The Persian cat consistently ranks as one of the most popular breeds of cat across the US and a number of other countries. With the chubby cheeks and cute short face, theirs is a memorable look and added to that the thick coat, Persians are unmistakable. Unfortunately, generations of breeding to achieve these and other particular looks has led the Persian to have more than the usual amount of health problems and this is something a potential cat owner should understand before adopting one. Here is a look at some of the main ones.
About the Persian
Persians have been known as a domestic cat breed since Victorian times and have always been popular. There are currently two types of Persian; traditional and show. The show Persian has a ruff around its head, small ears, a flat nose and big rounded eyes. It is sometimes referred to as the Peke-faced type of Persian and has a heavily boned but short body. The traditional Persian, or doll faced, has less extreme features with a normal length nose. Both types comes in a variety of coat colors and patterns and have the same gentle and loving personality.
The first thing any potential owner should know about the Persian is that this breed needs daily grooming to maintain its coat and health. Most breeders recommend a daily comb to get rid of mats and tangles in the fur and also to remove loose hair, which benefits the cat and also means less is shed all over the house. The color of the coat of a Persian can affect the type of fur it has varying from silky and shiny to soft and cottonlike. The latter tangles easier than the former and takes more time to groom properly.
In addition to the daily grooming, Persians should be bathed every week. This needs to start from the youngest age possible to avoid terror and fear and to teach them that bathing is a good thing and something you can do together. Some people blow dry their coat on the very lowest setting to avoid burning the skin and comb as you go.
Both types of Persians have a tendency towards weepy eyes. To prevent staining of the fur and discomfort, each day their eye area should be carefully bathed.
There is nothing to say that any cat will or will not get a certain health condition though some breeds are more predisposed towards some conditions than others are. Always use a breeder who knows their cats and their genetic background but anyone that offers a 100% guarantee of health is not being honest.
The main health conditions that Persians are predisposed towards are:
• Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
• Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
• Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
• Bladder stones
• Cystitis (bladder infections)
• Liver shunts
PKD is a hereditary condition that causes cysts to form in the kidneys and eventually leads to dysfunction of the organ. It can affect one or both of the kidneys and symptoms start to manifest at an age of 7-10 years, though it can appear earlier. There are tests to see if a cat is predisposed to the condition and many breeders are taking this to then remove the genetics from the breeding program with the long-term aim of removing the predisposition entirely.
PRA is also hereditary in Persians but manifests early in life, at around 4-8 weeks of age and rapidly progresses to complete blindness by the age of 15 weeks. Studies are currently underway to get more information about the condition.
HCM is the heart disease common to all types of cats where the thickening of the left heart chamber causes problems and sometimes leads to death. It generally affects male cats and from middle to older age. Tests need to be done regularly to check for it, as there is no genetic trait to show for it.
As well as genetic conditions, the peke faced type of Persian can often be prone to breathing difficulties due to the shape of their face and nose.
If your cat has a hidden genetic problem, then there is little you can do about it until it manifests but the majority of Persians live a full and healthy life. They are susceptible to heat due to their heavy coat and should be monitored for overheating as well as associated breathing problems. This means they should not be transported in the cargo bay of a plane, as the chance of respiratory distress is strong and can even lead to death in extreme conditions.
Finally, the best way to help your cat is to watch them and learn their personality and behavior. This will mean that if something is wrong, you have the best possible chance of spotting it quickly and getting them to your vet. Remember, animals instinctively hide illness so you need to be part detective and part cat psychologist to figure out problems before they worsen.
As a general rule, Persians are healthy cats with a laid back and loving personality. They make excellent pets and are very interactive and affectionate with their owners. Always remember that any pet is a commitment and with their grooming needs, a Persian is more so than other breeds. But they repay that attention with years of love and companionship.