Coat length is the only difference between the Siamese and the Balinese. The Balinese is a svelte cat with long, tapering lines, very lithe but strong and muscular. A medium-length coat covers its tubular body. Adult males weigh 7 to 9 pounds; adult females weigh 5 to 7 pounds. The head is a medium-size tapering wedge with a flat forehead, wedge-shaped muzzle and good width between the ears. In profile, a straight line can be drawn from the top of the head to the tip of the nose. The eyes are almond-shaped, medium in size and deep, vivid blue. They are not crossed and are set not less than one eye-width apart, with a slight slant toward the nose. The ears are very large, pointed, wide at the base and set wide on the head, continuing the lines of the wedge. The neck is slender, the legs long and thin, and the tail is long and tapering and without kinks.
The coat is fine, silky and lies against the body so it appears shorter than it really is. But the hair on the tail is a sure give-away that you are looking at a true Balinese. Long, soft fur spreads out in a luxurious plume. Because the Balinese has no downy undercoat, you can spend more time playing with your Balinese than grooming him. The longer coat gives the Balinese a softer, less angular appearance than the Siamese and other breeds of similar type.
In CFA, the Balinese used to come in only four coat colors: seal point, chocolate point, blue point and lilac point, and one pattern— colorpoint, also called point restricted. However, as of May 1, 2008, the Javanese was declared a division of the Balinese, and additional colors were added. The Balinese palette now includes solid colorpoint in red point and cream point; lynx (tabby) point in blue, blue-cream, chocolate, chocolate-tortie, cinnamon, cinnamon-tortie, cream, fawn, fawn-cream, lilac, lilac-cream, red, seal, seal-tortie point; and parti-colorpoint in blue-cream, chocolate-tortie, cinnamon-tortie, fawn-cream, lilac-cream, and seal-tortie point. Tortie point is a mixture of black and red or their dilute colors, blue and cream. In 2010, the CFA Javanese standard and profile were eliminated, fully combining the two breeds into one. Other associations have included those colors in the Balinese breed for many years; the Traditional Cat Association (TCA) is the only association that still considers the Javanese a separate breed under the name Traditional Colorpoint Balinese.
The “points” of the body—ears, face mask, feet and tail—are darker than the rest of the body due to a temperature-controlled enzyme that creates greater depth of color at the parts of the body farthest away from the heart. These areas are a few degrees cooler, and so the color is concentrated in those areas. Body color generally darkens with age. Balinese allowable outcrosses are Siamese, Colorpoint Shorthair, Javanese, and certain limited outcrossings with Oriental Longhair in litters born before 01-01-2016.
Today, fanciers have two styles from which to choose: the Extreme Balinese and the Traditional Balinese. The Extreme Balinese is the only one you’ll see at cat shows—it has the svelte body style and wedge-shaped head described above. The Traditional Balinese has the stockier body style and the rounder head type of the Traditional Siamese, and has a medium-length coat. The Traditional Balinese is popular among cat lovers who remember with affection the sturdy, rounder Siamese of yesterday. These and other traditional breeds are recognized by the Traditional Cat Association, Inc, an association created to preserve, promote and protect traditional cats.UFO also accepts the Traditional Balinese, Traditional Siamese, and Traditional Colorpoint Shorthair; TICA accepts the Traditional Siamese under the name “Thai,” and CFF accepts the Traditional Siamese under the name “Old Style Siamese.” According to Traditional Siamese fanciers, Traditional cats are healthier and hardier than the Extreme types.
You won’t see the Traditional Balinese at most cat shows except perhaps in the Household Pet category because it doesn’t conform to most associations’ breed standards, which call for the Extreme conformation. A Traditional Balinese wouldn’t earn any ribbons in the show ring. Still, if you’re looking for a terrific companion rather than a show cat, the Traditional fits the bill. So does the Extreme—it just depends on your sense of style.
The Balinese, essentially a longhaired Siamese, was not intentionally created at first. In fact, in the early 1900s Siamese breeders were horrified when longhaired kittens began appearing in their otherwise shorthaired litters. It’s possible for two Siamese to produce longhaired offspring if both carry the longhair gene. Since long hair is a recessive trait, meaning a cat must inherit the gene from both parents to have long hair, cats can have one copy of the gene, carry it for generations and pass it along to their descendants without exhibiting the trait themselves. But Siamese breeders were afraid that other fanciers would think they were using longhaired outcrosses in their breeding programs, which was, and still is, a major no-no.
How the Siamese bloodlines acquired the gene for long hair has been the subject of heated debate for many years, particularly in the early years. Some fanciers think it was introduced into the Siamese gene pool in Europe after World War I. Since the Siamese was almost obliterated during the conflict, after the war other breeds and some random-bred domestic cats were used to revitalize the breed. The Turkish Angora a breed with a silky, semi-long coat similar to the Balinese’s was thought to have been one of the breeds used.
Today, many people believe the gene for long hair originated as a spontaneous mutation in certain Siamese bloodlines. It’s certainly to the advantage of Siamese and Balinese breeders for that to be so, since a naturally created breed is more acceptable to the cat fancy than dubious crosses would be. But no one really knows for sure, since few records were kept of the prohibited crosses.
Regardless of whether long hair was acquired through forbidden trysts or Mother Nature’s redecorating, most early Siamese breeders quietly gave away these occasional longhairs. It wasn’t until the 1940s that fanciers realized these lovely outcasts might make a worthy breed. At that time, New York breeder Helen Smith and California breeder Sylvia Holland began working with the longhaired cats born in purebred Siamese litters. No crossbreeding was used only Siamese and the longhaired cats born from Siamese.
To say most Siamese breeders were not pleased with this new development is an understatement. Much hissing and spitting at the Balinese and their breeders took place before the breed gained acceptance. Balinese fanciers were persistent, however, and by 1970 all major North American cat associations accepted the Balinese as a breed in its own right. Today, Balinese numbers are relatively low, but fanciers swear it’s the best of the breeds derived from the Siamese.
Since the Balinese and the Siamese are only one gene apart—the gene that governs hair length—they share many characteristics, and that includes health concerns. Although Balinese are generally healthy and long-lived if kept inside, the breed does have a few relatively common inheritable conditions and diseases. In particular, hereditary liver amyloidosis has been found in some Balinese lines. The disease causes an insoluble protein called amyloid to be deposited in the liver, causing lesions, dysfunction, and eventual liver failure. In addition, incidences of dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart muscle that decreases heart function, have been found in some lines of Siamese and closely related breeds like the Balinese, but on the plus side they seem to be at a lower risk for the serious and often fatal feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) than some other breeds, according to Dr. Susan Little of the Winn Feline Foundation.
Some Balinese are prone to plaque buildup, tartar formation, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, bone and tooth loss. Untreated, dental disease can undermine a cat’s overall health. This breed needs annual veterinary checkups, periodic teeth cleaning by your veterinarian and, if your cat will tolerate it, regular tooth brushing using cat toothpaste and a cat toothbrush (you can also use a soft child’s size toothbrush).
Crossed eyes, sometimes called “the Siamese squint,” still can be found in some lines, but careful breeding has eliminated the trait in many lines. However, the eye condition seems to be connected to the pointed pattern and is therefore hard to completely eliminate. Be sure to get your Siamese from a breeder who offers a written health guarantee and registration documents.
Did you know?
The Balinese was named after the colorful and graceful dancers of the Island of Bali. The Balinese isn’t actually from Bali, but fanciers thought it gave the breed’s name a romantic sound.
Balinese are extremely social and have an appetite for action, a belief in free speech, and an intense curiosity about what’s in every drawer. They are happiest when underfoot and at the center of every household activity. They will gladly share your food, sleep with you under the covers, help you with all your chores, and do their best to get you interested in interactive games. Many play fetch endlessly if you’re willing. They are very smart, so attempts to hide their toys in drawers or cupboards are doomed to fail. They’ll soon learn to open them if there’s something inside they want.
Turn off the TV and watch your Balinese; they’ll keep you entertained for hours. Natural acrobats, they can jump amazing heights from a standstill, including to the top of the refrigerator or the highest shelf. Their lithe bodies allow for Houdini-like acts of contortion, and their cleverness make them natural escape artists. Some owners claim these cats can pick locks. But occasionally they will sit in your lap or beside you, purring peacefully as you read or watch television. They get along well with children and other cats and even like the companionship of cat-friendly dogs, depending upon the Balinese’s upbringing and proper introductions.
Like the Siamese, they can be demanding when they want your attention. The Balinese is very talkative and is not for cat lovers who also love peace and quiet. Their vocal sounds range from soft purrs to loud, raspy yowls for attention or dinner. Their distinctive yowl can be annoying to some, but Balinese fanciers consider it a charming trait. Since they are vocal cats, they are also sensitive to your tone—harsh scoldings hurt their tender feelings. Traditional Balinese are similar in temperament, but are not quite as vocal or active.