Considered as the cat world’s glamor puss, the Persian has long been a favorite by many famous individuals including Queen Victoria and other members of the nobility. It has a beautiful, flowing coat that is accentuated by its serene and sweet face made even more adorable by its calm and placid personality. It is one of the planet’s most popular breeds. And while it may have had some issues as to its development as well as certain concerns about its overall health, these are easily overcome by the Persian’s adorable looks and equally charming personality. And if you want to get one of these kitties for your family, then you’d better keep reading.
History of the Persian Cat
No one can be certain how the Persian Cat was developed especially since the ancestor of the domestic cat, the ancient African wildcat, was never known to have long-haired subspecies. Many cat fanciers believe that the Persian is still a descendant of the African wildcat, except that it underwent natural mutation to create an unusually long coat.
In 1620, an Italian author, composer, and musicologist by the name of Pietro della Valle imported a Persian from the northeastern province of Iran called Khorasan. Also at around the same time, the French savant, astronomer, and antiquary, Nicholas-Claude Fabre de Peiresc imported a Persian from Angora (present-day Ankara) in Turkey. These are the earliest known documentation about the possible origins of the Persian/Angora. The Persian that was imported from Khorasan had a silky, shiny grey coat while the Turkish (Angora) version had a glistening white coat. These long-haired kitties eventually found their way to the British Isles.
From the 17th to the mid-19th century, any longhaired kitty that was imported from Persia, Afghanistan, Turkey, and other highly exotic places were called “Asiatic” cats. These felines were extensively used in breeding programs, producing a variety of long-haired felines.
In the 19th century, people and cat fanciers began showing off their cats informal gatherings. The very first cat show to be held was at the Crystal Palace in 1871. This was also the first time that a Persian-type cat was presented to the public. The cat was an instant hit that even Queen Victoria was known to be especially fond of the Persian.
Cat fanciers in the UK started to enhance the characteristics of the breed. There are stories that the long-haired cats of 19th century UK were crosses of Persians and Angoras, with a greater Persian influence. This is not far-fetched since both cats had almost the same physical characteristics and temperaments. However, breeders wanted more of the rounder head, round-tipped ears, shorter legs, and fuller hair of the Persian.
Throughout the 20th century, efforts have been made to enhance the Persian. As such, there is now what is called the Peke-faced Persian which got its name because of the striking similarity of its face to that of the Pekingese dog. The Peke-faced Persian was not a result of selective breeding, initially. It was the result of a spontaneous mutation that occurred in red and red tabby Persian cats in the mid-20th century. It instantly grew in popularity. However, because having a flat face resulted in many serious health issues, it also quickly fell out of favor. However, breeders who loved the unusual flattened face of the Peke-faced Persian sought to accentuate this characteristic through selective breeding.
Today, many organizations consider the Peke-face as the contemporary Persian cat standard. However, some organizations still consider the traditional, ‘doll-faced’ Persian as the standard of the breed.
Quick Facts about the Persian Cat
It is quite difficult to establish what can be considered as the breed standard for the Persian. This is because breeders and cat fancier organizations have differing opinions on what should comprise the standard of the breed. Some adhere to the traditional doll-faced Persians of the 17th to the 19th century while others ascribe to the show ring requirements for Peke-faced Persians of the 20th century.
- The Persian cat comes in two types – a traditional doll-faced and an ultra-typed peke-faced. The traditional Persian is mostly regarded as what you’ll have in the home. The Peke-face, on the other hand, is definitely more for the show ring.
- The Cat Fanciers’ Association classifies the Persian into 7 different divisions: Solid, Silver and Golden, Smoke and Shaded, Tabby, Particolor, Bicolor, and Himalayan.
- Solid Persians came with solid colors such as white, black, blue, cream, chocolate, and lilac. Only the white Persian came with deep blue or brilliant copper eyes.
- Silver and Gold Persians include the Chinchilla Longhair, Shaded Silver, and Shaded Golden. These have either green or bluish-green black-rimmed eyes.
- Smoke and Shaded Persians included Shell and Shaded cameos. Smoke Persians can have black, cameo, cream, blue, smoke tortie, and blue-cream smoke. The eyes come in brilliant copper that resembles burning embers.
- Tabby Persians are considered the extroverts (think Garfield) and come in classic, patched, and mackerel patterns. These have brilliant copper-colored eyes. Silver Tabbies can also have hazel or green eyes.
- Particolor Persians come in blue-cream, tortie, lilac-cream, and chocolate tortie. The eyes are also colored brilliant copper.
- Bicolor Persians include Calicos, Tabby & Whites, and Smoke & Whites. They have brilliant copper-colored eyes except for Tabby & Whites which can have hazel and green, in addition to the copper color.
- Himalayan Persians come with the distinct colorpoint of a Siamese cat.
- Male Persians can have a minimum weight of 12 lbs while females should never weigh more than 12 lbs. Additionally, female Persians should never be less than 8 lbs.
- This cat can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
- Persians always have a round head, snub nose, chubby cheeks, small ears with rounded tips, large and round copper eyes, heavy-boned yet short body, tree trunk-like short legs, and a thick tail that flows like a plume.
Things You Should Know
The gentle and sweet personality of the Persian is just one of the many things people love about this breed. However, if you’re intending to bring one home, then it is a must that you read the following first.
While Persians can live up to a decade-and-a-half, they are not necessarily immune to diseases. As a matter of fact, the Peke-faced Persian had been embroiled in a controversy in the past where animal rights organizations condemned breeders using ultra-typing processes to make the already-flat nose of the Peke-faced even flatter. This has resulted in the tip of the nose being higher than the lower level of the cat’s eyelid. This has caused a lot of health issues including breathing difficulties, birthing difficulties, and eye and skin problems.
As such, ultra-typed or Peke-faced Persians are very prone to shortness of breath, entropion, nasal fold trichiasis, tear duct malformation, upper eyelid trichiasis, and difficult labor. All of these were attributed to the Persian’s brachycephalic characteristic.
Traditional doll-faced Persians are not exempted from diseases, either. Together with Peke-faced Persians, doll-faced cats also suffered polycystic kidney disease which can lead to the development of kidney failure later in the cat’s life. Some variants of Persians are known to carry the genetic marker for the disease. As such, DNA screening should help provide for early management.
Other health conditions that all types of Persians can face include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, progressive retinal atrophy, basal cell carcinoma, Chediak-Higashi syndrome, deafness, hip dysplasia, dental malocclusion, systemic lupus erythematosus, seborrhea, congenital cataract, kidney stones, congenital polycystic liver disease, excessive tearing, ringworm infection, cherry eye, heat sensitivity, and many more.
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The Persian is a low-energy kitty that prefers lying on the couch all day rather than going out and playing with you, your kids, or its favorite cat toys. As such, careful monitoring of its food intake is a must; lest you get a Garfield in your home. Choosing a low-calorie, the high-protein diet should be ideal as the proteins will help preserve the integrity of its muscles. Healthier fats are also needed to maintain the health of its coat. After all, it is one of the distinguishing features of a Persian.
Since obesity is always a threat to this cat, one also needs to start thinking about supporting the function of its joints. Chondroitin and glucosamine can help improve the overall function of the cat’s joints, although weight management should do just fine.
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Caring for the Persian is not really easy as it is a high-maintenance kitty. Its smooth-flowing coat alone will require a lot of effort on your part to keep it mat- and tangle-free. The many health issues that plague the Persian also require regular veterinary checkups and a more judicious plan to help promote overall health and minimize the factors that can increase the risk of such health problems.
Persians are fastidious, just like any other member of the feline kingdom. However, there’s one part of their body that they cannot clean themselves: the area around their eyes. Persians are prone to tear staining and require help in cleaning the area around their eyes on a daily basis.
The litter box should also be kept clean at all times. It should be inspected every single day and clumped litter should be removed immediately. Once a week, the litter box should receive a very thorough cleaning with the complete replacement of the litter with the fresh supply.
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Lastly, the Persian should never be allowed to go outdoors. It’s a very beautiful cat and almost everyone knows how expensive this cat can be. It is also a very popular breed that almost anyone would want to have. The Persian is always considered as a golden opportunity by catnappers to make some real money. Persians are also very sensitive to heat. They can get easily dehydrated when they go out under the sun. As such, they should always be allowed to stay in an air-conditioned room.
Since Persians are relatively peaceful and docile kitties, they may not fare well when faced with other cats, especially stray ones. The risk is even higher when faced with a dog, coyote, or other animals that may not be especially keen on having an adorable kitty roaming the streets or the neighborhood.
Persians have a double coat. The undercoat is best described as wooly while the outer coat is long and hairy. During the summer, the Persian will shed its wooly undercoat requiring you to be ready with your pet hair vacuum as it can get real messy in the house during this time of the year. Deshedding combs and cat brushes will also be very helpful. However, the Persian will require daily combing and brushing of its coat on a year-round basis.
Bathing is not necessarily recommended as the Persian can be fastidious enough. Furthermore, if you manage to keep it as an indoors-only cat, then there should be no problem about its coat getting dirty and all. Some pet parents, nevertheless, give their kitties a bath once every 6 or 8 months. A more important part of the Persian’s grooming is its dental care. This is best done every day.
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Gentle and quiet, Persians make for great family pets for those who don’t like loud, boisterous, and quite aggressive cats that do nothing else but climb onto or swipe at anything that interests them. Persians prefer a serene environment to a party-like atmosphere. They prefer people who can show them kindness rather than harsh demeanors. They will never mind if they have to spend all day lounging or simply staying cool on your lap. They’re not playful, but they don’t mind if children will play with them. As long as kids don’t dress the Persian up or drag it around the house, everything’s cool for the Persian.
This kitty is never loud, yet it is fully capable of communicating its wishes just using its brilliant copper eyes alone. It won’t mind spending some alone time. However, if you can grace it with your presence, the Persian is already a very happy cat. This is one cat that loves to cuddle. It will never demand affection and attention, but will readily remind you with a faint yet sweet meow.
The Persian may no longer hold the number 1 spot in the feline world’s most popular. However, with its undemanding personality, restful attitude, and a very pleasant disposition, the Persian remains one of the world’s favorites.