Cat Breeds 101: The Persian

Young Persian cat sitting in front of white backgroundAh, the recognizable Persian cat; with their squishy faces, round heads, and fluffy bodies, the Persian is one of the most well-known cat breeds around. This cat is one of the most worldly breeds, with its popularity spanning from America to Eastern Asia. With any squish-faced animal, the Persian faces some serious health risks that go along with their specific facial structure. The term “Persian” actually refers to a group of breeds. Here, we’re going to learn all about Persian cats; from their history, to their breed profile, to their temperament, and more.

Where do Persian cats come from?

Persians are one of the oldest cat breeds in history. The first known ancestors of the Persian were imported from Persia into Italy way back in 1620. These ancestors, along with cats brought from Turkey to France, combined with longhaired cats in Britain to produce the first version of the Persian cat. Today’s Persians have more genetics connected with cats from Western Europe than Persia.

In 1871, the first Persian was presented at the first-ever cat show, held in the Crystal Palace in London. This followed the trend of travellers bringing along long-haired cats with them, as this was seen as a rarity in European nations. The Persians got their name from their nationality, while competing with the also long-haired Angora cat hailing from Ankara, Turkey. These cats began the modern history of the Persian, and had everything to do with the growth in popularity of long-haired housecats.

There has always been some controversy with distinguishing the Angora breed from the Persian breed. The main difference is in their origins including where they were bred from and which strains of gene pools they reside in. Today, both similar breeds are accepted and differentiated in looks and breed standards. It can be assumed that today’s long-haired flat-faced cats are typically Persians, and not Angoras, unless otherwise noted. The breed standard for a Persian has been edited over time, but as of 2007, the breed standard calls for the forehead, nose, and chin to be vertically aligned.

What do Persian cats look like?

The look of a Persian cat is unique and instantly recognizable, as long as the cat is close or right on breed standards. A Persian cat will have a long and thick coat, a wide and round head with far-apart ears, large eyes, short legs, and their signature short muzzle, or squish-face as we fondly refer to it. Their short bodies have thick, stocky legs and a broad chest. The key word when describing a Persian cat is “round”; their face, their body, their general look. There are a few sub-breeds of Persians:

This Himalayan has distinct blue eyes and color point pattern.

This Himalayan has distinct blue eyes and color point pattern.

The traditional Persian: These cats are also referred to as doll-face Persians. This type was the first standard of Persians, and has less of a smooshed face. These Persians lack extreme features, and aren’t recognized by most cat groups as their defining Persian features aren’t distinct enough.
Himalayan: The Himalayan is a developed breed that was a cross between Siamese and Persian. They have a light-colored body with color points on the ears, face, legs, and tail, similar to the markings of a Siamese cat.
Exotic Shorthair: This variation is a cross between the American Shorthair and the Persian. These cats possess a similar temperament and facial structure of the Persian cat, but have short hair.

Persians can be any color that a cat could be; including tabby, white, black, brown, calico, tortoiseshell, etc. There is no specific color for a Persian. At one point, there was an attempt to distinguish silver Persians as a separate breed referred to as the Sterling, but this differentiation isn’t accepted by most cat fanciers.

What do Persians act like?

This squishy Persian loves her mama.

This squishy Persian loves her mama.

Persian cats are a great addition to any home situation, from a giant farmhouse to a small apartment. This is because they are affectionate and calm, with the exception of the Himalayan variety. The Himalayan variety tends to be more energetic and active since they’re closer genetically to the Siamese. Persian cats tend to get close to their owners and are almost protective over their favorite humans.

However, they are still known to be friendly and open to strangers. Persians are meticulously clean, as they must deal with all that fluffy hair constantly. Owners of long-haired Persian cats may have to brush their cats more than your average short-haired cat, and may want to invest in regular professional grooming sessions. They are vocal and playful, and adaptive in any situation.

What is the overall health of Persian cats like?

Most research shows that the average lifespan of a Persian cat ranges from 12-17 years; an average lifespan for a cat. Since the modern Persian is bred for its flat face and rounded skull, they are extremely prone to breathing problems, skin and eye problems, and difficulty with birth. As with any brachycephalic breed, or squish-faced breed, they are prone to shortness of breath which can be audibly heard. Other health problems common in Persian cats include:
Malocclusion, or incorrect bite
Idiopathic facial dermatitis, or “dirty face syndrome”
Congenital cataracts
Reproductive problems
Lower urinary tract disease
Liver disease
Sebaceous gland tumors
These are only some of the health problems common in Persians. However, many Persians live healthy lives with none of these problems arising.

Persians are the #1 most popular pedigreed cat breed in the United States. If you are interested in bringing a Persian into your home, there are many ways to go about doing so. Persian cat rescues are located throughout the country, and Persians turn up in cat shelters on a fairly regular basis. However, if you do choose to adopt from a breeder, make sure that they practice responsible and ethical breeding practices.