The most popular cat on the planet, the Persian, is a hairstylist’s dream – or nightmare – depending upon your enthusiasm for fussing with a cat’s locks. Undeniably beautiful, elegant and regal, the Persian is ideal if you want a cat that’s sweet, devoted, docile, affectionate and laid-back.
History and Origin of Persian Cats
Persians were prominently featured in 1871 at the first modern cat show held at London’s Crystal Palace. By the early 1900s, the Persian had become overwhelmingly popular in the United Kingdom. Persians have been around for much longer than that, however. The ancestors of the modern Persian were first introduced by Roman and Phoenician caravans from the province of Khorazan in Persia (now Iran) to Europe. Later caravans traveling from Persia and Turkey reintroduced the longhaired cats to Europe in the mid to late 1500s. These cats would later become the Angora and Persian breeds.
Persians were imported to North America in the late 1800s, where they quickly took their place as top cat. Over the years, American breeders have bred for a more extreme facial type, longer fur, shorter ears, and a boxy design. More than 100 years of selected breeding evolved the Persian into the breed we know today.
Persian Cat’s Appearance
The Persian’s most celebrated feature is her full, plush, long fur. Thick, glossy, and full of life, it stands off from the body, giving the Persian the impression of roundness and size. It also comes in virtually every possible color and pattern.
Under all that fur there’s a cat, however. Solid, heavily boned, broad through the chest, low on the legs, the Persian is, in fact, built like a small furry brick house. The ideal Persian is a substantial cat with an overall impression of roundness, a body style known as cobby.
There are two distinct facial types – the extreme and the traditional. In both types, the Persian has small, rounded ears set low on the head, wide, round eyes, full cheeks and a full well-developed chin. What sets the two types apart is the fact that the extreme has a more snub-nosed look. The face is very flat and the nose is short and snub with a “break” centered between the eyes. The nose is nearly as high as the eyes.
The traditional Persian’s face is not as flattened. The nose is lower on the face and has only a slight break. The up-curving mouth helps give the sweet expression prized by Persian fanciers. Although the extreme is the type you’ll see winning ribbons at shows, the traditional has many fans.
Personality of a Persian
Persians are known as the couch potatoes of the cat world. They are perfect companions if you like trusting, gentle, sweet-tempered cats that would rather lounge by your side than sprint around the room. Don’t count on using your Persian as a furry paperweight, however. They enjoy short periods of play between long periods of regal resting.
Persians crave affection and human interaction. They become devoted companions if given the proper love and attention. They love to be petted and cuddled, but won’t demand attention the way some breeds will. Sweet, gentle, and responsive to your moods, Persians have soft, pleasant voices they rarely use. Persians often have soothing influences on their human companions.
Grooming a Persian
Those exquisitely coiffed locks of show Persians are produced by long hours of grooming. If you neglect a Persian’s grooming, you’ll end up with a tangled, matted, miserable cat that needs to be professionally shaved to remove the tight, painful mats. Not only is a Persian’s fur longer than any other breed’s (up to 8 inches in length), they also have a long, full undercoat. The undercoat, made up of fine down and awn hairs, is almost as long as the outercoat, made up of stiff, protective guard hairs. This gives the Persian her plush look, but that baby-soft down hair mats easily.
A 10 – to 15-minute grooming session each day and a thorough one-hour grooming session once a week is recommended. Additional grooming may be necessary during the shedding months – spring when they shed their longer, heavier winter coats, and fall when they shed their summer coats.
Bathing is also often needed to remove oil buildup. Some breeders recommend a bath every two weeks, although some Persians can go longer. Daily face washing is necessary if tear staining is a problem, which it often is.
Some Persian fanciers keep at least part of the coat clipped, particularly the hindquarters and around the anus to avoid accumulation of feces. This should be done, though, only if the cat will not be shown.
Because of the long coat and docile temperament, it’s particularly important to keep Persians indoors. The long coat sweeps up debris and easily snags on bushes, trees and fences, creating safety hazards. Also, their trusting nature, popularity and value can make them targets for pet thieves, a growing concern.
Reported health concerns include breathing difficulties, eye tearing, malocclusions, and birthing difficulties due to the head size and the foreshortened face. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a disease that can cause kidney failure, is also known to exist in some Persian lines. Ask the breeder if the cats have been screened for PKD before agreeing to buy.