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I'm considering buying a Birman kitten (not in the near future, but in prospect), and I can't find any info on genetic diseases and other health issues connected with this breed. Sites and breeders alike say that Birmans are generally perfectly healthy, and although I'd like to believe it, I'm not sure if I can.

An example of what I mean is Siberian breed. Same as with Birmans, sites and breeders alike state that Siberians are a healthy and sturdy breed, but being a breeder myself and talking with other breeders, I know that some bloodlines are prone to umbilical hernia (not mine thankfully). So I'm wondering if there are similar pitfalls with Birmans, and if there are specific 'right' questions I should ask the 2 local breeders when I do decide it's time to introduce a Birman into my household.

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There is some information out that suggests that the breed is particularly subject to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This is a disease of the heart that basically thickens the heart muscles and can lead to a number of health related issues and early death. There is some research going on, notably in the UK, with respect to this illness specifically in Birman cats and the evidence suggests that it is a genetically passed on in the breed.

In any event, don't necessarily let this deter you, but if you want more information on the subject (including information on the research being performed), then The Birman Health Foundation in the UK has some good information.

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  • Thank you! That's exactly the information I needed. I don't think I'll decide against a Birman if they don't have a dozen genetic diseases that demand constant vet attention and astronomical vet bills, I just want to know what to pay special attention to. – Kaworu Jan 20 '15 at 6:13
  • Usually a breeder can tell you if this kitten can be certified free of genetic diseases. Its worth their while to check their breeders for this. – Oldcat Oct 30 '15 at 18:44
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I used to have a Birman. I LOVE the breed and really would like to get another one someday, but I am hesitant. I bought my cat, Whopper, in 1999. (It was "the year of the W" and she had been very big for a female kitten. I had shown up to buy her sister, Whistlepop, but had left with Whopper - my very own fluffy little malted milk ball. =) When Whopper was about three years old, she developed Lymphocytic-Plasmacytic Gingivitis Stomatitis (LPGS). My poor, sweet girl had such problems with her mouth. It was horrible. I didn't find online at the time that Birmans were susceptible to this, but Persians were, and I’d found a couple different websites where the authors stated that some people believed the Birman breed had a strong influx of Persian in their development. There is no cure for LPGS. During my research, I also found that Birmans had an increased susceptibility to develop FIP. Whopper never got FIP though. She died in 2006 right before her 7th birthday of kidney disease. I didn’t realize there was a problem until it showed up in her pre-surgical bloodwork when she went in to get her teeth cleaned. By then, she was pretty far along in the progression of the disease. I was heartbroken. It’s unusual for a 6-year-old cat to get kidney disease. When I researched the disease in the Birman breed after she was diagnosed, I found that Persians had a high risk of developing kidney disease, and Birmans had a moderate risk. I cried for over a year after she died. It was four years before I could think about her without tears coming to my eyes. We had been very tightly bonded. I close with some advice for you: No matter WHAT breed you choose, there WILL be health problems associated with that breed. Spend lots of time researching the breed and also choosing from the most reputable breeders you can find who test their cats for problems before breeding and breed ONLY for the betterment of the breed. Be willing to spend more for your kitten. Testing costs money. Do your very best to get the best odds for yourself in obtaining the healthiest kitten possible. I’m sure this is an old question and the person who originally asked it has long since found a kitten for themselves, but I would like to help others who read this in the future. Save yourself some heartache and do your homework!

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    Thanks for your reply. This question has been closed for a long time but I can't help relating to what you wrote so I'll comment if you don't mind. No, I haven't found my kitten, at least my Birman kitten. I couldn't sell a whole litter, so now I have 5 Siberians, all spayed (I'm done with breeding, thank you), and as Siberians usually live quite long, I won't get myself a Birman for another 15-20 years, and I'm not sure I'll want one at the time. But I do agree with you about research and buying only from reputable breeders. Being an ex-breeder, I've seen too many frauds. – Kaworu Feb 23 '17 at 16:42
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I also had a birman kitten and she passed away at 10 months from FIP. It was so difficult to watch her become so lethargic, we had her chest fluid removed by vet, 1x just to help her breathe, they gave her steroids to help with appetite, but at the end, we were boiling chicken, salmon and then euthanize her for so she wouldn't suffer anymore. I had no idea how prone they were to FIP. I also had an older Ragdoll at the time, thank goodness it didn't affect him although he was exposed. He is 3 yrs old now. He was 2 at the time.

Just be careful and make sure your breeder doesn't own too many cats (5, I've read is the cut off) But do your research. Unfortunately my Vet told me, they will either get it, or they won't.

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I don't think HCM is a problem with Birmans as it is supposed to be in larger breeds. I do know that my Birman died of FIP and my vet told me there is a larger chance of a Birman getting it. There is nothing you can do for FIP but watch your pet die at an early age. I did get another Birman and they are a great pet.

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