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One of, if not the most popular breed, the Persian is one of the oldest known breeds of cat. The early history isn't entirely known although it is generally accepted that the early cats came from Persia (now Iran) and Turkey. Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle (1586 - 1652) is credited with bringing the first Persian cats back to Europe, arriving in his homeland of Italy in 1620 with them.
By the 1800's the Persian had become a popular breed in Europe and the first Persians arrived in America in the late 1800's. In the Harpers Weekly supplement dated January 27, 1872, there is an illustration of several feline exhibits from the London Crystal Palace show, including a Persian cat.
Early drawings (see above) and photographs of the Persian show quite a different cat to the Persians of today, as you can see in the picture below.
The Persian is a heavy boned, cobby type with short, thick legs with large paws. Persians are well muscled and medium to large in size. They have a short, thick neck, large shoulders and a broad chest. It has a short tail which is in proportion to the body.
It has a large, broad head with large, round, expressive eyes set wide apart, small round tipped tufted ears which are set low on the head and wide apart. The nose is short, with a stop (or break) centred between the cat's eyes. The overall expression is sweet and sometimes described as "pansy like".
Some breeders are focusing on breeding Persians who resemble those from the past with less extreme features. These are known as Traditional, Doll Face or Old Style Persians.
Persian cats have a sweet and gentle nature. Typically they have a laid back personality who are affectionate and enjoy the company of their carers. If you are out of the house for long periods of time, consider getting two cats so they have company.
Persians are a quiet cat, easy going and generally get along with other pets and family members although boisterous children should be avoided. They are well behaved and don't generally get up to any mischief. They are a quiet and calm cat but have a playful side also.
Persians are suited to an indoor life, they don't tolerate noise as well as other breeds. Like most cats, they prefer routine and don't like change.
Persian cats come in a multitude of colours, including solids, smokes, tabby, bicolour and van. Some colours have been given their own breed name.
Colours are divided into groups and include:
Solid - White, black, blue, red, cream, lilac.
Shaded and smoke - Black, blue, cream, red, tortoiseshell.
Silver and gold (known as Chinchillas).
Tabby - Classic or mackerel pattern which can come in brown, blue, cream, lilac, cameo, blue silver, silver, brown patched, silver patched.
Himalayan (known as Himalayan) - Seal, Blue, chocolate, lilac, red, cream, tortie, seal lynx (tabby), blue lynx (tabby), chocolate lynx (tabby), lilac lynx (tabby),
Bi-colour - Calicos, bi-colours, tabby and white, smoke and white patterns.
Parti-colour - Tortoiseshell pattern in blue-cream, chocolate, lilac-cream.
This list is by no means complete and permitted colours may vary from council to council.
Persians require daily grooming to avoid knots and mats in their coat. This will only take a few minutes per day. Most cats don't need a regular bath, and that includes Persians, but if you do want to give him one, please read our article on how to give a cat a bath.
Some Persians are prone to watery eyes, these can be gently wiped clean.
Due to their flat faces and heavy coats, some Persians may have problems during hot weather and they are best keep indoors.
Persian cats are a brachycephalic breed, which means they have a short, flat face, this can lead to problems such as excessive tearing, dental problems, eye ulcers and breathing difficulties.
Do your homework when selecting a Persian cat. Some health conditions known to the breed include:
Epiphora - Tears which run onto the face.
Ringworm - Persians may be more predisposed to infection.
Entropion - Turning in of the eyelid which can result in corneal ulcers.
Malocclusion of the jaw.
When choosing a Persian cat, ask your breeder if he comes with a health guarantee. Ensure that the breeder screens her cats for polycystic kidney disease (PKD).
With their gentle and laid back temperament, the Persian is suited to almost any family, although families with young children should seek advice from Persian breeders before proceeding. I always recommend that families looking to purchase a cat to live with young children should find a breeder who has raised her cats in a family environment so they are used to being around children and the noise that comes with that.
Persian cats will require daily grooming so it is important that the family has time to ensure this is done to avoid knots and mats. If the coat does become knotted/matted then a professional will be required to fix the problem. Not only is an unkempt coat untidy but it is also extremely uncomfortable for the cat. So it really cannot be emphasised enough that proper attention is paid to the coat. If done daily, it will only require 10-15 minutes of your time.
There is also a shorthaired 'version' of the Persian, known as the Exotic.
Special thanks to Valerie for her Persian photo.