Of all the breeds of long-haired cats, the Persian is undoubtedly the best known and the most popular. Evoking high society, both in appearance and attitude, this little cloud of fur has been a favourite of the young and old since the breed’s creation, some 300 years ago. The breed comes from careful selection that was completely artificial and controlled by the breeders, in order to obtain the today’s characteristics. The Persian, therefore, needs humans to survive as a breed, but also on an individual level, due to the special level of care and attention they require on a daily basis.
Key facts about the Persian
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Origins and history
The Persian’s exact origin has been lost over time. We know that the breed is old and that it was already present during the first feline shows. It is thought that their ancestor is the Turkish Angora and that they come from somewhere in Iran or Turkey (ancient Persia). Their name comes from elsewhere than this suspected source. The first long-haired cats to arrive from Persia in Europe in the 17th century were not Persians, but rather Angoras. From the 19th century, British breeders selected the finest specimens of long-haired cats (sometimes called "Longhair" at the time) to cross with British Shorthairs and / or other European type breeds. The goal was to create a more rounded cat with the long hair of the "Longhair". The breed is born from rigorous selective breeding by breeders driven by the objective of obtaining a precise morphology, that was new and completely unique, at least for the time. We therefore consider the Persian to be an artificial breed.
Despite breed standards that have changed very little since officialisation, today's Persian looks very similar to that of the 19th century. Over time, and with continued selective breeding, their traits have been pushed to the extreme. The head has become more and more round, ears smaller, eyes bigger, nose flatter... This is even more true in the United States. In 1930, the Americans created the "peke-face", a variety whose face is as crushed as possible, unfortunately associated with more respiratory and ocular problems. Even today, there is debate and controversy between breeders of the English type and those of the American type.
Physical characteristics of the Persian
Female : Between 12 and 14 in
Male : Between 12 and 14 in
The Persian reaches full size between 1 and 2 years of age.
Female : Between 7 and 9 lb
Male : Between 7 and 11 lb
No colour restrictions. All colours and patterns are possible. However, according to some feline associations, certain coat colours have their own names or are their own specific breed.
Type of coat
Depends on the colour of the coat.
The Persian possesses the most easily recognizable physique. Cobby type, they are stocky and large, with strong bones and a powerful musculature. From the side, the body forms a square, but a rounded square! Their legs are short, straight and strong. The tail is rather short, in proportion with the rest of the body, and extremely fluffy. Their coat is the longest of all long-haired cats, up to 8 inches long! It is long all over the body, with a collar that continues to the belly and a thick undercoat, giving volume to the fine and silky hair.
Well set between the shoulders, with a short and wide neck, the head is even more distinctive. Round and enormous, the skull forms a dome, the cheekbones, jaw and chin are strong and protruding whilst the nose is flat, with a deep stop. Their ears are small, rounded and well spaced on the skull. The eyes are round, very large, set apart, intense and bright in their colour.
There are two types of Persians, depending on the morphology of their skull. The traditional so-called "doll-face" has a rounder profile. They are closest to the first ancestors of the breed. The second type, the “peke-face”, has been developed more recently in the United States. Their face is much flatter, with the chin, nose and forehead aligned in the same vertical plane.
Good to know
The coat is an exceedingly important criterion for the breed. Virtually all colours are possible, but some feline associations distinguish certain coat-types as being their own breed.
The Classic Persian is the one whose coat is a single colour, particolore, tortoiseshell, tabby or smoke. Each colour defines a particular variety: Persian Blue, Persian White, Persian Black Smoke ... For each variety, there are restrictions for the colour of the eyes. The Persian Colourpoint, which has the Siamese gene, is called Himalayan in certain regions of the world.
When the hair is only coloured at the tip, on 1/8 or less of its length, the colour of the coat is called "shell". If the hair is "silver shell", and therefore the pale portion of the hair is silver, it is called “Chinchilla”. The Chinchilla Persian is its own breed, which itself can be "silver" or "golden" and includes "tipping shaded" (1/3 of the hair or less is coloured). Besides the colour of the hair, this type of Persian is a little smaller and has characteristic emerald green eyes. The nose is also a little less flat. Their reproduction is special because reproducing chinchillas together removes the tipping shell and favours the clear hue of the hair.
Persian Cameo, whose hair color is actually "red silver shaded" or "red silver shell", is a breed in the United States and a variety of Chinchilla Persian in Europe.
They can spend hours on their owner’s knee. They appreciate cuddles but only when it suits them.
They like to play, but their morphology limits their hunting abilities. Their facial expressions make them even cuter when they’re playing.
Their placid temperament has been selected by breeders since the creation of the breed. This character trait is reinforced by their physical characteristics which don’t lend themselves to intense exercise.
Very intelligent and analytical, even sometimes judging their owners, who may not entirely understand them.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Their attitude, which can sometimes be distant, can sometimes give the impression that they fear strangers. But it is in fact the change which they don’t like. By giving them time to adapt at their own pace, they can be very sociable.
Despite needing their owners to survive, they prefer their own routines and won’t necessarily want to participate in family activities.
Behaviour of the Persian
Not very talkative, they express themselves with their facial expressions.
Need for exercise / Sporty
They need daily play sessions, which should be short and not too intense.
Tendency to run away
They’re more the indoor type.
Greedy / Gluttony
They can be very greedy, one should be wary of obesity which should of course be avoided!
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Persian and cats
The presence of an unruly cat could displease them. But they can equally be very tolerant in accepting a new companion, as long as they are given time to adapt.
Persian and dogs
Without saying that Persians don’t like dogs, it is likely that a Persian’s temperament will not match the exuberant personality of many dogs. You must be very careful when introducing them, as well as when choosing the dog.
Persian and children
As long as children are respectful of the cat’s time to rest and in how they play with them, they will appreciate their company.
Persian and the elderly
The perfect cat for a calm person! But don’t forget that their daily maintenance is rather engrossing, so whatever the type of adopter, they need the time and ability to look after this demanding breed.
A Persian can cost between £250 and £700. The price will depend on the animal's sex, age at adoption, parents' pedigree, compliance with breed standards, etc. In general, females are slightly more expensive than males. You should expect to the monthly upkeep cost to be around £45, sometimes more. Grooming costs are the main expenses, but high quality food and vet fees will also take up a large part of the budget.
The Persian’s grooming routine is very demanding. Their fine hair and thick undercoat get tangled very easily and their fur can begin to knot or mat if not maintained properly. Daily brushing will prevent these issues. A regular shampoo, then drying using a hair dryer may sometimes be necessary to clear out dead hair, restore volume, flexibility and give the coat a beautiful appearance. Cutting their hair is another way to maintain the fur of this cat, either to enhance their round shape, to make daily maintenance a little easier or to solve hair problems.
Besides their coat, their eyes and ears also require special care. Huge eyes usually flow more than normal and should be wiped daily to avoid eye infection or infection of the folds of skin between the eyes and nose. Small ears tend to accumulate a lot of earwax and cleaning with a dry cloth or ear cleaning solution may prevent ear infections. A vet should tell you how often this should be done.
With this much hair, it’s inevitable that you’ll find it all over your sofa.
Nutrition of the Persian
The quality of the nutrients in the food, the ease of picking up and chewing the food with such a short muzzle, the effect on their teeth, the amount you give them ... are all points to consider to ensure good physical health, a soft and easy to care for fur and a healthy weight.
Encouraging your cat to drink water is also important. Finally, the use of interactive bowls is recommended to slow the ingestion of food, stimulate the cat physically and mentally and possibly limit any overeating and weight gain that follows.
Health of the Persian
Very varied due to the fragile nature of these cats, the average life expectancy is around 12 to 15 years.
Strong / robust
They do not appreciate cold, wet or snowy environments but even less hot weather: their coat gets tangled too easily or retains too much heat, their little nose does not like cold air, nor does it withstand the smogs of great heat, their big eyes are sensitive to wind and drought, etc ... Their place is definitely inside, in a controlled climate.
Tendency to put on weight
Their stature, genes and sedentary temperament lend themselves to obesity. A Persian’s diet should be closely watched.
- Polycystic kidney disease: A dominant autosomal genetic disease, it is very common in Persians. It affects the kidneys and can cause kidney failure at around 7 years old. There is a screening test and some breeders are working to establish lines that are free of the disease
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: a disease that causes heart failure
- Peritoneal-pericardial hernia: the passage of abdominal organs into the pericardium (the cavity where the heart is located).
- The progressive atrophy of the retina: hereditary, it will cause a very rapid loss of vision, from the first months of the kitten’s life. Research is currently underway to discover the gene (s) responsible and to be able to develop a genetic test
- Corneal sequestra: cornea illness specific to cats, mainly Persians
- Cystitis and bladder stones: pathologies of the lower urinary system
- The portosystemic shunt: disease that affects the blood supply to the liver and causes symptoms related to toxins normally metabolized in the liver that can no longer reach and accumulate in the blood
- Polycystic liver disease: it is associated with polycystic kidney disease
- Skin diseases: Idiopathic facial dermatitis, dermatophytosis (ringworm), primary seborrhoea, certain tumors ...
- Chédiak-Higashi syndrome: almost specific to the Persian Blue Smoke, it stops the accumulation of melanin in lysosomes and poor functioning of platelets and some white blood cells
- Nasopharyngeal polyps: benign tumors that can be found in the nose, sinuses, ears, pharynx ...
- Cryptorchidism: when testicles do not reach the scrotum during the maturation of the sex organs
- Periodontal diseases: The much shorter jaw of the brachycephalic breeds causes differences in the grip and chewing of food as well as in the position of the teeth (the number of teeth is the same as other cats) and thus certain problems such as gingivitis and sometimes even digestion issues
- Respiratory problems related to their brachycephalic conformation
- And all the other illnesses that affect domestic cats.
Biologically, the Persian female often has her first estrus (first heat) later than females of other breeds. She will also give birth to smaller litters than average. In addition, births are often complicated and are more prone to dystocia due to the large size of the kitten’s skull. There is therefore a high risk of needing to have Caesarean section and a higher percentage of perinatal mortality in this breed.
Authorised crosses are with the Exotic Shorthair, which is a short-haired Persian.
Frequently asked questions
What is the personality of a Persian cat?
The Persian cat is very affectionate and enjoys a playtime session, but because of their physical characteristics, they can't exercise intensively. Some might find the Persian cat to be a little bit distant, but it's just a cat breed which needs time to adapt to change. This cat breed doesn't particularly like dogs or cat but gets on well with other children.
Do Persian cats like to cuddle?
Persian cats are known for being very affectionate and gentle, so yes they do love cuddles. This cat breed loves to be close to its owner and curl into a ball onto its owner's laps.
Can Persian cats be left alone?
Persian cats are laid back and probably won't be bothered if their owner leaves them on their own for a few hours. But like any other cats, make sure you don't leave your cat for too long.
How long does a Persian cat live?
The life expectancy of a Persian cat is between 12 to 15 years.
How much does a Persian cat cost?
A Persian cat costs between £250 and £700 but this price depends on the sex, age, parents' pedigree, compliance with breed standards, etc.