We get a lot of questions about the difference between Orientals and Siamese as well as if these kittens are "pure bred". This article aims to explain the genetics behind our breeding programme and that of many other breeders, in simpler terms for the potential cat slave to understand.
Orientals and Siamese are one and the same.
The only thing that distinguishes them is the pointed gene which an Oriental can carry. This works the same with other breeds such as Sphynx, Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, Persians, Munchkins… the list goes on. They can all carry the pointed gene and produce pointed varieties of that breed. So, to put you in the picture, one can breed two Orientals together and get Siamese if both parents carry the pointed gene.
The same thing happens if you breed an Oriental with a Siamese and that Oriental carries the pointed gene, but in both cases, you can get both Orientals and Siamese in one litter and they are registered as such. The kittens produced by these matings are not cross breeds or mixed breeds. There is only one gene that separates them and that relates only to the "albino" himalayan (highest degree of pointed) pattern.So your Siamese will all be pointed with a cream / beige coat and only have blue eyes and your Orientals will have colour and pattern distribution throughout their bodies and can have blue, green, copper or odd-eyes. They have the same temperaments and type. The Oriental is merely a Siamese in a designer dress!
How does the pointed gene work?
The pointed gene works by inhibiting colour on the body to just the "points" of the cat. The points refer to the extremities such as face, ears, legs and tail. The colour development is activated by temperature. So, your Siamese are born completely white and over the first week or so begin to develop colour on their ears first and then on the rest of the points. An adult Siamese may develop shading on the body which is lighter than the points but can indicate shades of colour that grow through the "beige" coloured background of the body. We prefer to have as little shading as possible, but hormones as well as exposure to cold or warm temperatures will play a role.
All Siamese are born with blue eyes as this is indicative of the "albino" genetics in play. Because this gene is recessive, this means that it can be carried even if not outwardly displayed. Therefore a completely black Oriental for example may produce Siamese if it carries the gene. White Orientals that have blue eyes are "masking" their Siamese phenotype like tippex. This is another really interesting part of breeding with the gene.
There is another anomaly that we work with as well but only three breeders in South Africa, work with at present (many breeders Internationally, however, follow the same protocols). The Peterbald is a breed that was developed from a stray cat being rescued in Russia, that developed a unique type of coat and produced variations of coats mated to different males (chamois, velour and brush). Breeders sought to develop the breed and decided that they would prefer a more Oriental look incorporating the three coats. The original foundation breeders, and many others over the years have done a tremendous amount of work to get this right and to understand the basic genetics of the breed and how it affects the Siamese and Oriental as well.
Matings between all three breeds will produce the following variations depending on whether the pointed gene is present:-
PETERBALD X PETERBALD – PETERBALD, ORIENTAL AND SIAMESE KITTENS, IF BOTH CARRY POINTED GENE (ONE PETERBALD CAN BE POINTED AND THE OTHER CARRY THE GENE AS WELL)
PETERBALD X ORIENTAL – SAME AS ABOVE
PETERBALD X SIAMESE – SAME AS ABOVE
ORIENTAL X ORIENTAL – ORIENTAL AND SIAMESE IF BOTH CARRY POINTED
ORIENTAL X SIAMESE – ORIENTAL AND SIAMESE IF ORIENTAL CARRIES POINTED
ORIENTAL X SIAMESE - ONLY ORIENTAL IF THE ORIENTAL DOES NOT CARRY SIAMESE
SIAMESE X SIAMESE – ONLY SIAMESE
Some breeders work with all three breeds which expands the gene pool significantly. This makes for more robust kittens as the gene pool in South Africa is very very small and few breeders will work with others due to politics. All three breeds can be bred together as allowable outcrosses because their standard of points internationally is identical, except for the Peterbald coats coming into play (which will only happen if there is a Peterbald parent). This is accepted by the Cat Federation of Southern Africa as well as many international organisations. All of our kittens are still considered PURE and are registered with a four generation pedigree.
There are purist breeders that believe in not introducing the Oriental or the Peterbald into their Siamese breeding lines and prefer to work with only Siamese thus producing only this breed, but our opinion is that this is detrimental to the development of the breed and limits the gene pool quite significantly.
Misconceptions about the Siamese
Back in the day when the Siamese were first imported from Thaliand (Siam) into the United Kingdom, a dramatic tail kink was evident in many of the specimens that were documented. There were mixed reviews about these kinks and some believed that it was a characteristic of the breed that needed to be awarded and celebrated, while others sought to remove it from the gene pool. Today, a kink in the tail is indicative of other genetic, structural issues that can occur with the breed, namely, cleft palates and protruding sternums. These conditions are much rarer today but still do pop up occasionally in programmes. Kittens born with cleft palates rarely survive the first few days but those with kinks and protruding sternums are sold as pets.
Squints are another phenomenon that has been prevalent in many pointed breeds and originally thought to be linked to the albino gene. It is rare to find a Siamese with a squint in modern times.