How to get it? With nutrition that thinks ahead.
Ancestry: Longhaired domestic cats
Place of Origin: Persia (Iran and, probably, surrounding areas)
Date of Origin: Unknown—the breed has existed for hundreds of years
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)
The Persian looks like a soft fluff ball of fur, but beneath the voluminous coat is a muscular, sturdy, cobby body. The large, round eyes, set far apart, and the short, snub nose with a break centered between the eyes are characteristic features. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment. (British standards call for a more moderate nose.) The tail is thick and short, in proportion to the body, and angled down, lower than the back. This is a heavily boned, medium to large breed, with short, thick legs and an overall appearance of roundness. Adult males weigh 9 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 7 to 11 pounds. Size is less important than type.
The head is large and round with a smooth dome and set on a short, thick neck. The ears are small and rounded, set far apart and low on the head. There are two distinct facial types: Extreme and Traditional (also called Dollface). Although the Extreme is the head type accepted in the show ring, the Traditional has many fans. In both types, the Persian has small, rounded ears set low on the head, wide, round eyes, full cheeks and a full, well-developed chin. The Extreme face is round and extremely flattened, and in many cats the nose is nearly as high as the eyes. Deformity of the skull resulting in an asymmetrical face or head is cause for disqualification in the show ring.
The Traditional Persian’s head is also round and massive. However, the nose, while also snub, is placed lower on the face and only has a slight break. The up-curving mouth helps give the desired sweet expression that fanciers prize. For those who like this look, the Traditional Cat Association (TCA) promotes the Traditional Persian, in addition to other traditional versions of pedigreed, cats such as the Siamese. According to TCA’s founder, Diana Fineran, the Traditional Persian lacks many of the medical problems that trouble some Extreme Persian bloodlines.
Traditional or Extreme, the Persian has a very long, flowing, dense coat that comes in a plethora of colors and numerous patterns. In CFA the patterns are separated into divisions of silver and golden, shaded and smoke, calico and bicolor, solid, tabby, particolor and Himalayan ( pointed patterns). Eye color, in a variety of brilliant hues, depends on coat color. No outcrosses are allowed except for the Himalayan in some associations, and the Exotic Shorthair in TICA. While the Himalayan is a division of the Persian in CFA, it’s a breed in its own right in AACE, ACFA, CCA, CFF, NCFA, TCA, and UFO. In CFA, longhaired Exotics that meet Persian color descriptions can compete in Persian color classes. However, the Exotic longhair division is for scoring only and winning points accrued by Exotic Longhairs shown in the Persian color classes will only count toward Exotic Longhair breed and color class wins, not toward wins in the Persian division.
The Persian, the most popular puss on the planet, has had a huge human following for hundreds of years. Persians were featured prominently in the first modern cat show, held at London’s Crystal Palace in 1871. At this ground-breaking affair organized by Harrison Weir (a noted cat enthusiast whom many regard as the father of the cat fancy), 170 cats were shown, among them Persians, Siamese, Russian Longhairs, British Shorthairs and Angora. Persians were already popular when Weir held his famous show, and subsequent cat shows only increased that popularity. In the 1800s, fanciers particularly prized blue Persians, probably emulating Queen Victoria’s passion for that color of the breed.
Persians have been around for much longer, however. In the 1600s, an Italian traveler named Pietro della Valle (1586-1652) brought the first known Persian cats to Europe. In his manuscript, Voyages de Pietro della Valle, he mentioned both Angora and Persian cats, and describes the latter as gray with very long, glossy, silky fur. According to his writings, Persian cats originated in the province of Khorasan in Persia (now Iran).
Other longhaired cats were imported to Europe from other areas, as well-Afghanistan, Burma, China, Russia and Turkey. At this point, these cats were not considered breeds as such, and for a time they were all referred to as Asiatic cats. No attempt was made to mate cats of like characteristics; cats of various lineages were commonly crossed, particularly longhairs such as Angoras and Persians.
Angoras were initially preferred for their silky white coats. Eventually, however, British fanciers came to favor the sturdy conformation, colors and longer fur of the Persian. When Weir held his 1871 cat show, distinct differences between Persians and Angoras were noted. Persians were stockier and had smaller, rounded ears, and Angoras were slender and tall-eared, just as they are today.
Persians were imported to the United States in the late 1800s. They quickly became more popular than the Maine Coon, the home-grown breed that had previously won the hearts of American fanciers and, subsequently, the turn-of-the-century cat competitions. American breeding programs began. More than 100 years of selective breeding have refined the Persian into the cats they are today—stocky, rounded, and muscular with foreshortened faces and soft, silky, extra-loooong fur. The Persian is so popular that the breed accounts for almost 80 percent of the pedigreed cat population.
Because of the Persian’s popularity and large numbers, it’s relatively easy to get one. However, even more care must go into selecting the breeder. Avoid those who would sacrifice quality for quick profit; popularity can attract the unethical. Kitten mills usually give little thought to the health and welfare of their cats. Buying a cat or kitten from a breeder you have met and talked with is the best way to find your perfect Persian, but that’s not always possible. Research the breed before buying, and talk with several breeders before making a decision. Don’t buy a Persian (or any cat) on impulse, no matter how that kitten in the window tugs at your heartstrings. Cat shows are good places to find a breeder, since you can talk with many of them and see their cats.
In addition, look for a breeder who is willing to provide ongoing advice on grooming. Persians are cats with special needs; they require serious time commitments to keep those long locks looking lovely. It’s important to realize that the exquisitely groomed coats of the lovely specimens in the show hall require many hours slaving over a cat comb—among other grooming tools. If you let your Persian’s grooming slide, you’ll end up with a tangled, matted, miserable kitty who bears no resemblance to the lovely specimens in the show ring.
The Persian breed is generally healthy, although some lines are prone to certain diseases and conditions. This is true of all purebred breeds; one of the unfortunate side effects of selective breeding is that it’s possible to acquire detrimental traits along with desirable ones. The most widespread inherited disease known to exist in Persian lines is Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a serious disease that can cause death by renal failure. Also, since symptoms are mild until later in life, untested breeding cats have often already passed on the dominant gene to their offspring. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, an estimated 37 percent of all Persians have PKD. Fortunately, a PKD test for Persians, Himalayans, and Exotics is available from the school's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, which can help breeders screen out affected stock before they are used for breeding. A sample is taken at home with a simple cheek swab, and mailed back to the laboratory for testing. No visit to a veterinarian is necessary, since the lab will send a kit and instructions for taking the sample.
In addition, an inherited form of blindness called progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) has been found in some lines. In Persians, vision problems start at about four to eight weeks and progress very rapidly. Persians with this inherited disease can become completely blind by 15 weeks of age. PRA is caused by a recessive genetic mutation—two copies of the gene must be inherited to cause blindness. However, Persians with one copy of the mutated gene, while perfectly healthy themselves, can pass the mutation onto their offspring. Leslie Lyons, PhD. of the University of California Davis, is working on a genetic test to detect PRA carrier Persians so they can be removed from the gene pool; a test for Abyssinians, Somalis, and Ocicats is available now.
The Extreme Persian is prone to excessive eye tearing and breathing problems due to the shortened face. Many Persians need their faces washed daily to eliminate excess tears. Also, some lines are prone to plaque, tartar buildup, and gingivitis. Gingivitis can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth), which can cause tissue, tooth, and bone loss. Untreated, periodontal disease can undermine a cat’s overall health. If your Persian is prone to dental disease, it’s vital to get dental exams during her annual veterinary checkups, periodic teeth cleaning by your veterinarian and, if your Persian will tolerate it, regular tooth brushing using cat toothpaste and a cat or soft child's size toothbrush to keep their her smile bright.
However, the most potentially life-threatening disease that exists in some lines is the inherited heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a progressive heart condition that is often fatal. The symptoms of HCM can be so subtle that the first visible symptom is often sudden death. Since HCM is the most common heart disease in cats, a number of veterinary schools such as UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, California are working to find ways to test, treat, and cure the disease. A test for the mutation has been developed for the Ragdoll and Maine Coon, and researchers are working on tests for other breeds as well. No cure is currently available for the deadly disease, but medication can slow its progression if it is caught early. HCM can be diagnosed by cardiac ultrasound and ECG testing.
This is not to say your Persian will develop all or any of these conditions and diseases. However, it’s wise to ask your potential breeder how carefully she screens her breeding stock. Be sure to talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns, and buy from a breeder who tests for PKD, screens breeding stock for HCM, and provides a written health guarantee.
Selective breeding has increased the length of the Persian’s coat to as long as eight inches. The fine down hairs are almost as long as the relatively fewer guard hairs . This gives the Persian its full, luxurious coat, but also increases matting, since the down hairs mat much more easily than the stiffer, thicker guard hairs.
Persian lovers are often first attracted to the breed’s beauty and style, but it’s the personality that turns them into true aficionados. Fans of the favorite furrball say Persians are a delight to have around, with their loving, laidback, sweet personalities. Persians are a wonderful mix of gentle devotion and pampered royalty. They are generally sedate, not likely to bounce off the walls or claw to the top of window treatments, but they do enjoy pouncing on a catnip mouse on occasion. They prefer spending their awake time playing, cuddling and being pampered by their preferred persons. Persians have soft, pleasant, rarely used voices. They crave affection and love to be petted, but won’t demand attention the way some of the more outspoken breeds will.
They can show extreme devotion to their favorite humans, but may be discriminating in bestowing their loyalty. As with most cats, but particularly so with this breed, Persians will only give their full trust and dedication to humans who give back an equally large share of love and attention. But it’s worth it, say fanciers; bonding with a Persian is like having a soul mate, and that relationship transcends the differences between our two species.
Because Persians have such long hair and such docile temperaments, it’s particularly important that they be considered as indoor-only pets. That long coat readily sweeps up burrs, leaves and other debris, and also easily snags on bushes, trees and fences, creating safety hazards for your Persian pal. In addition, their docile, trusting nature, popularity and value can make them tempting targets for thieves. A protected environment is your cat’s safest bet.
Size:Medium to large.
Coat Length(s):Long hair.
Usually Good With:Everyone.
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Easy to handle.