Recovering from an Undeserved, Bad Reputation
It’s unbelievable how often we tell others we breed Siamese cats, only to hear the reply: “But, they’re so mean!” It’s infuriating. Siamese cats are far from mean. They are some of the most affectionate, loving companions we have ever had the pleasure to meet. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to be surrounded by these amazing cats, day in and day out. Our lives would not be the same without a Siamese cat (or three, or four) in our home.
It has become our mini-mission to do whatever we can to restore the reputation of the Siamese cat. Okay, we have met some Siamese cats that really do justice to the bad reputation. There was this one cat, her name was Mocha, and she would sit on the couch in her home, right behind a visitor’s head, and hiss at them until they couldn’t take it anymore, and left. Or, she would follow you around her home glaring at you. It was creepy. When a cat stares at you, take it for what it is – a silent threat! She was pretty nasty to strangers, but loved her owners to death.
Ok…so that was our little story about the worst Siamese cat we have ever known. We promise – this is atypical of the breed. If you want to know what’s typical of a Siamese, you should really check out our Personality and Temperament page. It’s full of anecdotes, stories and apt descriptions of their characteristics, and it’s just plain fun to read.
So how did Siamese cats acquire such a bad rap? We believe it stems from a few key causes. The first is an inaccurate portrayal of Siamese cats in media and literature. The second is bad breeding practices – those that perpetuated the temperament that was expected from media descriptions. Third, we believe, is a lack of fulfilling the necessities required for a Siamese to live a happy life in a home.
Mischievous Media Portrayal
Being featured in movies, such as Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, has had detrimental impacts on the breed. Because of this movie specifically, Siamese cats have earned a bad reputation as “mean” and “dangerous around children” which are simply not true. As we mentioned above, they are not inherently mean. Siamese cats are devoted, loving companions. They are mischievous, like Si and Am in Lady and the Tramp, but no more dangerous than any other domesticated animal, and in most cases, much less dangerous. Siamese cats are known for their excellent temperaments around children, even allowing children to do things (like wear them as a scarf or pushing them in a toy stroller) that they would never allow an adult to do (it’s a slight to their dignity).
We highly encourage anyone seeking a Siamese kitten (or any kitten for that matter) to carefully interview each “breeder” or throughly check out their website, before making a decision. Do not adopt a kitten to “rescue” it from a bad situation. This does not solve the problem. If you purchase a kitten, they’ve made a sale, and it increases the likelihood that they will breed another litter of poorly socialized kittens. Instead, find a reputable breeder and ask him or her lots and lots of questions.
Intentionally Selecting for "Bad" Traits
So, the next possible cause is bad breeding. Temperament is partially inherited and therefore choosing breeding cats with a not-so-desirable temperament transfers this temperament to the kittens. When Lady and the Tramp came out, and Siamese cats became popular, people expected them to act like Si and Am. This is what kitten buyers were looking for! What a huge mistake that was. Unscrupulous breeders began breeding their cats to intentionally create these characteristics! It was quite common in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and unfortunately, is still found in some Siamese cats today.
There’s one more part to this story, which may be even worse than the intentional breeding of “mean” cats – the rise in backyard breeders has greatly contributed to the bad reputation of Siamese cats. Siamese cats, being the most popular cat breed and being so prolific and “easy” to breed are a great target for backyard breeders. These people know nothing about cat breeding! They simply see their cats as an ATM machine - a way to put some easy money in their pockets. They don’t understand how important the temperament of the parents and the environment in which kittens are raised are to their lifelong personalities. In many cases, the kittens are not handled until they wander out of the nest on their own. They are kept in a quiet, dark location well away from trafficked areas of the home. This results in skittish kittens. Then these “breeders” give their kittens to the first person willing to pay the price, without asking any questions. So now stress has been added to the mix. Not a good combination, in our opinion. We have personally seen breeders exactly like this and we hear too many stories about poorly socialized kittens (usually cats by the time they come to us). It’s heartbreaking and so easily preventable.
Consequences of Attention Deprivation
The third possible cause, and this is complete speculation, is not providing what a Siamese cat needs to thrive. We’re not talking food, water and a clean litter box. We’re talking attention, playtime, toys, excitement, and a stimulating environment. Siamese cats need attention just as much as they need healthy food and clean water. It is a vital necessity. It is our opinion that if you deprive a cat of attention, it is the equivalent of starving it. It will become mean – towards any human it meets. They also need a stimulating environment, lots of toys and to be regularly engaged in interactive play. These are just as important as basic necessities, not just to the Siamese breed, but to all cats.