The Thai cat: history and current position of the breed in the world

Thai cats originate from Siam, today’s Thailand, and came to Europe in the 1880s, then under the name Royal Cats of Siam. However, the whole process of recognition of the breed and its breeding is a complex matter. Around the 1930s, two currents collided. On the one hand, there was a tendency to further modernize the appearance of the Royal Cat of Siam, which became known on the basis of the standard from 1894 as Siamese Cat, and on the other hand, there was an attempt to return to the original appearance of the Royal Cat of Siam.

Thanks to the latter approach, the Thai cat emerged as a new breed with its own standard meeting the original appearance of the Royal Cat of Siam. According to the entry in the studbook of the Czech Association of Cat Breeders, 69 Thai cats were registered (born or imported) in 2019 under FIFe in the Czech Republic, compared to 2461 Maine Coons or 1706 British Shorthairs. The figures are for 2019, as they are not yet available for 2020.

What is alarming, however, is that even in such a small number of individuals, the individual cats differ greatly in appearance and character, and many are again beginning to move away from the original standard from Thailand. Unfortunately, many breeders in the world have not understood the intention of saving this breed and are focused on selective breeding, following the trends and market demand. This means that they are trying to achieve more colour variants than the 4 basic ones (seal, blue, chocolate, lila) occurring naturally in Thailand. Furthermore, some breeders try to achieve more dominant and darker, purple eyes, as well as build and head shape that look cuter.
“It’s this excessive selective breeding to accommodate market demand that threatens the survival of this breed. It’s as if people haven’t learned from history,” says Jana Anastázie Kadlecová, who owns the Fancy Diamonds kennel.

It is thus necessary to try to systematically save these cats. In Thailand, Kamnan Preecha Pukkabut began with the active rescue in 1937, as he had been learning everything from his grandfather since 1928 about the original breeds of cats from Thailand and realized, like his grandfather, that the cats are one of the shining jewels of his country.

Kamnan Preecha Pukkabut founded the first rescue centre named The Thai Cat Centre, where he began intensive targeted breeding of endangered breeds, including today’s Thai cats, named wichienmaat in Thailand. Unfortunately, this man, so important for the history of Thai cats, died in 2017. The centre was taken over by his granddaughter who tries to follow up on her grandfather’s work.

Of great help is also the Thai organization TIMBA (The International Maew Boran Association), which was established to support the original cat breed from Thailand and which provides comprehensive information on how the breed should look like, issuing pedigrees and helping breeders with establishing the European standard of cat care.

There are only few kennels in the Czech Republic that identify with the idea of TIMBA and its view and strict standards for saving the breed.
A major role in saving Thai cats in Thailand is played by WCF, which has its ATC (Association of Registered Thai Cats) in Thailand and supports not only local breeders but also their cooperation with breeders from the rest of the world.

“The registration of Thai cats, as we know it in our country, however, is in its infancy in Thailand. It roughly dates back to 2014, when TIMBA was founded together with something akin to a studbook,” Jana Anastázie Kadlecová describes.

Nowadays, it seems that people are increasingly interested in the true nature of Thai cats, their unique nature and appearance. Thanks to the recognition in FiFe in 2017, the breed is becoming known to the public, since it can fully participate in cat shows. These are very interesting for the general public, as people get to take a look at the cats and get into direct contact with breeders and owners. “In recent years, Thai cats may have gained worldwide popularity, but is far from reaching number such as, for example, Maine Coons or British Shorthairs,” says the breeder.

Thai cats can be found all over the world. “In terms of number of individuals, the first place belongs to the former Soviet Union, if not accounting for country of origin. The Czech Republic has a great base built on quality pillars, which is carefully selected bloodlines belonging to the leading positions in breeding and the number of individuals imported from Thailand, which will increase significantly this year,” says the owner of Fancy Diamonds.