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The Persian cat is one of the most distinctive and beautiful cat breeds in the world, and one of the most popular pedigree cat breeds in Britain. With their rich, luxurious longhaired coats and signature squished up faces, the Persian is unmistakable in appearance, and has a wonderful, friendly personality to match.
If you are considering buying or adopting a Persian cat, you’ve come to the right place! Persian cats make wonderful pets and companions. However they do require rather more care and attention than your average common or garden moggy, and due to selective breeding over the course of the last sixty years, may also potentially be more at risk for a range of genetically inherited health problems and issues caused by their conformation.
Read on to learn more about the specialist care and wellness requirements of the Persian cat.
The Persian cat as we know it today has only been around since the 1950’s, when a spontaneous mutation caused a cat of the breed to be born with a very flat, squashed up muzzle. This type of cat is known as a “peke-faced” Persian, and is what is considered to be the ideal breed standard and show standard of the cat today. However, the Persian cat has only had this signature flattened face for sixty or so years now; traditionally, the natural Persian cat had a much more pronounced, normal-length muzzle, which is now much more uncommon thanks to selective breeding to produce the mutated flattened face appearance.
Persian cats whose breed lines have remained true to the traditional appearance of the cat, with a normal-length nose and a face that is not almost flat in appearance are known as Doll Faced Persians or Traditional Persians.
Doll Faced Persians retain the beautiful coat and all of the other attractive traits of the breed, but with a delicate nose and muzzle of the normal length. This means that the Doll Faced Persian is exponentially less likely to suffer from the possible breathing problems and eye issues that accompany a brachycephalic muzzle, although this once-common type of Persian cat can be hard to find offered for sale today, and you may have to travel quite far from home to find one!
The coat of the Persian cat is one of its most distinctive and beautiful features, but a coat as impressive as this comes at a price! The Persian coat is very long and thick, and requires regular brushing and grooming to keep it in good condition, as the cats themselves cannot groom their coats adequately on their own. The Persian tends to shed a lot of hair around the house, and excessive grooming by the cat itself can lead to hairballs forming in the stomach, so the coat should be brushed on a daily basis to keep it knot-free and remove any loose hair.
As mentioned earlier, the most common variety of the Persian cat is bred to have a brachycephalic muzzle, one that is flat in appearance and gives the Peke-faced Persian its signature squashed-looking face. Selective breeding to produce this appearance in the majority of Persian cats comes at a price; an unfortunate range of problems with the respiratory tract and the eyes. The nose of the Persian is short and squat, meaning that the nasal passages are also shortened and narrowed, which can lead to breathing difficulties ranging from light snoring to pronouncedly laboured breathing and problems getting enough air. This can be quite severe in some Persian cats, and can have a significant impact on their quality of life.
Coupled with the thick, heavy Persian coat, the cat’s shortened nasal passages can lead to difficulties with regulating temperature and keeping cool as well.
The eyes of the Persian cat may also be prone to a range of problems due to their flattened muzzles, including an over-production of fluid from the tear ducts, entropion (the eyelids folding inwards and rubbing on the eyes) and trichiasis, a painful condition where eyelashes from the upper eyelids rub against the cornea of the eye.
Persian cats also have a heightened risk of developing progressive retinal atrophy, an inherited condition that leads to a gradual and progressive blindness in the cat.
Peke-faced Persians are exponentially more likely than other cats to run into difficulties when delivering their kittens, again caused by the brachycephalic muzzle and rounded head. Many Persian cats will require delivery by caesarean section, and the breed has a much higher incidence rate of stillbirth and kitten mortality than other breeds. Data collated suggests that around 15-20% of Persian kittens are stillborn, while total kitten mortality including stillbirths and kittens that die soon after delivery may be as high as 29%.
Polycystic kidney disease, which causes kidney failure to develop in later life, is also common across the breed with an estimated incidence rate of 36-49% of cats across the breed in its entirety affected with the condition.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition of the heart that again generally affects older cats, has a 6.5% incidence rate across the breed as well.
It is important to think carefully about taking on a Persian cat as a pet, as they are, as demonstrated above, much more prone to a wide variety of serious health problems than most other cats. Almost all of the Persian’s common health problems have come about due to human intervention, selectively breeding for an appearance rather than for health and wellness. Buying a Persian cat or kitten with a pronouncedly flattened muzzle will not only come with a range of potentially serious health problems that may affect the cat’s quality of life, but will also contribute towards demand for these cats, meaning that the breeding in perpetuity of cats that are unlikely to be totally healthy will continue.
As cat lovers and potential buyers, we all have a responsibility not only to the cats that we own, but to the cat population as a whole. Our buying-power is what will help to bring change in the breeding world, much more quickly and effectively than any other method will be able to.
Only buy a Persian cat from a breeder that has a record of producing healthy cats, and that has health-tested the parent cats for a range of common health problems. Do not buy a Persian cat with a dramatically flattened face; instead, choose one that is able to breathe comfortably and whose nose is not higher than the bottom of its eyelids, as cats with a less flattened muzzle are much less likely to suffer from the effects of breathing difficulties and eye problems.
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