Traditional Balinese cats don't hail from Bali. Their ancestors arrived in the West from Thailand, as they're basically long-haired Siamese cats. While the show-type Balinese became long and lean, much like the Siamese, the traditional Balinese is rounder and robust in appearance. With proper care, they'll live into their teens.
Originating from a long-haired Siamese mutation, the Balinese is a totally different breed from the Himalayan, which descends from Siamese/Persian crosses. Although his hair is long, it's not as long as the Himalayan, and the Balinese isn't a particularly large cat. He usually weighs between 5 and 9 pounds. The traditional Balinese appears in four standard shades within the Siamese spectrum: seal, lilac, chocolate and blue. Nontraditional Balinese might appear in other hues. In addition to roundness, the traditional Balinese has a heavier coat and larger bones than the show-type cat.
Different sources cite different average lifespans for the traditional Balinese cat. According to PetMD, these felines often live 18 to 22 years, truly a ripe old age for a cat. Other sources indicate a lifespan of about 15 years, which is about average for healthy, well-cared for kitties. Keeping your cat indoors, feeding him a high-quality diet and taking him to the vet regularly to nip health problems in the bud will help him live a long time.
Balinese cats are a pretty healthy breed. Unlike their Siamese relatives, they don't appear prone to many genetic diseases. Other than crossed eyes, which doesn't affect longevity, the breed can suffer from lysosomal storage disease, which often results in neurological disorders. The disease usually appears in young cats, with symptoms including incoordination, seizures, blindness and deafness. The situation isn't necessarily hopeless -- bone marrow transplants and gene replacement therapy have successfully treated some cats. Balinese are also prone to feline acromelanism, which can change the coat color but doesn't otherwise affect their health.
You'll want to keep your buddy around as long as possible because he's such a cool little cat. Unusually smart, Balinese inherited the vocal gene from their Siamese ancestors, so prepare yourself for long, interactive feline conversations. If you don't like noisy cats, this isn't the breed for you. These good-natured felines get along well with kids and other pets. Balinese love their people and want to spend time with you. Less aloof than some breeds, Balinese like to play, including a good game of fetch.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.