For hundreds of years, Burmese cats lived solely in the southeast Asian country of Burma. They did not gain popularity or recognition until the 1800s and 1900s when they were taken to Britain and the United States.

When the Burmese cat entered Britain in the 1800s, they were not considered a distinct breed but rather a chocolate-coloured Siamese. It was not until the 1930s when Dr Joseph Thompson brought a female Burmese cat to the United States that a breeding program for the cat began. Dr Thompson took note of the beautiful brown colouring and the wonderful personality of this cat, Wong Mau, and sought to breed additional cats of this kind. Wong Mau was bred with a seal point Siamese and then again with one of her offspring. The resulting kittens took on the Burmese name and the breed was officially recognised several years later. There was, however, some disagreement among American cat registries as to whether the Burmese should be considered its own breed or a subset of the Siamese.

As this type of cat expanded to different parts of the world, so have the colours in which it is bred. In its early days, the Burmese cat was exclusively bred in brown. This has since changed significantly and while not all cat registries accept additional colours, the following shades are accepted in Australia:

Blue Tortoiseshell
Brown Tortoiseshell
Chocolate Tortoiseshell
Lilac Tortoiseshell

As the Burmese breed became further established, it began to influence and play a part in the creation of other breeds, including the Tonkinese and Bombay cats.

Though this short-haired cat comes in a variety of colours, its wide-set eyes are usually gold or yellow. The average weight for solid breed is 5 kg, though American Burmese cats are generally larger and bigger-boned than those found in Europe. It has medium-sized ears that are rounded at the tips and has a long tail that tapers at the end.

In addition to its soft and beautiful coat, the Burmese is also known for its warm and engaging personality. This breed becomes very attached to its family and is playful and sociable with people of all ages. It is known to be good with children and other animals, especially other cats. It is well-regarded as intelligent, athletic, loyal and inquisitive. Males are thought to be calmer and more subdued than females of this breed. The Burmese, due in part to its connection to the Siamese cat, is very vocal and enjoys talking.

While this is generally a healthy breed, there are some known medical conditions that may affect the Burmese cat. One such problem is hypokalemia, a genetic disease wherein the cat collapses and dies within hours. Another condition is called flat-chested kitten syndrome. With this health issue, the cat is born with a concave chest that can pose a problem with eating and breathing. Also, as the Burmese cat ages, it is at an increased risk for diabetes. Acquiring a purebred Burmese from a reputable breeder and ensuring that it has regular veterinary checkups can help maintain proper health and care.

A healthy Burmese cat can live 18 years or longer, though the average lifespan is closer to 16 years. Due in part to its playful nature, this breed has a good amount of energy and should get proper exercise in the form of chasing toys or running around in a safe environment, preferably indoors.