The Persian has a stocky body and flat-faced appearance. It is also characterised by a very long coat with a very thick undercoat which requires a huge commitment in terms of owner grooming – the cat cannot keep this matt-free on its own. It comes in a variety of colours.
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Health and welfare issues
The Persian Longhair requires daily grooming to keep its long and thick coat free from matts and knots. Failure to keep the coat tangle-free can lead to the cat having to be clipped all over and the coat allowed to regrow. Attention must also be paid to the eyes and bottom. These areas need to be cleaned daily to avoid staining. Persian’s eyes tend to run and the corner of the eye and side of the nose will need regular cleaning. The bottom area and underside of the tail is prone to becoming caked with faeces and care needs to be taken to keep this area scrupulously clean to avoid staining and uncomfortable lumps. Regular grooming is necessary to help remove fur so it is not ingested by the cat as hairballs can be a problem for Persians.
Persians can carry a gene that leads to kidney failure (called autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease) through the development of cysts in the kidney. This condition was found in more than a third of all Persian and Exotic shorthaired cats in the 1990s when screening tests became available. Using screening, breeders are now working to try to eradicate the problem – always ask the breeder to show the PKD certificates for the cats used to produce your kitten.
Persians may also have an increased incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the walls of the heart).
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is also present in the breed and hip dysplasia is seen more commonly than in many other breeds. Alpha-mannosidosis, a rare inherited lysosomal storage disease has also been seen in Persians.
Health and welfare of cats with flattened faces (severe brachycephalia)
Cats that have been bred with extremely short, flat faces (called brachycephalic – click here for more information) undergo substantial and significant changes to the shape of the whole skull and the associated structures. There will be jaw deformities, which can lead to dental disease and potential problems with eating and drinking, they will usually have small nostrils and a soft palate which is too long, which can lead to severe breathing problems and the tear ducts cannot follow their natural path and drain properly into the nose, so the eyes run constantly and cause tear-staining on the face and sometimes secondary sores. The flat nature of the face also increases the chances of eye disease, and the jaw abnormalities will make grooming much more difficult.
The multiple problems that arise from breeding flat-faced cats mean that we are definitely harming the cat by choosing to breed them in this way, and International Cat Care believes breed standards should be changed so that no cat should suffer as a result of conforming to human-imposed ideals.
We have limited the information about inherited disorders to those conditions that are known and proven to exist within a breed. For many breeders and many conditions, insufficient information may be available at this time to know whether any particular breed is necessarily free of any particular condition.
In general, pedigree breeds use a much smaller gene pool for breeding than domestic cats and therefore have a higher risk of developing inherited disorders. In addition, a number of ‘newer’ pedigree breeds are derived from matings between one or more ‘older’ breeds, and in these situations perpetuation of inherited problems that were seen in older breeds is likely within the newer breeds.