The Persian cat is a long-haired breed with a distinctive flat face and large eyes. This breed gets their name from Persia — now, modern Iran — where they most likely originated. Because they're an ancient breed that dates back to 1684 BC, their history isn’t certain. Over time, the Persian cat has become a great family pet due to their sweet, friendly, and patient nature.
Characteristics of the Persian Cat
If you’re looking for a sweet-natured and fluffy pet, then the Persian cat might be the right breed for you.
Persian cats are a medium-sized breed, but they appear larger than they are due to their large amount of fur. The Persian cat size depends on its gender, with males being larger than females. Both males and females have a broad, short appearance.
You can easily identify Persian cats by their large eyes, round face, and short muzzle. Some describe their face as “pansy-like”.
Persian cat characteristics include long, soft fur. Their coats come in almost all colors and patterns. This includes solid colors, parti-colors, and tortoiseshell coats. They also have a wide range of eye colors that usually depend on the color of their coat. For example, blue eyes usually accompany Himalayan coats.
A healthy Persian cat’s lifespan can be around 8 to 11 years.
Persian cat personality
Persian cat personalities are sweet, gentle, and patient. They're friendly cats that prefer calm environments but can easily adapt to more active households.
Persian cats love to relax and lounge around their environment. They have a sweet nature and will sit on your lap or cuddle with you when the mood strikes them.
Persian cats can be playful at times and usually have brief bursts of kitten-like activity. But this usually doesn’t involve jumping or climbing. Instead, they prefer to chase things.
Caring for Persian Cats
Persian cats are a high-maintenance breed. Their long flowing coat is likely to shed and needs daily grooming. You should use a metal comb to prevent tangles and hairballs. You should only bathe your Persian cat after having thoroughly combed them. To make sure there are no behavioral issues during grooming time, you should establish a routine while your Persian cat is still young.
Remember to wash your Persian cat’s face during grooming as they're likely to get tear stains.
Grooming should also include trimming your Persian cat’s nails and brushing their teeth. You should trim your adult Persian cat’s nails every 2 to 3 weeks. But make sure to avoid cutting past the quick or declawing your cat as this can cause them harm and distress.
You should always provide clean water and nutritious, protein-rich food for your cat. If you've spayed or neutered your Persian cat, be sure to keep a closer eye on what they eat. This is because, like all cats, they are more likely to become overweight after this procedure.
The Persian cat is a flat-faced breed that may have issues with their bite due to a misaligned jaw. This can cause problems when they try to pick up, chew, or hold food. To help ease this issue, you can feed your pet kibble specifically for Persian cats. This type of kibble comes in shapes that are easier for your Persian cat to eat.
The Persian cat’s flat face also means that water fountains, rather than bowls, are better for them. Drinking from a fountain can help keep their face and chest dry.
You can keep your Persian cat’s mind and body active by playing games with them. Persian cats enjoy interactive toys and chasing balls. You may have to encourage them to exercise regularly, as this breed isn't particularly active.
Indoor living is most suitable for the Persian cat. An ideal environment includes litter trays, scratching posts, perches, resting areas, and toys.
Staying indoors can help prevent your cat from getting diseases and parasites. But they should still be fully vaccinated. All cats, indoors and outdoors, need vaccinations to help prevent a variety of dangerous and potentially life-threatening diseases. Regular deworming and vet check-ups should also be a part of your cat’s care routine.
Health Problems to Watch for With Persian Cats
Well-bred Persian cats can be healthy and robust. But there are still some Persian cat health issues you should be aware of.
Polycystic kidney disease
Some studies suggest that polycystic kidney disease is more likely to occur in Persian cats. The likelihood can be as high as 50% in Persian cats in certain countries, including the U.K.
Polycystic kidney disease is a hereditary disease that causes tiny cysts inside the cat’s kidneys when they're born. The cysts grow and eventually destroy the kidney. Symptoms can include:
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- A weakened immune system
These symptoms usually start to show when the cat is around 7 years old. A vet can use special diagnostic equipment to check for this disease in Persian cats.
Polycystic kidney disease is incurable, but your vet can create a special care plan to treat your cat. This usually includes special diets and medication to help prolong the cat’s life. Cats with polycystic kidney disease may continue to live for years after diagnosis.
Genetic screening can help prevent polycystic kidney disease from happening in future generations of Persian cats.
Brachycephalic syndrome is a respiratory disease that affects cats with flat faces and short muzzles, such as Persians. Their facial structure can lead to obstructions in their airways, which makes it very difficult for them to breathe. Brachycephalic syndrome happens when the cat has developed a combination of malformed nostrils, a narrow windpipe, and an elongated soft palate. Symptoms usually include:
- Noisy breathing
- Exercise intolerance
- Fainting after activity, heat, or excitement
Symptoms can worsen over time as your cat grows. If left untreated, brachycephalic syndrome can shorten your Persian cat’s lifespan.
A vet can diagnose this condition by physically examining your pet. Treatment involves surgically altering the affected cat’s soft palate and nose. If treated early, your cat can go on to live a full healthy life without breathing issues. Older cats may have difficulty recovering from this condition, especially if symptoms have advanced.
Progressive retinal atrophy
Persian cat health issues can include problems with their eyes, such as progressive retinal atrophy. This condition is hereditary in Persian cats, but both parents must carry the gene. Progressive retinal atrophy is a feline eye disease that causes cells in the eye to break down. This eventually leads to poor vision or blindness. Symptoms include:
- Nervousness at night
- Avoiding dark rooms
- Clumsiness in the dark
- Abnormally dilated pupils
There is currently no cure for progressive retinal atrophy. In most cases, cats will completely lose their vision over 1 to 2 years. To avoid passing this condition on to future kittens, you should remove affected cats from breeding programs.
Special Considerations for Persian Cats
Persian cats are excellent family pets and are good with children and other pets. Because they enjoy company so much, you shouldn’t leave your Persian cat alone for long periods. Persian cats don’t cope well with isolation.
If you’re concerned about noisy meowing, the Persian cat might be the right breed for you. Persian cats are quiet and have a soft, pleasant meow.
Persian cat's eyes need more care than most cats. They have large eyes and long fur, so tear stains from watery eyes may be more common. The Cat Fanciers’ Association recommends that you wash your Persian cat’s face daily.
Although no cats are truly hypoallergenic, the Persian cat may be more likely to trigger allergies than short-haired or hairless cats. This is because airborne cat hair and dander are usually the cause of irritation for people with cat allergies. The Persian cat has long hair that sheds often, so they may be more likely to trigger allergic reactions.
History of the Persian Cat
The Persian cat’s history can be traced as far back as 1684 B.C. when they first made an appearance in ancient hieroglyphs. The breed would later go on to take their name from Persia, the former name of Iran, which many theories suggest is their place of origin.
The Persian cat made its way to Europe during the 1600s. Breeding programs involving other longhaired cats, such as the Turkish Angora, began to take place and continued over centuries. By the 1800s, breeders had begun to establish what you can now recognize as the modern Persian cat.
The Persian cat is an ancient breed but has had a lot of human involvement. Throughout history, breeders have bred Persian cats with other longhair cats to refine or achieve their desired characteristics. This included new color variations, such as point colors, by breeding Persian cats with Siamese cats. Flatter faces were also a result of selective breeding.
Persian cats have enjoyed popularity throughout history but saw a rise in popularity in the U.K. in the 1800s. This was when Queen Victoria and other members of royalty took a liking to the breed.
The Persian cat made their first appearance in the U.S. around the 1900s. The Cat Fancy also officially recognized the breed during this time.
Today, the Persian cat remains the most popular breed within the Cat Fanciers' Association.