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The Persian cat breed is perhaps one of the best-known and most distinctive breeds of all, thanks to their flattened brachycephalic faces and luxuriously long coats. They have always been in great demand among cat lovers, both within the UK and further afield.
Within the UK, the Persian is currently the fourth most popular cat breed overall, and the breed has held a place within the top five breeds in the country for decades.
However, the appearance of the Persian cat as we know it today, with a very flat face, is a fairly recent development within the breed – up until around the middle of the 20th century, most Persians had delicate facial features that were petite and compact, but not particularly flat.
This appearance is known today as doll-faced, in contrast to cats of the breed with a very flat face, which is known as Peke-faced (in reference to the brachycephalic Pekingese dog breed). Whilst the Peke-faced Persian tends to be more in demand among buyers and breed enthusiasts, it can also have a deleterious effect on the health of cats of the breed if it is particularly pronounced – which all potential Persian cat buyers should be aware of.
If you are considering buying a Persian cat or kitten, it is important to do plenty of research before committing to a purchase, and this involves learning about the breed’s health and potential challenges in order to make the right choice.
In this article, we will examine the Persian cat breed’s longevity, health, and common health issues, to help you to make an informed decision when choosing and buying a healthy Persian cat. Read on to learn more.
As mentioned, the squashed-looking Persian face is perhaps the trait that the breed is best known for – and part of their appeal. However, this appearance comes with a trade-off for potential eye and breathing difficulties if the degree of flatness of the face is very acute, which can seriously compromise the cat’s quality of life and longevity.
This trait first occurred within the breed as the result of a genetic mutation, which was consequently deliberately bred for, to the point that it has now become the breed norm. An alternative to consider is the doll-faced Persian, which has a more natural facial structure.
A shortened muzzle and flattened or snub-nosed face is known as brachycephalic, and as well as making the cat’s appearance distinctive, this trait can cause problems for the cats in question if the degree of flatness is very pronounced, which is known as ultra-typing.
A very flat muzzle can lead to eye problems and a greater risk of scratching or injuring the eyes, as well as breathing difficulties too. Ultra-typed Persians may exhibit noisy breathing when awake and snoring when asleep, and have a tendency to get too hot in the summer, as well as being intolerant of much physical activity. It can also lead to problems delivering a litter normally too.
Some of the potential health issues associated with the brachycephalic face in the Persian cat include malformed tear ducts, entropion of the eyelids, eyelid and nasal fold trichiasis, and shortness of breath.
Whilst ultra-typing is universally recognised to lead to problems that have a negative impact on the cat’s health and quality of life, this appearance is still in great demand, and extreme exaggerations within the breed are becoming ever-more common.
It is important to choose a Persian cat whose face is not ultra-typed, in order to reduce the risk of health problems and discomfort that will plague the cat for life, and to avoid breeders and breed lines that are actively breeding for an ultra-typed look.
The Persian cat breed carries a gene fault that can cause autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, which leads to the formation of kidney cysts and later, kidney failure. Over a third of cats of the breed were found to carry this gene mutation during the 1990’s, when the first screening tests for the issue became available to breeders, and it is still widely spread across the breed as a whole.
GCCF (the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, the UK’s umbrella organisation for pedigree cat breeds) regulations state that all Persian cats entered on the active breed register from January 2016 onwards be tested for the gene mutation that causes polycystic kidney disease prior to breeding. Ensure that the breeder you are considering has had the test performed, and ask to see the results.
Progressive retinal atrophy is another condition that can be found within the breed, which leads to a gradual but irreversible blindness. Again, pre-breeding DNA testing can be performed to identify the markers for the condition, so choose a breeder that had their parent stock tested for this too.
Hip dysplasia – a condition more commonly seen in dogs – appears in Persian cats more than most other cat breeds, so ask the breeder you are considering buying from about the cat’s ancestors and close relatives of their litter, and their hip health.
A wide range of breathing issues can be present in flat-faced Persians, and the flatter the face, the higher the risk factors for this are. Eye issues as outlined above are another concern that accompanies the brachycephalic face.
Persian cats need regular brushing and grooming to keep their coats in good condition, and the breed is also slightly more prone than most to developing skin problems such as dermatitis, dandruff, and allergies.
When you are choosing a breeder to buy a Persian kitten from, they should be very well informed about the breed’s health as a whole, and able to demonstrate a track record of breeding for good health and improvement, and not just good looks.
Avoid choosing a breeder that breeds very flat-faced Persians, to give yourself the best possible chance of buying a healthy cat – and to help to ensure that demand for ultra-typed Persians does not continue to compromise the breed’s health and quality of life.
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