Named for the country in which the Siamese originated, the Thai is the official breed name in TICA and in a number of the European registries. The Thai is the natural pointed cat you find in Thailand today, and it closely resembles the Siamese of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, before selective breeding made the face longer, the coat shorter, and the conformation more svelte. The breed is known in Thailand as the Wichienmaat and elsewhere as the Old-Style Siamese. The Thai is decorated in the colorpoint pattern (sometimes called the pointed or Himalayan pattern), which includes a pale off-white body and dark-colored points (face, ears, legs, feet, and tail); and has short hair and large, deep blue eyes, and a semi-foreign, medium to large-sized body. The Thai has a body and head type less extreme than the Siamese more commonly seen in the show hall. The body is moderate in type, not extreme or svelte.
Championship status in TICA; championship status in CFF and UFO under name of Old-Style Siamese
In some associations, the Thai is synonymous with Old-Style Siamese; CFF accepts the Old-Style Siamese, and UFO accepts the Old-Style Siamese, as well as the Old-Style Balinese and the Old-Style Colorpoint. Other associations and fanciers refer to the breed by the term Applehead, which is more colloquial and informal.
No one knows for sure exactly when the pointed pattern cat of Siam originated. The Wichienmaat was described and depicted in The Cat-Book Poems, a manuscript that was written in the city of Ayutthaya, Siam, some time between 1350 C.E. when the kingdom was founded, and 1767 C.E. when the city was destroyed by invaders from Burma. The illustrations in the manuscript clearly show slender cats with pale coats and dark points on the ears, faces, feet, and tails. Exactly when the document was written is unknown because the original, painstakingly handwritten and decorated with illustrations and gold leaf, was made of palm leaf or bark. When the document became too fragile, a fresh copy was made, and the new scribe would sometimes bring his own interpretation to the work. This makes it difficult to date. But whether it was written more than 650 years ago or only close to 300, it’s still very old; likely the oldest manuscript about cats in existence. A beautifully made copy of The Cat-Book Poems that was specially commissioned by King Rama V of Siam is kept secured and preserved in Bangkok’s National Library.
According to historical accounts, these living works of art were treasured for hundreds of generations and were the companions of royalty and religious leaders. Because the Siamese was so valued in its native land, the cats were rarely given to outsiders, so the rest of the world didn’t become acquainted with the breed until the 1800s. Siamese cats were exhibited in 1871 in the first modern-style cat show at London’s Crystal Palace, organized by Harrison Weir, known as “the father of the cat fancy.” At the event, one journalist described the Siamese as “an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat.” Others fell in love with the exotic breed’s unique color pattern, graceful body style, unique head shape, distinctly wedge-shaped muzzle, and charming personality. Another important feature is the breed’s very short coat, first described in Europe by Harrison Weir in his 1889 book Our Cats and All About Them, Europe’s first book on pedigreed cats.
In spite of early naysayers and the difficulty importing the cats, the Siamese quickly gained in popularity in Europe. The first Siamese standard, written in 1892 in Great Britain, described the Siamese as “a striking-looking cat of medium size, if weighty, not showing bulk, as this would detract from the admired svelte appearance . . . often distinguished by a kink in the tail.” At that time, the admired lithe appearance was not nearly as svelte as the extreme type of show Siamese today. Kinked tails and crossed eyes were common then as well, although both are now considered faults in both the Thai and the extreme Siamese.
The Siamese was brought to the United States and quickly became established with the developing and enthusiastic American cat fancy. Siamese must have become used to posh dwellings from its years with royalty; the first Siamese imported to North America lived in the White House. In November 1878, David B. Sickels, a U.S. diplomat stationed at the consulate in Bangkok, sent a Siamese cat to first lady Lucy Hayes. In a letter that can be viewed in the Paper Trail archives of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Sickels wrote, “I have taken the liberty of forwarding you one of the finest specimens of Siamese cats that I have been able to procure in this country . . . I am informed that this is the first attempt ever made to send a Siamese cat to America.”
In the early 1900s, breeders set out to “improve” the breed, and over decades of selective breeding, the Siamese became more and more extreme. By the 1950s, many show Siamese had longer heads, bluer eyes, finer boning, and slimmer legs and bodies than the Siamese common at the turn of the century. Many people liked the changes in the Siamese, while others preferred the original moderate look of the breed. The two types began to diverge, with one group becoming more extreme in style, and the other remaining moderate in conformation. However, by the 1980s, moderate Siamese were no longer considered show cats, except in the household pet category; mainstream breeders were breeding for a much more svelte cat, and being rewarded for their efforts by show judges.
In the 1980s, the first breed clubs dedicated to the moderate style appeared in Europe and North America, such as the World Cat Federation in Germany, Prestwick-Beresford Old-Style Siamese Breed Preservation Society in North America, the Old-Style Siamese Club in England, and the Happy Household Pet Cat Club in North America. The Old-Style Siamese Club notes that Siamese outcrossed to non-oriental breeds in order to obtain a cobbier look are not Siamese, and are not recognized or registered as Siamese by the OSSC or by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).
In 1990, the World Cat Federation in Europe created the name “Thai” to differentiate the Old-Style from the extreme Siamese, and granted the breed championship status. In 2001, breeders began importing pointed cats from Thailand to establish a healthy gene pool for the Thai breed and to preserve the genes of Southeast Asia’s native cats while they are still distinct from extreme Western cats, which had acquired certain hereditary genetic diseases and conditions. In 2007, TICA granted preliminary new breed status to the Thai, and in 2009 accepted the Thai into the advanced new breed class, making it possible for breeders in North America and Europe to work together and show under a single breed standard. In 2010, the Thai was granted championship by TICA. The breed is also accepted for championship by CFF and UFO under name Old-Style Siamese.
According to fans, the Thai is the most wonderful, loving, entertaining cats in the known universe. Thais are very intelligent, self-assured, playful, determined, curious, active, and have a highly developed sense of humor. They love their human companions with a passion; living with the Thai is a bit like living with active but loving children. They’ll get into everything you own, paw through your purse, nose through every open drawer, and help you select the correct items from the refrigerator. They like to get a bird’s eye view of the daily action, so don’t be surprised to see your Thai at the top of your highest book shelf. However, their all-time favorite game is to follow you around and help you with every activity. If you open a drawer to put away socks, Thais will leap right in to help you arrange them.
Thais are great talkers. They aren’t as loud and raspy as their extreme Siamese counterparts, but they’re still plenty chatty. They’ll greet you at the door when you come home and chat about their day, or complain about the vast amount of time you’ve been gone. They also communicate with attention-getting taps of their paws or by jumping on your shoulder and giving you head presses or kisses.
|GENERAL (TICA STANDARD)||The ideal cat of this breed is a medium to slightly large, pointed cat of foreign type, descended from and resembling the indigenous pointed cats of Thailand. It cannot be stated enough that the Thai should not be extreme in any way, but its appearance and personality should reflect its Thailand heritage. The Thai is not, and should not resemble, a native Western breed.|
|BODY||Moderately long, lithe, and graceful like a small panther. Well-toned, but neither tubular nor compact. High enough on legs for desired foreign type. Underbelly is mostly level and parallel to the ground and firm. However, a slight amount of loose skin on the underbelly below the flank is permissible. Boning medium, graceful, neither refined nor coarse. Musculature firm but lithe, not meaty or dense. When picked up, cat weighs about as much as, or slightly more than, one would predict visually.|
|HEAD||Modified wedge, medium width with rounded cheeks and tapering muzzle. Head is longer than wide, but not extreme or narrow. Cheekbones curve inward to where the muzzle begins. Muzzle is wedge shaped, but rounded on the end like a tapering garden spade. Forehead is flat and long. Nose nearly straight, but with a slight downhill slope starting just above the eyes and ending just below the eyes. In profile, nose may be straight or slightly convex.|
|EARS||Medium in size to slightly large, wide at the base, oval tips. Tip of ears point outward at an angle slightly closer to the top than side of the head (35 degrees from vertical). Allow for very light furnishings.|
|EYES||Medium to slightly large, a very full almond shape, not oriental. Set slightly more than an eye width apart. A line from inner corner through outer corner of eye meets outer base of ear. Eye color blue. Deep blue shades preferred. Brilliance and luminosity are more important than depth of color.|
|LEGS AND PAWS||Legs medium length, graceful in form, but not coarse. Feet oval shape; medium size in proportion to cat.|
|TAIL||As long as the torso, tapering gradually to the tip.|
|COAT||Silky; very little undercoat. Not a painted on coat, but definitely close-lying. Length very short to short.|
|COLOR||Body color preferably a very pale off-white. Evenness of the body color and contrast with the points are more important than extreme whiteness. Point color appropriate for color class, dense and even. Mask, ears, feet, and tail should match in color.|
|DISQUALIFY||Pronounced stop in profile. Pronounced convex forehead. Distinct ear tufts. Fluffy fur with dense undercoat (“teddy bear” coat). Cobby body. Obesity. White lockets and buttons; white toes and feet (including paw pads); patches of white in the points. Eye color other than blue. Disqualification: Visible tail fault. Crossed eyes. Visible protrusion of the cartilage at the end of the sternum (xiphoid process).|
More than most breeds, Thais need their per diem of love and affection. If they are ignored or neglected, they become unhappy and depressed and may act out, using their high intelligence to make you aware of their displeasure. Expect a tap-dance on your shoulder and a bellow in your ear to get attention.
Thais are also sensitive to your tone, and reprimands hurt their sensitive feelings. If you must spend much time away from home, a compatible cat companion will help keep your Thai from becoming lonely and bored. They are easy to care for and need little grooming; once a week is usually enough.
The Thai is a semi-foreign, medium to large cat with a moderate body and head type. The body is long, substantial and solid, and is neither cobby nor svelte in type, nor in any way extreme. The shape of the Thai’s head is a modified wedge, medium in width with a tapering muzzle, longer than it is wide, but not extreme or narrow. The ears are medium in length, and almost as wide at the base as they are tall. The Thai’s coat is silky, close-lying, with very little undercoat. The length is short to very short, but it doesn’t have the “painted on” appearance of the Extreme Siamese.
The defining feature of the breed is its pattern. In CFF and UFO the Old-Style Siamese (as it’s called in those associations) comes in one pattern, colorpoint, also called point restricted, and four coat colors: seal, chocolate, blue, and lilac. TICA, however, in addition to the original four colors also allows red point, cream point, blue-cream point, lilac-cream point, and colors in lynx point, tortie-lynx point, and parti-color point.
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. There is a clear contrast between the light body color and the darker points, and all the color points must be the same shade. Body color generally darkens with age. In TICA, the only allowable outcross is the Siamese, used when genetic diversity is needed. No outcrosses are allowed in CFF and UFO.
According to Thai fanciers, the Thai is generally healthier and hardier than the Extreme Siamese. Responsible TICA breeders are working hard to make sure the Siamese used for outcrossing are free of genetic diseases.