Persian Cats: What Prospective Adopters Need to Know

Persian Cat
Persian Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

Are you thinking about adopting a Persian cat or kitten? Read this first to determine whether or not a Persian is the right breed for you.

As the world’s most popular cat breed, the Persian attracts the attention of many potential adopters. However, Persians require more maintenance than most other cats. Many people adopt Persians without first learning about their care requirements and health issues. As a result, Persians are often surrendered to shelters with horribly matted fur and health problems.

Persian Cat Personality and Temperament

Well socialized Persians are typically sweet, gentle, and undemanding. These easy going, tolerant, affectionate cats fit in well with most households and tend to be good with other pets and children.

Persians are sturdy, solid cats, and although they are often quite playful, they are not among the most active or talkative breeds. Those who want a more active cat would be better off with a Siamese.

Persian Cat
Persian Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

Persian cats are not usually aggressive and are likely to lose in confrontations with other animals. Also, their long, fluffy coats can pick up debris and toxic substances. For these reasons, Persian cats should live indoors only.

Persian Cat Grooming and Special Care Requirements

The Persian’s long, flowing coat is its most appealing feature, but also the one that creates a lot of work its owner. These cats should be groomed daily with a large-toothed metal comb to prevent tangles. Small mats can be removed by holding the fur close to the skin and working from the area furthest from the skin inwards to avoid hurting the cat. Using a de-shedding tool from time to time is also a good idea.

Occasional bathing is also necessary. Use only shampoos specifically formulated for cats (most products made for humans are toxic to cats). Trimming the fur near the cat’s anus to prevent feces from sticking is also recommended.

Because the Persian has a flat face and atypical tear ducts, the eyes tend to water, and daily face washing is required to deal with tear staining (there are sterile saline products available for this). If the eye area is not cleaned each day, the cat could suffer an infection, so this procedure is important.

Ear cleaning is only required if a waxy buildup develops. Owners who need to do this should speak to a veterinarian for advice on how to conduct the procedure safely.

Most veterinarians recommend regular tooth brushing for cats because bacteria associated with tooth decay can migrate to vital organs, leading to kidney disease and other health problems that will shorten the cat’s life. Be sure to use toothpaste formulated for cats (toothpastes made for humans are toxic to pets). Cat-sized toothbrushes are available at most pet supply stores. Daily brushing is ideal, but not always manageable. There are dental treats available that can be used to supplement less frequent tooth brushing.

Persian Cat
Persian Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

Regular grooming routines should be established when Persians are young so that they will be comfortable with handling, combing, and washing as adults. Owners need to spend approximately 20 minutes per day on grooming.

Don’t adopt a Persian cat unless you are willing and able to groom it every day (and have someone who can do this when you are away or ill). Persians that are not groomed regularly can suffer from severe hairball issues, ranging from sporadic vomiting to life-threatening health problems. Tangled backside fur can block defecation, leading to a life-threatening obstruction, and fur mats can cause skin problems as well. Cats have been badly injured when their owners attempted to cut mats from their fur using scissors. When a Persian’s fur has become badly matted, it must be shaved by a veterinarian or professional groomer.

If you like the Persian face and body type but aren’t able to do the required grooming, you may be interested in the Exotic Shorthair, otherwise known as the Lazy Man’s Persian. This breed has the Persian face, body type, and temperament, but its fur is short.

Persian Cat Health Issues

White Persian Cat
Persian Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

With responsible breeding and good veterinary care, Persians often live 15 years and some even make it past the 20-year mark. However, in addition to health problems associated with insufficient grooming, Persians are at heightened risk for a number of inherited diseases.

PKD (polycystic kidney disease), which leads to kidney failure, afflicts one-third to one-half of all Persian cats (Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 2011). Fortunately, genetic screening by responsible breeders has been decreasing the incidence of this disease.

Conscientious breeders test for genetic diseases and keep them out of the breeding pool. This is why it’s important to adopt from a professional breeder with a good reputation. Disreputable backyard breeders don’t screen for inherited health problems that can afflict Persians such as PKD; HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy); PRA (progressive retinal atrophy); and the tendency to develop cystitis, bladder stones, breathing problems, or liver shunts.

Many inherited illnesses are maintained in Persian gene pools by bad breeding practices. Veterinarian Marty Becker (2012) notes that there are a number of red flags indicating a bad breeder:

    • There are always kittens available (reputable breeders often maintain waiting lists)
    • There are multiple litters at the same location
    • The breeder accepts online credit card payments

To find reputable breeders, do some research and ask for recommendations from veterinarians and cat associations.

A trend toward breeding for flatter, more extreme faces has increased the incidence of health issues in Persians such as upper respiratory problems, malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth), birth difficulties, and excessively weepy eyes. The less extreme doll-faced Persian type is not as prone to these health issues.

Persians tend to be heat-sensitive, and should not be subjected to overly hot environments. They are also prone to obesity, so a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is recommended.

Where to Adopt Persian Kittens and Cats

Persian kittens are usually available for adoption when they are 12 to 16 weeks old. The cost of purebred Persian kittens varies based on a number of factors, including bloodlines and markings. Reputable breeders usually charge around $1,500 to $3,000, with champion and show quality cats at the higher end of the price spectrum.

There are many organizations devoted to rescuing and rehoming Persian cats. If you’d like to adopt an adult Persian from a rescue organization, see the Petfinder Persian cat page or speak to local veterinarians and search online for Persian cat rescues to find nearby Persians in need of loving homes.

For more cat breed articles, visit the main Cat Breeds page. For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.

References:

    • Becker, M., Dr., “Persian,” VetStreet.com, 2012.
    • Fanciers Breeder Referral List, “Persian,” Breedlist.com, 2012.
    • McPhee, J., The Cat Fanciers’ Association, “Persian Breed Profile,” CFA.org, 4 July 2010.
    • Persian and Himalayan Cat Rescue, “Frequent Questions,” PersianCats.org, 2009.
    • Persian Cat Guide, “Frequently Asked Questions About Persians” and “Persian Cat Care,” PersianCatGuide.com, 2012.
    • Petfinder.com, “Persian Cat,” 2012.
    • Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, “Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals: Polycystic Kidney Disease,” UFAW.org.uk, 2011.

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