Introduction


When I discovered the Burmese were hitting the health skids, I decided to do something about it. To say I was naive, would be generous. Stupid perhaps is a better word. I had all kinds of ideas. Fixing the genetic defects in the Burmese breed had not been done before so it was not like I had a lot of role models. What you will read below is the my "plans" and the outcomes of those plans, in chronological order. You can read about my lofty plans, and if you keep reading, you can see how all that work out. 



Part One


Breeding Healthy Burmese Cats 

When I decided to breed Burmese cats, I discovered that some American Burmese had become dangerously inbred. The famed cat geneticist, Dr. Leslie Lyons did a study of purebred cats and concluded that the American Burmese breed was one of the most inbred cats in the world. 

First of all, inbred is never a good thing. Not in animals and not in people. When you see the word inbred, see the word trouble. Inbreeding always brings health problems. In the American Burmese it causes immune system problems, breathing problems, kidney problems, and a whole lot more.  

Finding out my favorite breed in the world was the most inbred breed was a real downer. I did not want to own a cat with health problems let alone pass sick cats onto pet owners. So, I looked into the situation. Why were they inbred, how did this happen? 

Well, it turns out the Burmese breed was created in 1920 using one cat, Wong Mau, and a Siamese looking stud, Tai Mau. It was a genetics project looking at the brown gene carried by Wong Mau and thus, the breed was literally "created" using one cat, and all Burmese cats trace their roots back to her. So, the Burmese breed in the United States was started with two cats, and for almost 100 years the descendants of these two cats have been bred back to themselves. Virtually no new blood in 100 years, and Voila, you have an inbred breed of cat. 

I don't want to be an alarmist. All purebred cats are inbred, it is the nature of purebred cats. You don't get one without the other. But, building a breed on one cat, breeding all the kittens that result from that one cat, to each other, for 100 years, does not pass the whiff test. Common sense indicates something bad is going to happen and it has. My original cats, born in the 1970's, lived to be 27 and 29. Today, I get kitten requests, every day, from folks whose Burmese cat died at at 2 or 8. Inbreeding may have worked for a long time, but, it is no longer working. The health of the cats is down, the size of litters and vitality of kittens is down, all indicators the breed is NOW in trouble. 

My desire to breed healthy Burmese cats forced me to do some thinking. 

And my thinking was pretty simple. If the breed was created with a handful of cats imported from Thailand, it could be fixed by importing a handful of cats from Thailand. And, that became my breeding plan. However, I am not a cat geneticist and before I moved ahead with my plan, I decided to contact an expert, Dr.Leslie Lyons. I repeat, I am not a geneticist and I thought it important to listen to the expert on the subject. That’s why we have experts! 

Anyhow, what I learned from Dr. Lyons was that the ideal mix would be kittens with one American parent and one imported Thai parent.  Basically, that meant kittens that were 50% American Burmese and 50% imported Thai cat. And, that is my breeding plan and my goal. Kittens coming from my cattery follow the genetic formula suggested by a world- leading expert. Now, these are not going to be show cats, because, the Thai imports do not fit the American show standard. They do not look like the contemporary American Burmese. They look like the Burmese cats you saw in the 1970's. But, they DO have the same personality! Thats the important part to me. 

The important facts to hold onto are these. The American Burmese breed is dangerously inbred, and, I imported cats from Thailand to improve the health of my kittens. This is a common sense solution to the problem, but, it is also one that I ran by cat geneticist. And not just any cat geneticist, one of the worlds leading cat geneticists. 

That is probably as much as you need to know, but, if you are really interested, you can read my email conversation with Dr. Lyons that resulted in my breeding plan. 


Email Conversation with Dr.Leslie Lyons 

Me: Hello Dr.Lyons,  Thank you so much for getting back to me. I have read all your work and am really exciting to be in contact with you. And, I promise you this. I will intently listen and put your counsel into action. I have no agenda apart from insuring the survival of the Burmese breed. I do not show. I do not derive my income from this pastime. I just like the breed and am in a position to do something to help it. And, I am a scientist so the truth, however inconvenient, is still the truth.  

After I got your email, I became more enthusiastic about working within the Burmese breed group. Starting a new breed one was not exactly high on my list, just a course of last resort. But, with a little help, I think I can stick with the Burmese. I like the breed.  So, I have few questions for you. Please feel free to answer with two word sentences. As in, a yes or no will be just fine! I appreciate your time is of a premium. 

1. The  breeders that are open to using imported stock have the following plan in mind. They will produce 50% Thai x 50% Burmese hybrids and then breed these hybrids back to Burmese lines, to "bring the cats back to type". Effectively what that means is that the second generation will be 25% Thai 75% inbred stock, and that number will then drop to 12.5% Thai 87.5 inbred stock. In the span of four generations, the percentage of new stock will be so low as to be of little genetic significance. More over, breeding "back to type" means breeding back the flaws currently causing problems. 

A. Do you think this breeding plan would make a difference in the long term? 

Dr. Lyons, "I think it would be better to breed 50% Thai x 50 Burmese hybrids to other 50% Thai x 50% Burmese hybrids whenever possible, with a minimum threshold of 25% imported Thai blood."  

B. Do you think this breeding plan would make a difference long term?   

Dr. Lyons: "I think people should try different things.  You have to balance the loss with the gain as you still want to be somewhat competitive.  So, if some people do one thing and others do another – that is a good thing.  Just so the hybrid cats keep getting used.  If you select for good things – that may be selecting for some of the import genes and keep that percentage high." 

2. I have bred animals my whole life and am well acquainted with hybrid vigor. In keeping with this experience, I mated a seriously inbred American Burmese cat to an equally inbred American Siamese cat and ended up with three litters of kittens with health problems. Though the parents were theoretically unrelated, a true "outcross", and I know for a fact they did not come from the same foundation cats, hybrid vigor did not occur. 

Dr.Lyons, "Well, it is a game of numbers.  Maybe these 2 cats were not a good mix, or just bad luck with the litter.  Overall, hybrid vigor will be at the population level and not always for individual cats." 

In keeping with this experience,  I have my doubts about outcrossing American Burmese to inbred Burmese derived breeds(Tonkinese or Bombay). Its not that these breeds are derived from the Burmese, its the fact that these breeds themselves lack genetic diversity. These are two inbred breeds.  

Dr.Lyons: "Any crosses will help – again – it is a population thing and a specific litter or breeding may not be a good combination." 

When you breed a dangerously inbred cat to an entirely unrelated dangerously inbred cat, can you expect hybrid vigor?  Is there any benefit to this type of breeding?   

Dr.Lyons: "They are likely inbred at different genes – so – it is still an outcross.  We do this all the time in mice and generally it works."

Ok, those are my two primary questions. Thank you so much for taking the time to read them. I am eager to create a breed plan that makes sense, and, am at a loss as to what is the best course of action. Ill do it, whatever it is, but, I need to know what to do! 




Part Two


Introduction to my Action plan 

The Burmese breed was created with two imported Thai Mutation cats, Wong Mau and Tai Mau.  There is evidence that other imported Thai Mutation cats were used to support the early breeding program.  The genetic diversity of these imported foundation cats resulted in a young breed with great genetic diversity. However, after 80 years of continuous inbreeding, that genetic diversity is gone.  
 

Recent genetic research determined that the American Burmese breed is one of the two most inbred group of cats on the planet. 

In the article, The Ascent of Cat Breeds: Genetic Evaluations of Breeds and Worldwide Random Bred Populations ( Genomics 2008 January, 91(1):12-21) the Burmese breed got the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most inbreed purebred cats. “The Burmese and Singapura breeds have the lowest heterozygosity and the highest FIS of any breed, reflecting the most intense in- breeding...given these results, Burmese breeders and Singapura breeders should be concerned about genetic diversity,”


Tragically, this finding is not theoretical. Burmese breeders across the United States are experiencing the real life implications of inbreeding, including reduction in adult physical size, reduction in litter size, reduction in litter survival rates, reduction in immune function, and lethal deformities.  


Inbreeding Depression 

All pure bred animals, be that a cow or a cat, are inbred to an extent. But, when inbreeding continues for too long, and the gene pool becomes too small, something known as “inbreeding depression” occurs. Signs of inbreeding depression include reduction in vigor, fitness, fertility, litter size, litter survival, and increased incidents of lethal and sublethal genetic disorders. If the inbreeding continues, it terminates in the EXTINCTION of the population of animals in question. 
 
Inbreeding, inbreeding depression and extinction Lucy I. Wright,  Tom Tregenza David J. Hosken, University of Exeter, (2007).



The Burmese breed is displaying the classic signs and symptoms of inbreeding depression. What breeders fail to realize is that inbreeding depression is more like a cliff than a gentle downward slope. One day, without prior notification, you just drop off the cliff. Suddenly, most cats wont get pregnant, most kittens wont survive, and the ones that do, will be crippled, deformed, and unable to breed. Inbreeding depression is a serious threat to the continuation of any breed and it needs to be taken seriously. Once you fall off the cliff, its virtually impossible to come back from it.
 

There is still time to reverse the inbreeding depression in the Burmese breed. However, action must be taken immediately. Amongst Burmese breeders, some do not comprehend the severity of the problem, and others do.  It is a very mixed bag. It would be fair to say there is no concerted effort on the part of breeders in general, or the main registry organizations, to address the problem. 
 

The Bad News 

When I interviewed Burmese cat breeders, from around America, I discovered most are not concerned about the inbreeding problem. They do not see it as a serious threat. 

 
However, when I questioned the unconcerned breeders. looking for signs of inbreeding depression in their lines of cats, I always found them. Whether they understand the significance of the signs or not, they are very much present.


Indeed, on the Cat Fanciers of America website, in the Burmese breed section, one article about the breed is provided for breeders and the general public.  The article, “The Joy of Burmese”, written by Erika Graf-Webster, includes the following statement, 
 

“Contrary to the belief of some, the Burmese breed is not suffering from an unusually small or very restricted gene pool. An early result of the Feline Genome Project currently being done by the National Cancer Institute was the finding that the Burmese breed appears to have plenty of genetic diversity. There is no danger of the breed becoming frail or endangered due to an inbred, small gene pool. Burmese are healthy and sturdy cats, with many living well into their late teens.” 
 

This article, and its existence on the leading purebred cat registries website, accurately depicts the state of play in the community of Burmese breeders.  The problem of inbreeding depression is denied, is not being taken seriously, or  its signs and potential consequences are poorly understood. 

 

The Cat Fanciers of America Burmese Breed Council did adopt a policy that would allow breeders to outcross Burmese cats to Tonkinese cats, Bombay cats, and Cats from Southeast Asia. 

 

Considering the American Tonkinese and the Bombay breeds were created using American Burmese cats as their foundation stock, these breeds are not the best option when it comes to adding genetic diversity to the breed. Unless fighting fire with gasoline makes sense. 

However, the “Out-cross to Imported Southeast Asian Cats and Foundation Burmese Policy”, adopted in January, 2011, does offer a real solution. Unfortunately the CFA and the Burmese Breed Council are making it difficult for anyone to import, register, and use breeding stock from Thailand. 

 

I have spoken to several individuals, willing to import cats from Thailand, at great expense to themselves. Without any exception, they have reported the CFA and the Burmese Breed Council to be unresponsive. When the interested parties contacted these organizations regarding importing cats from South East Asia, it came to nothing. They were either given the run around or their requests for information or assistance were simply ignored.  A policy has been adopted, but, the parties meant to implement it are not doing so. 

 

The Good News 

There are a handful of breeders who are working to integrate new genetics into the breed.  One such breeder is Nancy Reaves. Ms. Reaves bred a recently imported female Tong Daeng type cat, Mod Daeng, and is now working with her offspring. She is distributing kittens with these new genes to other breeders. To my knowledge, Mod Daeng is the only cat that has been imported from Thailand for the purpose of shoring up the breed genetic shortfall.  
  

More Bad News Overall, it can be said that most of the Burmese breeders in America are not concerned about the Burmese inbreeding problem. In addition, the organizations responsible for the quality control of the breeds, appear equally disinterested in doing anything about the problem.  

In my experience, looking the other way, when inbreeding depression is afoot, is a prescription for disaster. 


Firstly, I have first hand experience with inbreeding depression. There as a time when I worked with heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, and turkeys. In example, while breeding silver Ameraucanas, a color type of a blue egg laying chicken, I first encountered it. From one generation to the next, fertility stopped. The birds stopped mating, hens laid less than four eggs a month, and the few eggs that were laid were usually not fertile.  Attempts at outcrossing were in vain. The roosters and the hens were sterile. The flock died out.   
 

In my opinion, being medically trained, the most dangerous consequence of inbreeding depression is the poor immune function that associates with it.  Inbred animals have shoddy immune systems. 
 

More specifically, being so closely related to one another, all members of the breed tend to have the same immunological weak spots. In effect, they have the same immune system. All it takes is one virus, or one bacteria, for which the breed cannot mount an effective immune response, and catastrophic losses can be expected. 
 

Lack of immune function, when you are keeping animals in groups, is a disaster. While working with the Blue Slate heritage turkey’s, we hit the point of inbreeding depression. Sadly, the flock became infected with a bacterial infection which could not be cleared with antibiotics. All of the birds became infected, none of the birds were resistant to the bacteria, and none of the birds survived. 
 

Depending on too few genes being a disaster is not a theory, it is a matter of history. 
 

In the last century, the Irish people depended upon a handful of related potato varieties. When a blight came along, all of the potatoes were affected and a total crop failure resulted. None of the potatoes were resistant to the blight, and all the potatoes died. Millions starved, millions emigrated. The Irish potato famine, and its catastrophic consequences, remains a constant reminder that genetic diversity is good, lack of genetic diversity is bad. This was true with potatoes 120 years ago, and it is true with Burmese cats today. 
 

The Solution 

The good news is there is a simple way to fix the problem.  Breeders simply need to infuse the Burmese breed with new, unrelated genetics. They need to outcross their cats to unrelated cats.  The question becomes, what cats would be the best cats to use in this outcrossing? 

One straight forward way to do this is as follows. Re-create the breeding experiment used by Thomson, 80 years ago to create the Burmese breed. Use the “Burmese” cats that result from the repeated “experiment” to add genetic diversity to the breed. The descendants of that original experiment provided enough genetic diversity to keep the breed going for almost 100 years, and if conducted again, the result will be the same. 
 

Selection Cats for the Burmese Experiment: Part Two 

It is true that genetic diversity needs to be returned to the Burmese breed. And, there has been some efforts on the parts of the governing bodies to make that possible. Some provisions, however poorly enacted, have been made for outcrossing. However, I feel that the provisions that have been made miss the mark. 


The adopted CFA policy that allows for outcrossing to Tonkinese, Bombay, and cats from South East Asia that conform to Burmese colors, sable, blue, champagne, and platinum. The policy is all about color. The kittens that are born out of these outcrosses must conform to accepted Burmese coat colors. 
 

Nowhere in the outcross policy does it mention, in my opinion, the most important trait possessed by the Burmese breed. Personality and disposition.  
 

I am obsessed with Burmese cats because of their fantastic personalities. I keep them because of the incredible companionship they provide. They are the dog minus the walk. I keep Burmese cats because they are singularly, the most wonderful pet a person can have. I do not keep them because of their coat color, I keep them because they are fantastic pets.  

When we talk about saving the Burmese breed from the brink of extinction, one has to ask the question, why bother? Why is the breed worth saving? Is it because they come in nice colors? 
 

As far as this breeder is concerned, the breed is worth saving because Burmese cats behave like no other cat. If the breed disappears or so does the opportunity to have one of the most wonderful cat that has ever been. The loss of Burmese cats, and the unique personalities and dispositions, would be an enormous loss to the quality of my life and the quality of life of many others.  

 

I will work to infuse the breed with much needed new genetics. I will do so by running the breeding experiment Thompson ran almost 100 years ago.  But, I intend to do so with a view to maintaining the most important feature of the breed,  the Burmese personality and disposition.  


 Method

Create an approximate cat to Wong Mau. 

In Thompson’s experiments, when two hybrid cats (Tong Daeng type cat x  Wichienmaat type cat) were bred, the breedings litters resulted in light Tong Daeng, Dark Tong Daeng, and Wichienmaat type kittens. Wong Mau was a light Tong Daeng type. In addition, we know that Wong Mau and Tai Mau carried Korat genetics because their breeding produced Korat type cats. 


Breed imported Wichienmaat male to imported Korat female. Select a kitten from that breeding with a friendly disposition. This breeding may result in kittens that are phenotypically black or phenotypically Wichienmat, but genetically(W x K)

Breed  Burmese sable male to (W x K) female. This will produce kittens that are phenotypically Korat, light Tong Daeng, and Wichienmaat but genetically B x (W x K). It will produce Wong Mau 2. 
Recreate the Thompson experiment using Wong Mau 2 ands an imported Wichienmaat type cat. This breeding will produce Tong Daeng type cats and Wichienmaat type cats. 

 

Breed Wong Mau 2 back to a son that displays the dark Tong Daeng characteristics. Distribute these kittens to breeders in America. 



Part Three: What I actually Did 



So, with that informed plan, I got to work. The CFA had created an outcross program that allowed you to use an imported South East Asian cat from Thailand, an American Tonkinese, or an American Bombay, as outcross parent.


Being a scientist, I am always looking for precedent on which to base my work. So, I talked to my vet. I asked him how things were working out for the labradoodles, poogles, schnitzerdools, etc. The dogs that were made from two different breeds. If the theory that breeding two unrelated breeds together would neutralize the defects in the parent breeds, he would know. His answer was what he saw in say Labradoodles was dogs that inherited hip dysplasia from the Labrador parents and chronic skin disease from the Poodle parent. Effectively the worst of both breeds rolled into a new breed. He said that he saw this in all the new hybrids coming through his clinic. 


That really turned me off to the idea of using American Tonkinese and American Burmese as my outcross parents. Both the Tonkinese and the Bombay's have their own private's list of genetic diseases, and, the idea of rolling them into one cat that would inherit even more diseases than the Burmese had, did not appeal. So I settled on the idea of importing cats from Thailand and using them. 


That is in fact what I did. I imported random bred Thai Burmese and use them in my breeding program. Someday I will write the hot mess getting cats from Thailand was, but for the purpose of keeping this brief(HAH... I never keep anything brief) I will save that for another day. 


So, I Imported cats from Thailand and I was off to the races to make a healthy line of Burmese cats. My American cats came from diverse catteries, including Madame Butterfly, Lake, Incapaisley, and OkeyDokey. So, "unrelated" American Burmese would be bred to my imported Thai Burmese. 




Part Four: Exactly How did that work out? 


An Update on the "Improve the Health of the Burmese Breed Project"  

2009-2020




Well, I began my project to improve the health of the Burmese breed 10 years ago. I thought it was time for an update on where I am with the project. Or more specifically, what I have learned. 




I had a kitten buyer contact me. Nothing unusual in that, I get lots of those. But, I had to most enlightening conversation with this one. As it turns out, this particular Burmese fan works as an animal engineer. Literally, he breeds animals to have inherited disease for medical research. Our conversation mostly revolved around engineering a line of mice that had inherited diabetes. So, I ask him, how long does it take to make a line of diabetic mice that consistently produced children with diabetes. He informed me that it took 15 generations of brother to sister matings to lock in a desired defect. 




You may be wondering does this have to do with my project of Burmese health improvement. Here you have it. Through replacing dead cats with kittens, I get to hear what killed the person prior Burmese cat. And, its always the same story. If they die under the age of 3, they died of heart disease. Lots of heart disease. I also hear about cats with chronic digestive disease, chronic eye disease, in particular glaucoma, and poor immunity to infectious disease. My conclusion is that though the Burmese were not subject to a 15 generation brother to sister mating program, it would have to be seen as pretty close. If the breed was started with two cats in 1930, aren't all Burmese brothers and sisters? 





My conversation with the aforementioned animal engineer made me think that the diseases I heart about in Burmese, are no genetically locked in the way my callers mice have genetically locked in diabetes. It's there. So, I asked him if it was possible to reverse engineer a line of mice with genetic diabetes back to normal healthy mice. He said yes. If you breed the diabetic line back to the wild type, for 10 generations, you will be back to healthy normal mice. 





Almost on the tenth anniversary of beginning this project, I got the perfect gift. Guidance. To breed out the defects now locked into the Burmese breed, it was going to take 10 generations of outcrossing to bring the Burmese breed back to normal healthy cat. One outcross to an imported Thai cat was not going to do the job. Point taken. 





That said, with successive matings of American Burmese to Thai Burmese, each generation becomes healthier than say the previous generation. I cant speak to longevity because I don't have cats that are that old yet. But, when it comes to markers I can see, like kittens getting upper respiratory infections, or kitten diarrhea, each generation gets healthier and healthier. 




This update is probably more for breeders, but, maybe the consumer is interested. Here are some things I have learned. 





1. Breeding to another inbred breed of cat is not an outcross. I was working with my Vet Consultant and I asked him how all the funky designer cross dogs were working out, Poogles, Labra-doodles, and the like. He said, if you cross a Lab with a Poodle you end up with a dog with hip dysplasia from the lab and chronic skin disease from the poodle. The puppies get the defective traits carried by both parents. 





I say this because it is consistent with what I have found. Using American Tonkinese or Bombays or American Siamese as outcrosses has not worked for me. The kittens are just as frail and unhealthy as if it was a American burmese to American Burmese mating. Maybe worse. Because the kittens inherit the unique defects found in those other breeds. 





If there was any doubt in my mind, there is none. If you want to outcross to increase the health of the cats, you are better off using an imported Thai cat. Like with the mice, breeding back to the wild type to get back to healthy cats. 





2. Another form of Inbreeding. 





I have learned there are two types of inbreeding. The first is mating a father to a daughter. That is just plain old inbreeding. It didn't work out real well for the royal families and its not working out for the cats. But, there is another type of inbreeding with Thai cats. Color inbreeding. This is a little more complicated. Simply put, in Thailand, there is one breed of cat that encompasses a lot of colors, colors we call breeds. The Thai breed includes the Siamese color, the Tonkinese, the Bombay color, the Korat lor, and so on. And different colored cats are bred with different colored cats all the time. You will not find a breeder in Thailand that has breed blued eyed Siamese to blue eyed Siamese for 50 years. What you will find is a blue eyed Siamese mates with a Korat that carries the Siamese gene and you get some Korats and some Siamese. 





I am increasingly thinking that color mating, mating Burmese to Burmese, long term, will result in color linked disease. These colors are mutations after all, and if you breed one mutation to one mutation, long enough, you are bound to develop health problems. Conversely, mixing it up, as occurs in Thailand, produces health cats. A Siamese cat that results from mating a Thai Tonk and a Korat that carries Siamese, is healthier than a Siamese that is the result of two Siamese cats being bred. 





Bottom line. We color breed. We have cats that have all kinds of unique genetic diseases. In Thailand, they do not color breed. They do not have the same funky genetic diseases found here. Draw your own conclusions here. 





3. A problem with too many mutations in one cat. 





Ok, this is really getting into the weeds. To produce a platinum burmese, you have to have two parents that carry the burmese gene, two parents that carry the blue gene, and two parents that carry the champagne gene. A platinum kitten carries two burmese gene, two blue genes, and two champagne genes. I am here to tell you, that would almost NEVER happen naturally in Thailand. The chance that all those recessive genes would come together in a mating is slim to nil. Statistically speaking, its never going to happen. Thats a whole lot of mutations in one cat. And if you bred a platinum cat to another platinum cat, you are doing something that would never happen in nature. NEVER. The statistical probably of a platinum cat happening in a natural breeding environment is almost negligible. That is why you don't see platinum cats in Thailand. And, you certainly would never see two platinum cats mating. Well, not in Thailand. 





I have found that the cats that carry the greatest number of mutations, are most likely to have a problem. With my Thai outcrosses, if I am going to loose a kitten, it will be in this order, platinum, champagne, blue, then sable. I am talking about kittens that fade in the first two days of life. If they make it to a month, they will make it. But, the more mutations a kitten inherits, the more likely it is to fade and not make it to adulthood. 





This is a working theory, but, I think it's better to breed two sables that carry color and produce color, than to mate say, a champagne to a platinum. More will be reported.





For sure, the lighter the cat, the more susceptible to the herpes virus the cat will be. There is something about the albinistic mutations that makes the cats light in color that leaves them more available for herrpes infection. 





Like I said, working theory. 





4. The bad mating syndrome.





There is a thing with the hybrids that I call a bad mating. Violette, a Blue Tonkinese, was mated to Mister, a blue Burmese. She is a small cat. Despite this, she gave birth to 10 fat sausage like kittens. Huge kittens. I dont know where she hid them all. All of the kittens were dead within 36 hours. We did examination and my veterinary consultant found their red blood cells were ruptured. It turns out, the antibodies in the mothers milk attacked the kittens red blood cells, and they died. That mated was not repeated. It was a bad mating. 




Then there is Banjee.  A black Konja. She had two litters of six kittens, never lost an ounce, and the kittens were great. I swapped out her stud and she did not get pregnant for a year. Though she and the stud lived together and were best friends. When she finally did get pregnant, she had six kittens. Four died within 36 hours. It turns out, she has some incompatibility with the stud. Another bad mating. I will add that the kittens that lived were stunning. And, I was inclined to keep them for mating. But, I decided they were the product of a bad mating, and not knowing the far reaching consequences of a bad mating, I would eliminate the problem from the gene pool. 





​Working with genetically diverse cats, there is the increased risk of a bad mating. The cats carry very different genes and sometimes they just dont mix well. The solution is find a better match. I think nature is sending some kind of message when this occurs, not sure what it means, but, I am listening. 





5. Happy families means no peeing. 





My cats live in family groups and I will add to that happy family groups. Like three sisters live with a stud, or a mother and a daughter live with a stud, and so on. The dads help take care of the kittens. The moms share nursing duties. And no one pees. The boys dont pee and the girls dont pee. No peeing. It's astonishing.





This takes some management because there can be trouble within a family. Fleur, a hybrid Burmese, did not like her daughter that I decided to keep for breeding. I knew this because the daughter was always hiding or outside in her run. And, her personality was not the best. I moved her into a new colony where she likes the other cats and they like her. Her personality bloomed. She and her mom just did not get along. Had I left, her, the conflict would have increased to peeing. 





​I am lucky in that I have tons of space so I can make a new family and stick them here or there. But, it seems that when cats are happy, they just dont pee that much. 





​6. Cats living in colonies manage their own reproduction. 





I was a little concerned about the cats living in colonies in regards non-stop kittens. It turns out, it is not an issue. They have kittens in a very metered pace and when its good for them. When they are young, they are inclined to have two litters back to back. I always freak out because they get skinny as they wean the second litter. But, after that second litter, they dont have kittens again for is months. Then, they have kittens on a schedule unique to them. One might have two litters a year, one might have one litter a year. 




​But, no one has bred themselves into ill health. 








7. Vaccines are not Harmless





One of the reasons I decided to get active improving the health of the Burmese breed was a rather unfortunate personal experience. I gave my mother a beautiful little sable girl who she name chocolate. One of those rag doll burmese that just wants to be carried around all the time. My mother was in love, kitten was happy, happy ending all the way around. Not so fast. My mother took the kitten and had it vaccinated. She was dead in 48 hours. The vet concluded she had FIP. A ridiculous diagnosis because FIP does not kill in two days. But, I concluded that Leslie Lyons was right, the Burmese breed had become so fragile, they would be killed by vaccines. And that was one real life experience that made me look into genetic diversity. 








So, now I have genetically diverse cats, no inbreeding, lots of tough cats from the streets of Thailand, all should be well. Well, that would not be true. We have had a terrible time with vaccines for some years now. Starting about three years ago, we would vaccinate kittens and two days later they would come down with an upper respiratory infection. And I mean an obstinate respiratory infection. They all got sick. But, within a litter, there were three outcomes. Some would have a cold for a week and get over it. Some would require antibiotics and it would clear up after about a month. And in a smaller number, they would develop a chronic upper respiratory that would take a year to clear up. 





Me being me, I called Vets, Universities, pharmaceutical companies, and they all acted like I was nuts. If I was breeding inbred American cats, with fragile health, it would be one thing. But my cats come from the streets of Thailand and for generations have had to survive everything from Cobras to Corona. So, for my super healthy kittens with super strong immune systems, to be made ill by a vaccine, it was the vaccine. 





Finally, just out of chance, I had kitten two buyers who had previously worked in the vaccine trade. The both said the same thing. Modified live virus vaccines, which is the industry standard, if not made properly, will give your cats the infection for which you are vaccinating them against. They will "break" with the infection or infections. They said it was a matter of fact. They also were not willing to go on record as saying as much because they feared retribution from the medical industry. 





I am here to say, even genetically healthy cats, cannot stand up to a bad vaccine. I then spoke to a breeder who confirmed she was having a problem with these vaccines and her purebred cats and cats at a local shelter where she volunteers. Meaning, the vaccines were making pure bred cats and random bred feral cats equally sick. One of my clients, a vet, took home a kitten, a year after she took home an earlier kitten. The kitten was vaccinated, got so sick he had to have intravenous fluids, and, he made the older cat sick! 





I the spoke with Phyllis Wilson, an old time Burmese breeder, and she said, stay away from the modified live vaccines. She told me where I could by the killed vaccines, which was no easy feat, but I got them. Since we switched over, not a single kitten cold. 





All that to say, even genetically healthy cats are susceptible to bad vaccines.  














Rebooting The American Burmese Cat Breed

by Dr.Douglas Schar 

Wong Mau: The Mother of all Burmese Cats

Wong Mau…. The Mother the Burmese Breed