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Persian cats are one of the most popular cat breeds in North America, whose roots date back centuries to ancient Persia and Turkey. Their long, luxurious coats and flat, open faces make these cats unique in comparison to other breeds and their mild temperament make them great household companions.
Persian cats typically thrive indoors, especially because they are less likely than other breeds to defend themselves in an altercation with another animal. Their long coats are not ideal for outdoor dwelling, as debris and dirt can easily get caught in the hair. Over the years, selective breeding has created a more flat-faced look, but there have also been efforts to reduce this in order to preserve the original features of Persian cats.
This breed of cat is sociable, friendly, and fairly docile, but requires high maintenance in terms of grooming. They are also at risk of certain diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease. These cats tend to prefer running and chasing rather than jumping and climbing. Their longer fur and stockier build likely plays a role in this characteristic. Generally, Persian cats love to relax and lounge around, with some delightful bursts of energy now and again. They often make ideal family pets, because they get along well with humans and love to snuggle. Read on to find out more about this cute and cuddly breed!
- History & Origin of Persian Cats
- Physical Attributes of Persian Cats
- Behavioral Characteristics
- Caring for a Persian Cat
- Final Notes
History & Origin of Persian Cats
Domestic cats have been human companions for centuries, although citizens of the Western world only started keeping cats as pets in the 18th century. Researchers have concluded that the modern domesticated cat likely came from the general regions of the Mediterranean and northern Africa, with Asian cats having developed in a more isolated way.¹
The Persian cat breed is believed to have been developed from other long-haired breeds in Persia (modern-day Iran), Myanmar, China, and Russia. It is not entirely clear how or when they were brought to Europe and the United States; one theory states that they came over with crusaders from Iran in the 14th century, while another theory says that they arrived in Europe with sailors a couple centuries later.
By the Victorian era in Europe, Persian cats were gaining popularity and even Queen Victoria had them by her side. They also featured in the first official cat show at London’s Crystal Palace in 1871. The organizer of the show, Harrison Weir, published a book called Our Cats and All About Them (1899), which included detailed drawings of various cat breeds, as well as certain Standard Points of Excellence for the ideal cat of each breed type, some of which are still used today. Persian cats were soon imported to the U.S. where they became an instant favorite, particularly in the American cat show and cat club scene.2
Most Persian cats did come from Persia, but some also came from Turkey.² Europeans and Americans began breeding different types of imported long-haired cats together, due to the rise in popularity of this kind of cat. The Persian cat we know today was mostly a result of breeding original Angora cats with the 18th-century Persisan cat.3
Physical Attributes of Persian Cats
Persian cats come in a large variety of hues. Generally, these colors can be categorized as solid, silver and golden, smoke and shaded, tabby, particolor, bicolor, and Himalayan.⁴
Solid-colored Persian cats are sometimes referred to as Blues, because they often have pale gray or silver-blue coats. However, they also come in blacks or browns. The silver and golden colored Persians are further divided into chinchilla and shaded silvers/goldens. Chinchilla refer to stark white Persians, while the shaded variety has subtle black specks scattered throughout the coat. Golden Persians are either chinchilla or shaded. The smoke and shaded variety also have a pale base coat, but with darker shades mixed in. Their fur usually includes some blend of black, blue, cream, cameo (red), tortoiseshell, or blue-cream.⁴
Tabby Persians come in three types of patterns: classic, mackerel, and patched, which sometimes include some specks of red. The particolored type has a dark base coat (usually black) with lighter colors wove in; typically blue-cream or solid blue. Bicolor Persians are again a pale-coated type, sub-divided into calicos and dilute calicos. The former have pure white coats with splashes of bright orange or black, while the latter have splashes of brown, red, or lilac-cream. Finally, Himalayan-coated Persians have white fur with darker patches on the face.⁴ This gives them the look of a facial mask, much like racoons or German Shepherd dogs.
Persian cats are known for their somewhat flat faces with large, expressive eyes. Unlike classic short-haired domestic breeds, Persians have long, silky fur with a dense undercoat, which is what makes them appear so fluffy. However, this type of fur requires careful maintenance and is ill-suited to the outdoors. With short legs and heavily-boned bodies, these cats will rarely jump or climb, preferring running and chasing instead. They weigh between 8 and 12 pounds, at 10-15 inches tall, with a lifespan of about 12-15 years.⁵
The Persian cat is often a sweet and gentle breed that enjoys lounging and cuddling with humans. They don’t need as much playtime or stimulation as some other domestic cat breeds, and will generally fit into any household.
They love attention, but are unlikely to bond with every person they meet. Rather, they will warm up to their owner or members of their household. With quiet, melodious voices and a laid-back manner, Persians make wonderful pets, especially for families with small children.
You won’t need to worry about them jumping up on furniture or knocking things over from high places, as these cats tend to prefer having their feet firmly on the ground. They will enjoy chasing a laser pointer or bounding after a cat toy, but are also just as likely to wrap themselves around the armrest of a couch or chair.⁵
Once they are comfortable in an environment, they won’t mind being left alone, but as they are social cats, they will also love seeing you when you come home. If your Persian is content, you can expect lots of cuddles. They are likely to curl up in your lap often and have been reported to be less playful than other breeds.⁷
Caring for a Persian Cat
As with most long-haired animals, Persian cats need to be groomed regularly to help prevent matting. Also, they should not be left outside, as this increases the risk of dirt and debris getting into their fur and causing health issues.
Ideally, you should be combing your Persian every day using a metal comb. This will decrease the likelihood of hairballs and tangles. They will need a bath every so often. It’s recommended to establish a bath routine from an early age, as they will need baths more frequently as they grow up. Persians tend to enjoy bath time if they are used to it, so this should be a fairly easy part of their regular care.⁵
Like all cats, Persians need an outlet for scratching, as well as the occasional nail trimming. Their brachycephalic face shape results in a high amount of tear production to flush out dust and dirt. You should regularly wipe their eyes to prevent excessive buildup and eye problems.
Persian cats are predisposed to certain health conditions, including polycystic kidney disease (a genetic condition in this breed), eye problems like cherry eye that affects the eyelid, upper respiratory infections, stomach trouble, breathing problems (due to the shape of their skull), and cancer. They are also prone to dental disorders, so it’s important to brush their teeth from time to time.⁶
Due to their predisposition to kidney disease, it is recommended to feed your Persian cat a type of cat food that promotes healthy kidney function. Any food you give to your cat should contain all necessary vitamins and minerals, and should be tasty to your cat. Protein is also essential. You can always consult a vet if you are unsure about what kind of food to give your Persian cat.
Is a Persian cat a good pet?
Persian cats make wonderful pets. They are gentle, calm, and love attention. They also prefer to stay on the ground, so they’re unlikely to knock things over or jump up on the dinner table. Persians get along well with humans, which means they are a great choice for families with other pets or children.
Why are Persian cats so special?
Persians prefer curling up on their owner’s lap rather than jumping or climbing. Their affectionate, docile nature and long, beautiful coats make them a popular pet.
Can Persian cats be left alone?
Generally, yes. Persian cats are quite content on their own, but as with any pet, you shouldn’t leave them alone for too long. If you are planning on leaving your cat at home while you’re away on a trip or a long day out, consider hiring a pet sitter to check in on your cat or stay with them.
If you’re looking for a social, cuddly companion, a Persian cat might be right for you. These sweet-tempered cats have a long, proud history that dates back to at least the 1700s, but likely even earlier. They don’t require a lot of playtime, but should be brushed and bathed regularly to maintain their long, silky coats. Persians do best indoors and generally like human attention. Their round faces and large eyes make them appear cute and friendly, which has contributed to their consistent popularity over the years. They will acclimate to almost any household and often have no issues with other pets or children.
Persian cats are predisposed to certain genetic diseases, particularly kidney failure and eye problems. Additionally, they have been bred to have slightly flat faces and small, round skulls, which can sometimes result in breathing issues. Make sure to take your cat to annual veterinary check-ups and contact your vet if you notice anything odd. With regular care and a happy home, a Persian cat can be a wonderful, snuggly companion for you and your family.
If you want to find out more about this unique breed, go to Dutch.com to speak with one of our licensed vets in an online consultation. They will be happy to advise you in your search for a cat and are always available to answer any questions.
Science Reference Section, Library of Congress. “How Did Cats Become Domesticated?” The Library of Congress, Congress.gov, 19 Nov. 2019, https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/zoology/item/how-did-cats-become-domesticated/#:~:text=Domesticated%20cats%20all%20come%20from,Egypt%20in%20the%20Classical%20period.
Sadler, Anna. “Persian History, Part 1.” CFA Persian Breed Council, https://www.persianbc.org/history1.php.
Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. “CAT II. Persian Cat.” Iranica Online, Encyclopedia Iranica Foundation, 20 July 2005, https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/cat-ii-persian-cat.
“About the Persian.” The Cat Fanciers Association Inc, https://cfa.org/persian/.
“Persian Profile.” The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, Royal Veterinary College, The Kennel Club, Canine & Feline Sector Group, 8 Nov. 2022, https://www.gccfcats.org/getting-a-cat/choosing/cat-breeds/persian/.
“Persian Cats at High Risk of Health Problems, Study Shows.” Edited by Ploy Radford and Jasmin De Vivo, Vet Compass, Royal Veterinary College (RVC), 17 Sept. 2019, https://www.rvc.ac.uk/vetcompass/news/persian-cats-at-high-risk-of-health-problems-study-shows.
Wilhelmy, Jacqueline, et al. "Behavioral associations with breed, coat type, and eye color in single-breed cats." Journal of Veterinary Behavior 13 (2016): 80-87.