Neurotic, selfish and always needing attention. They are considered sacred in ancient Egypt. They hold man’s affection and sometimes frustration. No, it is not your girlfriend. We are talking about the furry little creatures that have its own fan base in every corner of the world.
And Burma is home to one of the most renowned domestic species of cat in the world – the Sacred Cat of Burma. It is also known as the Birman. Its fur has a very distinguishing mark and has the tendency to be very loyal and attached to just one person. While it is highly territorial, it does not have an aggressive personality.
The Sacred Cat of Burma is not to be confused with another breed of cat that bears a similar name, the Burmese cat. The latter is an unrelated breed, not even a distant cousin! Birmans have semi-long, silky hair. They can be quite large reaching up to 5 to 6 kilos fully grown. And, speaking true to its legend they are equipped with a pair of striking blue sapphire eyes.
The Birman legend
The story has it that centuries ago, the Khmer people, one of the most powerful tribes in Asia built the Lao-Tsun Temple in honour of the golden goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. The goddess is said to have striking sapphire-blue eyes.
A priest named Mun-ha would often be found kneeling in deep meditation in front of the golden goddess with a beautiful cat named Sinh. One fateful night, thieves ransacked the temple and Mun-ha was badly injured. As he lay dying, it was said that Sinh placed his paw upon his dying master whilst facing the golden goddess.
Slowly, Sinh’s white fur turned golden, its yellow eyes changed to sapphire-blue. His paw that was resting gently on his master’s fallen body remained snow white – a symbol of purity. The following morning, the other white cats in the temple have also turned golden. Sinh did not leave his master’s side and he too died after seven days carrying his master’s soul to Paradise. The legend continues that whenever a sacred cat of the Temple of Lao-Tsun dies, a soul of a priest would accompany it on its journey in the next life.
Birman Breed and its Origins
The legend of the Sacred Cat of Burma apparently has a continuation. The temple was again raided a century later. Two westerners who were nearby came to aid the priests and helped restore the temple. As a gesture of appreciation, the priests sent the two men a pair of sacred cats, who were then living in France. The male cat did not survive the ocean voyage. The female, fortunately pregnant, managed to survive ensuring its breed in the Western hemisphere.
The breed was once again down to only a single pair when war broke out in France in World War II. However, fate seem to shine on the Birmans because the breed made its first appearance in Britain in the 1960s. Around the same time the Sacred Cats of Burma was also introduced in the United States and has gained adoration amongst cat lovers ever since.