetic and add a beautiful long coat and tail to match.

This is the Balinese (and in CFA they are also called Javanese, depending on the color of their points). They are what you can refer to as the “softer” side of their well known half siblings. Generally speaking, both breeds are just about exactly alike.

Why are they so similar? Because they are the same cat genetically speaking. The look is the same. A foreign body style with varying colors expressed on the face, ears, feet and tail. These colors are referred to as points. They can have an almost white body with dark chocolate points, or a cream with red or dark blue points. The difference is in the coat and colors. Depending on which cat association you ask, the names might change.

For instance, the Cat Fanciers Association believes that the pure colors of seal, chocolate, lilac or blue refers to the Siamese or, in the case of long hair, Balinese. They call other pointed cats such as red or cream, Color Points and the long hairs are Javanese.

The International Cat Association is a genetic registry and because the cats are all the same genetically, all the pointed cats are simply Siamese and the long haired version is the Balinese. The only difference between the two breeds is one little gene – the long hair gene. Interestingly enough, a single litter of cats can have both Siamese and Balinese born into it. How? Because long hair is a naturally occurring mutation resulting from a recessive gene.

So two longhaired parents are guaranteed a long haired kitten. One longhaired parent with a short haired parent will have only short hair kittens. But some of those kittens will carry the long haired gene. So if one of these kittens eventually ends up with a long haired parent or a short haired parent who also carries the long haired gene, there is a 50% chance of having a long haired kitten. It might sound a bit confusing but it basically means that generations down the road, two Siamese could have a Balinese in their litter because of their ancestors.

America pushed for the Longhair Siamese to be its own breed in the 1950’s. Named Balinese after the graceful dancers of Bali, the cat first appeared at a large show in Madison Square Garden in 1961. The problem is that many breeders do not want to pursue the long haired gene in their Siamese program so while the Siamese is in the top five, the Balinese ranks around number 29 or 30 out of forty some different breeds.

Balinese owners will swear that their cats are more loving and relaxed than their short haired cousins. In most breeds that have both long and short hair versions, anytime there is longer hair, the cat seems to be a bit more mellow.

Personality wise they have a playfully pushy nature and always seem to be into something. They really get very hurt if their owners admonish them or push them away so you need to really want a very inquisitive, social cat and be able to overlook some of their antics. If that is not the case, then do not look into bringing the Balinese into your home. They never grow up which makes them very interesting and unpredictable (just like your younger children).

Balinese breeders tend to maintain that their cats have less health problems than the Siamese but there is no research to support this claim. So I would look at the parents and the pedigree to see if any of the traditional problems known to the Siamese, such as congenital heart defects and feline bronchial disease run in the lines. And there is also the chance of kinked tails and crossed eyes, which is fine for a pet, but not if you are interested in a show cat.

People see the Balinese as less of a work in progress and more of an aquired taste. Many people think that they do not want a long haired cat but tend to be drawn to the elegant look of the cat. It takes very little maintenance for the coat as it is a silky, soft coat so a good brushing once a week should suffice.

If you have any interest in the Balinese then you must assume you will wait quite awhile before one is available. But Balinese owners will tell you that the wait is well worth it. The Balinese is unusual, soft to the touch and dedicated to their families.

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