Balinese Cats

Long-Haired Siamese is Not From Bali

Contrary to its given name, the Balinese cat is not from Bali or Indonesia.

The breed is actually a Siamese with long hair, which was once considered an abnormality until a couple of cat fanciers decided to start breeding the line with a focus on this long-haired oddity.

So, how did the new breed get its exotic name? Some might consider that the only odd thing about this much beloved feline.

Balinese cat

To understand how the Balinese came into existence, you first need to a little background about the Siamese cat.

The Siamese breed was discovered by the English more than 100 years ago. Siamese cats are believed to have hailed from Asia; specifically Thailand (then Siam), and are one of the first recognized breeds of oriental, or foreign, cats.

The ideal Siamese is a medium sized, svelte, refined cat with long tapering lines, very lithe, yet muscular build. They also have a short, dense fur coat.

The earliest examples of Siamese cats being born with unusually long hair can be traced back to the early 1920s. By the 1950s, Marion Dorsey and Helen Smith, two cat fanciers located in California and New York, took an interest and decided to launch a breeding program specifically for these longhaired Siamese cats.

Smith, who also supported the arts and the theater, felt this new breed needed a graceful name and decided that the beauty of the cat was similar to that of Balinese dancers, hence the name “Balinese.” 

To understand how the Balinese came into existence, you first need to a little background about the Siamese cat.

The Siamese breed was discovered by the English more than 100 years ago. Siamese cats are believed to have hailed from Asia; specifically Thailand (then Siam), and are one of the first recognized breeds of oriental, or foreign, cats.

The ideal Siamese is a medium sized, svelte, refined cat with long tapering lines, very lithe, yet muscular build. They also have a short, dense fur coat.

The earliest examples of Siamese cats being born with unusually long hair can be traced back to the early 1920s. By the 1950s, Marion Dorsey and Helen Smith, two cat fanciers located in California and New York, took an interest and decided to launch a breeding program specifically for these longhaired Siamese cats.

Smith, who also supported the arts and the theater, felt this new breed needed a graceful name and decided that the beauty of the cat was similar to that of Balinese dancers, hence the name “Balinese.”

Balinese kittens

Like the Siamese, the Balinese cat has a medium build with long tapering lines and is very lithe yet muscular.

The breed is also widely recognized by their blue, almond-shaped eyes, longhaired coat, elongated body and chiseled, wedge-shaped face.

Balinese cats have creamy coats and darkly colored points in their snouts, ears, lower legs, paws and tail. Their pointed colors are a result of a mutation of a heat-sensitive enzyme involved in pigment production, which results in darker coloration in the coolest parts of a Balinese cat’s body.

A Balinese cat’s fur coat can either be seal, blue, chocolate, and lilac, as well as less traditional colors such as red and cream, and patterns such as tabby point and tortoiseshell point.

The Balinese is most commonly compared to Himalayan and ragdoll cats, as both breeds get their coloring from the Siamese, although the Himalayan cat has a flatter face and a much longer coat than the Balinese.

Interesting fact: A Balinese cat sheds very little as compared to a traditional longhaired cat, mainly because the breed does not develop a “ruff” that requires routine grooming.

While these may be common medical conditions, your Balinese cat will not necessarily develop any of those listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

Balinese cat, cross-eyed
  • Hereditary liver amyloidosis occurs when an amyloid protein is deposited in the liver leading to organ failure.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary eye disease that causes deterioration of the retina and blindness.
  • Strabismus is a hereditary disorder of the optic nerve that causes cross-eyes of Siamese and Balinese cats. Crossed-eyes are of little consequence for most cats but the condition can make them ineligible to compete in cat shows.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.