The Balinese is an oriental breed with a fine, silky coat and dark markings (called "points") on its wedge-shaped face, slender legs and long tail. In overall appearance, the Balinese resembles a longer-haired version of the Siamese, which is actually what it is. They do not have a woolly undercoat and are much less hairy than most other long- and semi-longhaired breeds. They are not predisposed to developing matted coats. The American Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) only recognizes certain coat colors in the Balinese, which are the same as those of the purebred Siamese: seal point, blue point, chocolate point and lilac point. However, other color variants were added to the breed standard in May of 2008, under what is now called the Javanese Division. These include: cream, red, smoke and silver solid-color points; lynx (tabby) points in blue, blue-cream, chocolate, chocolate-tortie, cinnamon, cinnamon-tortie, cream, fawn, fawn-cream, lilac, lilac-cream, red, seal, seal-tortie, smoke and silver; and parti-color points in blue-cream, chocolate-tortie, cinnamon-tortie, fawn-cream, lilac-cream, seal-tortie, smoke and silver. Balinese kittens are born with pale coats, developing their darker points as they age. Adult cats tend to keep darkening over time.
Balinese have brilliant sapphire-blue eyes and large, wide-set ears. The CFA describes them as being "a svelte, dainty cat, with long tapering lines, very lithe but muscular." Everything about the Balinese is L-O-N-G, from the tip of its nose to the end of its dramatically-feathered tail, which is among its most distinguishing features. These cats are easy-keepers, require little grooming and are generally less vocal than their Siamese cousins. All in all, this is an elegant, refined, graceful and extremely intelligent breed.
The Balinese descends directly from the Siamese. Authorities believe that during hundreds of years of breeding, a recessive long-haired gene cropped up as a spontaneous mutation in certain Siamese lines. The long-haired gene may have been introduced to the Siamese by crossings with Angora cats. Long-haired kittens began appearing in purebred Siamese litters in the United States as early as the 1920s. These cats were originally called "longhaired Siamese". Considered an oddity, most of them were sold as household pets and were rarely if ever seen in the American show ring.
That changed in the late 1940s and 1950s, when two dedicated cat fanciers started a cross-continental selective breeding program to transform the longhaired Siamese into a distinct breed that consistently bred true to form, temperament and type. Mrs. Marion Dorsey of Rai-Mar Cattery in California, and Mrs. Helen Smith of MerryMews Cattery in New York, collaborated closely with one another to create this new breed. The products of their breeding program were renamed "Balinese," because their grace and beauty were reminiscent of Indonesian dancers. The American Cat Fanciers' Association formally recognized the purebred Balinese and granted it championship status in 1970.
Balinese were exported to Europe and Great Britain starting in the 1970s, and they are now recognized world-wide. However, in Europe and the United Kingdom, both the Siamese and the Javanese color varieties are included under the breed description for the Balinese. There, the Javanese designation is reserved for a line of cats coming from a breeding program aimed at recreating or at least perpetuating the Angora cat. Crosses of Angoras with Balinese have lengthened the coat of the Balinese in Europe, while crosses with Siamese have reduced the coat length in some America Balinese/Javanese.
Balinese are reported to have an increased risk of developing a dermatological condition called feline acromelanism. This is an abnormal, genetically determined, temperature-dependent pattern of pigmentation on the legs, ears, tail and face. It does not appear to have any serious health consequences. Balinese also have a tendency to be born with kinked tails and obviously squinted or "crossed" eyes, which are not desirable traits. They also may be prone to breathing difficulties due to nasal obstruction.
Despite their aristocratic appearance, Balinese are affectionate, friendly, clown-like cats with distinct individual personalities. They are inquisitive and can be quite demanding of attention from their owners. However, at times they only show their personable sides to their human and feline family-members. Some authors have described the Balinese as being curious but a bit aloof with strangers, although this is the subject of debate among breed enthusiasts.
Balinese are lively, playful and full of energy, especially around other cats and with "their people." These are muscular, athletic animals and should not be thought of as delicate or frail, simply because of their elegant, elongated appearance. They do enjoy relaxing on cushions or couches, especially after a good frenzied frolic around the house.
Balinese (including the Javanese color variants) can be more vocal than many other cat breeds. However, they typically are not as assertively noisy as their short-haired Siamese counterparts. They can be pushy when demanding attention, and adorably curious when faced with new games or toys.
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