Siamese cats are among the oldest and most popular breeds in America, according to the Cat Fancy Association. Like any purebred, Siamese cats are prone to certain genetic issues. The fact is, the more diverse the gene pool, the healthier the critter. That's why mixed breeds tend to be healthier.
Overview of Meezer Issues
Siamese cats were once quite frail and delicate, but that is no longer the case. Responsible breeders have worked to evolve a breed relatively free of health issues, though there are still a few. Siamese cats tend to have a more difficult time with anesthesia than other cats, so routine procedures such as spaying or dental work can be a little tricky. Also, some Siamese cats still carry the gene for convergent strabismus, or cross-eyedness. Though this is funny-looking, it does not change the cat's behavior or ability to see well. The other common Meezer issue is the kinked tail, which you will still see from time to time. It was once mandatory for a show cat to have a kinked tail, or multiple coccygeal hemivertebrae, but breeders, recognizing it as a fault, worked to eliminate the gene that causes this trait.
Siamese cats tend to be prone to respiratory problems, but this is usually only a problem in young cats. Upper respiratory infection, or URI, is usually caused by one of two common pathogens. Calicivirus lasts about a week and manifests itself with nasal or eye discharge, ulcers around the mouth and nose, general malaise and widespread aches and pains. Feline rhinotracheitis virus can last anywhere from two to four weeks and is characterized by sneezing and drooling. However, most healthy adult Siamese cats avoid URI because, like other purebred cats, they are usually kept indoors and up-to-date on vaccines.
Siamese cats are gregarious and intelligent, and need company. This is why so many Siamese cats in shelters are surrendered to Siamese rescue organizations. They don't "show well" in shelters because they become depressed. In foster homes, however, they do much better. One of the ways a stressed-out Siamese will cope is by developing a psychological disorder called psychogenic alopecia in which obsessive licking causes bald spots. This tendency to over-groom can also be triggered by boredom or anxiety about any number of things, such as a new home, a new household member or problems with other cats.
Some Siamese cats develop vestibular disease. This is a genetic problem having to do with the inner ear, specifically the nerves serving the ear. Cats with vestibular disease will display symptoms consistent with a loss of balance, such as head tilting. The cat may appear disoriented or dizzy. This is a relatively minor problem and the issue will normally resolve by itself within a few weeks. If it seems to be too much for your cat, a vet can prescribe medication.
Siamese cats tend to live longer than other breeds, and have been known to live 20 years or more. They are great companions and overall very healthy cats.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.