Last updated: February 18, 2017
Glamorous, elegant and regal; the Persian cat is a popular choice for many people. With its fabulous coat and laid back personality, it is the ultimate lap cat. Yet this coat also takes work, the Persian is not the right choice for anyone who doesn’t wish to dedicate themselves to regular, daily grooming.
The Persians appearance reflects their kind, gentle nature. They are round cuddly cats that are compact in shape.
Large eyes are situated on a big, round face which aids their appealing expression. The nose should be short and in line with the forehead and chin. Small ears positioned far apart on the head keep in line with the round features.
Everything about the body is compact, with short stocky legs supporting a deep chest. The tail is also short and should be free of kinks. Of course, the defining characteristic of the Persian is its luxurious coat. It should be thick and long, yet the individual strands of hair should be fine. It should be long all over the body while the ear and toes display extra-long tuffs. The breed standard goes into greater depth on each of these features. The Persian is a medium sized breed, weighing between 7 and 12 pounds.
Just remember that although the Persians coat is glamorous, it also requires a lot of care. Do not get a Persian if you do not have the time or dedication to groom them daily. If they do not receive this level of care, the coat is prone to matts due to its fine texture. Special attention should be paid to the hard to reach areas such as the armpits and behind the ears. The ideal tool to use is a metal comb. Use a wide toothed comb to begin with, switching to a fine toothed comb once the initial knots have been teased out. If you are planning on showing your Persian, they may require the occasional bath to get them ready for the big day. The best thing to do is to speak to either your cat’s breeder or other exhibitors and seek advice on the best way you can prepare them.
Of course, the fact that the Persian is so popular means that it has also been bred in a wide range of colors. The classic white Persian is a favorite for many film and TV roles, yet this is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of colors available. Other solid colors include blacks, creams, reds, blues, chocolates, and lilacs. While the whites can have either copper, blue or green; the rest of the solid colors all have copper eyes.
Next up are the silver and golden Persians. The silver cats are all white, yet the end of each individual hair is tipped with black giving it the silver appearance. The golden has a similar patterning, yet both can also come in a shaded variety where the black tips are more extensive giving it a more patchy look.
The Persian also comes in smoke. Here the cat displays contrast in the coat color throughout its body, and it can come in a variety of colors such as blacks, blues but also chocolates and reds. Persians also come in the more traditional tabby, Himalayan, bicolor (white plus another color) and parti-colors, i.e. tortoiseshell. A more in-depth description of the colors available can be found here.
The Persian cat was selectively bred for many years to achieve its distinctive look.
Persians were first mentioned around 150 years ago in the mid-1800’s. Rich, privileged diplomats who had the ability to import animals acquired on their travels began bringing cats back from Persia in Iran. These docile, long haired cats captured the public’s imagination and became the foundation stock for the Persians we know and love today. However, there are rumors that these mysterious cats may have been imported into Italy as far back as 1620. Without accurate records, it is impossible to know the exact origin of the Persian cat.
Early domestic cats had shorter hair that came from their Asian wildcat ancestors and it is unclear as to where the long haired gene originated from. It may have occurred simply as a mutation, or from the introduction of the European wildcat which has a longer coat to cope with harsher climates. Either way, it is the longer coat that really made the Persian stand out from the crowd.
Over time these early imports were selectively bred together to produce the specific breed. Cat shows started appearing at the end of the 1800’s and the Persian proved a popular competitor. Over time, the breeds distinctive features of short ears, cobby cheeks and a short face have become more pronounced.
Persians were imported into America at the start of the 1900’s and quickly overtook the Maine Coon to become the most popular breed. While blue and silver Persians started off as the most popular colors, today the bicolor is the most widely seen on the show bench. All in all, the Persian is here to stay.
No breed is completely free of health problems and the Persian is no exception. There are a few problems that the Persian is more susceptible to and it pays to be aware of them to ensure that any kitten you purchase has been bred from healthy parents.
Persians can be prone to progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA. Here, the cells at the back of the eye which are responsible for light sensitivity gradually deteriorate over time. The cat will start to suffer from reduced vision, before eventually becoming completely blind. The disease is genetic and DNA screening is available for many breeds. In Persians however, a slightly different form of PRA occurs. It results in blindness at a much earlier age (initial symptoms at just a few weeks old, with total blindness by 15 weeks) and a genetic test is still being developed. Responsible breeders will have their cat’s health as their main concern however and will never breed from cats that have produced affected kittens.
Another problem that Persians can suffer from is polycystic kidney disease or PKD. This disease causes cysts to develop in the kidneys which increase in number. As they take over in the kidney tissue, kidney failure can develop. Again this disease is hereditary, yet this time there is a genetic test that can be performed. Many breeders maintain a PKD free stud and are happy to show prospective owners that the parents of their new kitten have the paperwork to prove they are PKD clear.
A final point to bear in mind with Persians is that their flat faces can leave them prone to additional health concerns. This is due to their flat, or brachycephalic faces restricting the space in their nostrils, making breathing more difficult. Always make sure their nostrils are free from nasal discharge to ensure they can breathe easily. Hot weather can also pose a problem as this together with their luxurious coat can make them more liable to overheating. If you can, keep your Persian inside in the cool during hot conditions. Air conditioning may be needed at very high temperatures. Their flat faces can also cause overcrowding of the teeth, there is simply not enough space in their mouth to accommodate them! Keep an eye out for dental disease (bad breath, trouble eating) as this overcrowding can increase the amount of plaque and tartar that accumulates.
Sweet and cuddly, the Persian cat is well known for being a quiet, docile breed. If you are after a lap cat, then a Persian may be the best choice for you! They enjoy being cuddled for hours on end, which is a useful trait in a breed that requires large amounts of grooming. Despite this, they are more affectionate with members of their own family and can be slightly reserved with strangers.
If you have young children you are loud and always on the go, then a Persian may not ideal. They enjoy a calm, relaxed household that they can oversee from a favorite piece of furniture. Although they will play with string or toys from time to time, they are less likely to be clambering up the curtains like the more excitable Bengal for example. For a person who wants to spend lots of quality time with their cat then Persians really do make a perfect choice. Even their meow is soft and dignified, being little more than a delicate squeak!
When buying a new Persian kitten they should have already been litter trained. They should be used to eating from a bowl (flat, wide bowls are easier for them due to their flat faces) and can be encouraged to come for dinner by feeding them at a regular time and calling their name.
It is important that your Persian cat gets used to being groomed. Even before the coat gets very long, spend a few minutes each day with them on your lap brushing the coat. Use a comb and brush them all over very gently, especially under the armpits. This way it becomes routine for them. Reward good behavior with a treat as encouragement. Look in their ears and at their teeth if you can too. This will make veterinary inspections easier in the future. If you wish to show your Persian, it is vital that they are used to being examined. More tips on training your Persian kitten can be found at this very useful training website.
Buying and Caring cost analysis
Persian cats are highly popular, they are most well-known cat breed in the world. While many dedicated breeders only produce kittens from healthy, friendly parents; unscrupulous breeders will churn out kittens without any thought of where they end up – they simply want to make money!
Always do your research when looking for a Persian as a pet. A good breeder will ask you as many questions as you ask them, they will want to ensure their cats go to good homes. Many breeders will have older cats available if you are not worried about having a kitten, breeding cats that have been neutered and now require homes where they can be pampered. Alternatively, Persians do end up in rescues from time to time and this is another option which can also be very rewarding.
Expect to pay between $300-$900 for a kitten. Show quality or kittens that can be bred from and have the progeny registered (some breeders place restrictions on this) will be at the higher end of the spectrum. Your kitten should be registered with a recognized cat club such as the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) or The International Cat Association (TICA). If your breeder does not register their kittens, ask yourself why? Although it is an additional cost, it is an assurance of pedigree. Many backyard breeders just in it for the money won’t bother. Ensure you get the relevant paperwork when you collect your kitten.
Kittens should be ready to leave for their new homes at between 12-13 weeks of age. They should have had their initial vaccinations, yet may require additional jabs if you would like them to go outside. Check with your veterinarian to see if they need any extras. In addition to potential extra jabs, first-year costs that need to be factored in include neutering if you are not planning on breeding from your Persian. Un-neutered male cats will spray urine to mark their territory; while female cats will call incessantly for mates when they are in season, plus are at risk from uterine infections such as pyometra. Always get them neutered if you are not going to breed. It can cost between $50 and $150, with females being more expensive due to the surgery being more complicated and invasive.
Maintenance costs are similar to most cat breeds. Persians, like all cats, do best on a good quality diet. Feed kittens a specialist food designed for their life stage to facilitate growth before moving onto an adult food once they mature. Low-quality cat foods contain large amounts of carbohydrates which have little nutritional value for your cat. Regular worming and flea treatments are another expense. Worming should be undertaken every three months if they go outside, or every six months if they are house cats as they will be less at risk. Flea treatment should be done monthly and spot on medication can be purchased either online or from your veterinarian. With both treatments, the amount you give depends on your cat’s weight. Budget around $150 a year for these. Occasional costs may include trips to the groomer if you are struggling with your Persians coat.
Finally, it is always worth having pet insurance for your Persian. This will give you peace of mind and cover you for unexpected vet bills. It pays to shop around and check the small print when choosing, look to see how much the excess is and whether your pet will be covered for the same amount when they become more senior. Ensure diseases are also covered for your pet’s lifetime and not just for the year they occur. This is important for long-term problems such as diabetes. Allow around $200 a year for insurance, although this can vary between providers.