Cats have always been the most mysterious part of the inscrutable Orient and have long figured in Eastern folklore and history.
The Siamese: Inscrutability Personified
The cats belonging to this easily recognized breed were once guardians of the Buddhist temples that dot the green hills of Siam.
Known as cats of the Moon Diamond, they were considered good luck and also protected the priests and their owners while keeping the temples and palaces free of rats.
Siam has since become Thailand, and these cats have become firmly embedded in popular culture thanks, in part, to the singing Siamese of Disney’s The Lady and The Tramp.
The Dragon Li: The Year of the Dragon
Legend has it that, when these cats first appeared in the Chinese snow fields, the peasants weren’t sure if they were cats or foxes.
The looked like cats, but had a very distinctive flower pattern to their coat – mackerel tabby – so a compromise was reached, and the creature was given a name containing the characters for fox, flower and cat.
A sturdy, compact cat with a penchant for hunting, the breed was soon compared to the famous Chinese dragons, and the Dragon Li was born.
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The Ra’as: Into The Forbidden Zone
The Ra’as is one of the many mysteries of Indonesia, and these cats are almost exclusively contained on the isle of Ra’as off the Indonesian coast.
These green-eyed blue or cinnamon beauties could, once upon a time, only be owned by royalty, popular leaders or extremely high ranking officials, and tales tell that anyone who tried to take one of these cats off the island found his boat sinking.
Unfortunately, due to dwindling numbers, the gorgeous Ra’as are now in danger of extinction, and it’s hoped breeding programs will be instituted in the immediate future.
The Himalayan: Out Of The Wild
One of Nepal’s national treasures is the Himalayan, and, while these cats look like gorgeous lumps of fluff, there are stories of a time when they were not so domesticated.
These stories go on to say that Himalayans descend from a line of domesticated Pallas’s Cats and draw attention to both breeds’ long coats, flattish features and dense fur.
The beautiful Pallas’s Cat still exists in the wild today, and can be found mostly in the high rocky steppes of Asia. It’s said that the pampered Himalayans don’t miss their wild life…
The Birman: Sacred Cat of Burma
In the old days, Birmans were faithful companions to the priests who worshiped in the temples built on Northern Burma’s Mount of Lugh.
There is even a legend saying that these cats’ amber eyes turned blue, and their points blazed with color, after gazing on the Goddess.
In more recent history, the Birman breed barely survived WWII, and only one breeding pair was left in the world when that terrible conflict was over. Careful breeding saved the Birman, though, which caused the Goddess great joy.