You won't be able to pick a Balinese cat out of a lineup of Siamese cats if they're all clean shaven. Apart from the long coat of the Balinese, there's scant difference between them. Both breeds make smart, social and vocal pets. Balinese cats require less brushing that most longhairs.
If you're comparing Balinese and Siamese cats, it helps to study their histories.
Siamese cats solely lived on their namesake coastal islands -- Siam, now Thailand -- until the late 19th century, when an English ambassador brought a few home. Their sleek, distinct look and social temperaments soon led to worldwide export.
The cats were bred to accentuate the marked color contrasts between their light-colored bodies and dark-colored extremities. Seal points yielded blue, chocolate and lilac points, as well as less common colors and patterns.
A spontaneous change in some Siamese kittens begin appearing in the early 20th century and that change led to the Balinese breed, as established in the 1940s. Balinese cats offered a single, small, but not-so-subtle variation of the Siamese breed: They had long hair.
Dressy Coat Tails
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Balinese cats aren't from Bali. Although they're assigned their own breed name, they're pretty much a long-haired subset of Siamese cats.
Balinese cats look like they require brushing, and to some extent they do, but they require much less grooming than other longhairs. They also shed less. Himalayan and ragdoll cats -- two other longhair breeds with Siamese genes -- don't share these traits.
You still should groom both Balinese and Siamese cats weekly to help reduce hairballs and shedding. The former will probably require more work.
Long hair is a recessive trait in cats. In order to establish Balinese cats, breeders had to mate longhair Siamese cats until all of their offspring had expressed genes for longer hair.
If you want to drop some science on your friends, commit some details to memory. One gene is responsible for long-haired cats: fibroblast growth factor 5, or FGF5. There are three breed-specific variations. Ragdolls have one, Norwegian forest cats have one, and Maine coons and tagdolls share another.
A fourth variation is present in all longhairs, regardless of breed. That's the mutation that's in Balinese cats.
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Whether you're getting a Balinese cat or Siamese cat, you can be sure he's going to be packed with personality. He'll also, almost certainly, have blue eyes.
Both breeds are smart, highly social cats that thrive on attention. They're notoriously vocal, and if you meow back, they will play call-and-response for some time. They're also highly trainable and can be taught tricks. Fetch is a good place to start.
Nurture wins out over nature sometimes (naturally), so find out as much as you can about your future feline before you commit to adopting or buying him. You want the best fit for you, your family and the cat.