Federation Internationale Feline World Cat Federation
The Persian is an old breed. To those who love this elegant cat, it will come as no surprise that the longhaired beauty originated in the cradle of civilization: Mesopotamia, which was later known as Persia and is now modern-day Iran. The breed’s long hair was probably the result of a natural mutation, and its striking appearance attracted the attention of 17th-century Italian nobleman and world traveler Pietro Della Valle, who is credited with bringing the first longhaired cats to Europe in 1626. At that time, the cats had shiny, silky gray fur, but thanks to selective breeding Persians are now found in a kaleidoscope of colors, including bi-color (a color plus white).
Until the late 19th century, when breeding and showing cats became popular, longhaired cats from Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan and other exotic locales were known simply as “Asiatic” cats and were often bred together. At the Crystal Palace cat show in 1871, Persian-type cats were among the breeds exhibited. They were popular pets of the time and had a special cachet because of Queen Victoria’s fondness for the breed. Even in the Victoria era, association with a “celebrity” ensured an animal’s desirability.
Through selective breeding, cat fanciers began to mold the Persian to its present-day appearance. They bred cats to have a round head, short face, snub nose, chubby cheeks, small, rounded ears, big eyes, and a sturdy body. Their fur was longer than that of the Angora cat, and they had shorter legs. Soon, the Persians surpassed the Angoras in popularity.
In the United States, where they were first imported in the late 19th century, they also became favorites, edging out the longhaired Maine Coon cat, which had once held pride of place as an American sweetheart. In the little more than a century since, the Persian has become the most beloved cat breed in the world, prized for its beautiful appearance and sweet personality.
The ideal Persian should present an impression of a heavily boned, well-balanced cat with a sweet expression and soft, round lines. The large round eyes set wide apart in a large round head contribute to the overall look and expression. The long thick coat softens the lines of the cat and accentuates the roundness in appearance.
Head: round and massive, with great breadth of skull. Round face with round underlying bone structure. Well set on a short, thick neck. Skull structure to be smooth and round to the touch and not unduly exaggerated from where the forehead begins at the top of the break to the back of the head, as well as across the breadth between the ears. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment.
Nose: short, snub, and broad, with “break” centered between the eyes.
Cheeks: full. Muzzle not overly pronounced, smoothing nicely into the cheeks.
Jaws: broad and powerful.
Chin: full, well-developed, and firmly rounded, reflecting a proper bite.
Ears: small, round tipped, tilted forward, and not unduly open at the base. Set far apart, and low on the head, fitting into (without distorting) the rounded contour of the head.
Eyes: brilliant in color, large, round, and full. Set level and far apart, giving a sweet expression to the face.
Body: of cobby type, low on the legs, broad and deep through the chest, equally massive across the shoulders and rump, with a wellrounded mid-section and level back. Good muscle tone with no evidence of obesity. Large or medium in size. Quality the determining consideration rather than size.
Legs: short, thick, and strong. Forelegs straight. Hind legs are straight when viewed from behind.
Paws: large, round, and firm. Toes carried close, five in front and four behind .
Tail: short, but in proportion to body length. Carried without a curve and at an angle lower than the back.
Coat: long and thick, standing off from the body. Of fine texture, glossy and full of life. Long all over the body, including the shoulders. The ruff immense and continuing in a deep frill between the front legs. Ear and toe tufts long. Brush very full.
Active and free.
Weight — up to 7 kg.
The dignified and docile Persian is known for being quiet and sweet. She is an ornament to any home where she can enjoy sitting in a lap—surely her rightful place—being petted by those who are discerning enough to recognize her superior qualities, and playing house with kind children who will gently comb her hair, wheel her around in a baby buggy, then serve her tea at their parties. Persians are affectionate but discriminating. They reserve their attention for family members and those few guests whom they feel they can trust.
Loud environments aren’t a Persian’s style; they are sedate cats who prefer a serene home where little changes from day to day. With large, expressive eyes and a voice that has been described as soft, pleasant and musical, Persians let their simple needs be known: regular meals, a little playtime with a catnip mouse or feather teaser, and lots of love, which they return tenfold. This is one cat who is unlikely to climb up your curtains, jump on your kitchen counters, or perch on top of your refrigerator. She is perfectly happy to rule her domain from the floor or more accessible pieces of furniture. When you are at work or are busy around the house, the Persian is content to adorn a chair, sofa or bed until you are free to admire her and give her the attention she willingly receives but never demands.
The most important thing to understand about caring for a Persian is the need for daily grooming. That long, beautiful coat doesn’t stay clean and tangle-free on its own. It must be gently but thoroughly combed and brushed every day, and regular bathing—at least once a month—is a good idea.
Another factor to consider is the litter box issue. Litter may become lodged in a Persian’s paws or coat. If the cat and the litter box aren’t kept scrupulously clean, a Persian is more likely than most to just stop using the box.
Excessive tearing can be a problem in this breed, so wipe the corners of the eyes clean daily to prevent under-eye stains from forming. Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing.
It’s a good idea to keep a Persian as an indoor-only cat. She’s not a scrapper and would fare poorly against other cats, dogs, coyotes and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors. Nor is the Persian’s coat made for shedding dirt, leaves and stickers. Letting a Persian outdoors just means that much more time spent grooming the cat. Persians who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Lifespan — 10-15 years.
Best with older children, good with other household pets, medium shedding, medium sociability with stranger.
Daily coat treatment.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Although they are beautiful and sweet, Persians are prone to a number of potential health problems, most commonly related to their facial structure:
Breathing difficulty or noisy breathing caused by constricted nostrils.
Dental malocclusions, meaning the teeth don’t mesh well together.
Eye conditions such as cherry eye and entropion.
Polycystic kidney disease, for which a genetic test is available.
Predisposition to ringworm, a fungal infection.
Seborrhea oleosa, a skin condition that causes itchiness, redness and hair loss.