The sophisticated Siamese looks dressed for an elegant masquerade ball in pale evening wear with chic black accessories and tanzanite-blue eyes. Cats with light-colored coats set off with black mask, ears, paws and tail have been known in Thailand (formerly Siam) for centuries. Ancient manuscripts depict the cats, but they were not seen in the West until the late nineteenth century, when they were exhibited at the Crystal Palace Cat Show in London. Not everyone appreciated their unusual appearance, but they quickly became fashionable pets. By the turn of the century, if not earlier, they were popular in the United States as well. President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) and his wife Lucy were the recipients of a Siamese cat shipped to them in 1878 by David B. Sickels, a U. S. diplomat stationed at the consulate in Thailand. A letter from Sickels detailing the gift is on file at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio.
At first, only the cats with seal points—a dark brownish-black—were shown, but blue, chocolate and lilac-point Siamese were soon developed and accepted in the show ring. Today Siamese come in many different point colors and patterns, including tabby points and smoke points.
The Siamese itself is a natural breed, meaning its original pointed pattern was the result of a genetic mutation. The breed has contributed to the creation of many other breeds, including the Balinese, Oriental, the Himalayan division of the Persian, the Tonkinese and the Havana Brown.
The Siamese is recognized by all cat associations. The International Cat Association also recognizes the Thai, described as the original form of the native pointed cat of Thailand. In Thailand the cats are called Wichienmaat. Some people refer to it as an old-style Siamese. It shares the pointed coat and domineering personality of the Siamese but has a more moderate body type.