Siamese Cat Health Problems

Siamese cats are the most popular shorthaired purebred cat.  But those beautiful blue eyes and graceful long bodies come at a price.  Any purebred animal is going to be prone to health problems of the eyes and heart because they come from a limited gene pool.  Breeds derived from the Siamese such as the Balinese, the Javanese or the Oriental shorthair also are prone to the same health problems as Siamese cats are.

Breeders are trying to breed out these health problems, but they may show up after a cat has already been bred. 

Eye Problems

The stereotypical Siamese has crossed eyes or strabismus.  This was once thought to be just part and parcel of the breed.  When the British Consol was given Siamese cats as gifts in the late 1800s, they were given the outcasts.  The King of Siam must have had a good laugh when the apple-cheeked, cross-eyed, kinked-tailed cats caught the fancy of the West.  By the late 1970s, cat breeders began to get the joke as international travel became easier and they saw what Siamese in Thailand (Siam) looked like.

But the cross-eyed genes still persists.  This makes for a nearsighted, mostly blind cat, although some cross eyed cats figure out how to adapt, including this cat that managed to train its owners into feeding it a Popsicle.  It is thought that the gene to make the unique color pointed coat (a variation of the albino allele) also causes a neurological problem that result in crossed eyes, according to “ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats;” (Chronicle Books; 1999.)

Another eye problem is an uncontrollable jerking back and forth of the eyes called nystagmus.  This is often seen in cross-eyed cats.  Both of these conditions should be present in kittens.  An adult cat who suddenly gets crossed eyes or nystagmus may have another health problem like cancer or meningitis and needs to see a vet immediately, no matter what breed it is.

Heart Problems

Even more severe than eye problems in Siamese are congenital heart problems in Siamese.  Sometimes these problems can appear while still a kitten and therefore the cat is neutered.  But sometimes symptoms may not appear until the cat is older. 

The cat’s heart will not sound right to the veterinarian.  There may be a murmur or a strange “swish” noise that indicated that the heart is abnormally shaped.  This exact problem can differ from cat to cat.  Some cats may have small holes in their hearts.  Some others may have closed or leaky valves.  Some may have blood vessels that are still pumping blood even though the vessels were supposed to stop doing so at birth.  Some of these defects are inoperable and the Siamese will eventually die of heart failure.

Cats with heart problems often faint or collapse suddenly, have problems breathing and tire easily.  Kittens with heart defects will not grow to be as large as healthy kittens.