Persian Cat: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Persian cat laying down

jamiesmit / Twenty20

The dignified Persian feline breed is characterized by its long coat and sweet temperament, though Persians tend to limit their affections to just those humans they are closest to. Among purebred cats, Persians are revered for their glamorous good looks and calm demeanor.

Although the exact history of the Asiatic breed is murky, the breed has become one of the most popular among purebred cat lovers in North America, both for showing purposes and for their tendency to be calm and loving pets. Persians are natural cuddlers and lap cats with relatively undemanding personalities—together, these traits have perpetuated their popularity and made them a mainstay of the show circuit and the home.

Breed Overview

Weight: 7 to 12 pounds

Length: About 14 to 18 inches

Coat: Long

Coat Color: Solid (white, black, cream, etc.), tabby, calico, bi-color, silver and gold, shaded and smoke, and Himalayan

Eye Color: Blue, green, blue-green, hazel, copper

Life Expectancy: 10 to 17 years

Characteristics of the Persian Cat

Affection Level Medium-High
Friendliness Medium-Low
Kid-Friendly Low
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness Low
Energy Level Low
Intelligence Low
Tendency to Vocalize Medium-Low
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Persian Cat

Surprisingly little is known about the history of the Persian cat, despite its presence among humans since the 1600s. Persians are thought to have originated in Persia, (now modern-day Iran) and Turkey. The breed moved westward to Europe with the Crusades.

They became popular among the nobility, including Queen Victoria of England. The breed had elegant long hair—a position they shared with other long-haired cats of the region, a group referred to at the time as Asiatic cats. Persians were originally called Angoras, named for Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

The popularity of Persian cats was further bolstered when the cat show circuit started to gain steam in the late 19th century. It was during this time that they were brought over to the United States, where they quickly surpassed the Maine Coon cat as America’s preferred long-haired cat breed.

Features of show-worthy Persian cats include round heads, stubby noses, rounded ears, and short bodies. Traditional Persians, sometimes referred to as "doll faces," have a more prominent nose, though they share many of the other physical and temperamental qualities of their pedigreed counterparts.

Persians are the most registered cat breed by the Cat Fanciers Association and a frequent Best in Show winner. Their celebrated snub noses and chubby cheeks have been selectively bred and exaggerated in the years since the breed gained such widespread human appreciation, though you can still find evidence of Persian’s ancient features in traditional, non-show focused members of the breed.

Persian Cat Care

Because of their long coats, it should come as no surprise that Persian cats require a good deal of regular grooming. Without it, Persians’ coats can quickly become tangled and matted, which can be painful. It is recommended that Persians be brushed once a day and receive monthly baths to help them maintain their shine and softness.

Eyes should also be wiped daily to prevent stains from excessive watering. As with all cats, regular dental hygiene should be observed in the form of daily or weekly teeth brushing. Regular nail trims are also required.

Generally, Persians are considered to be high maintenance pets when it comes to their grooming care. Because their coats don’t naturally shed dirt and other debris, it’s up to their human caregivers to help ensure that they stay soft and clean and to keep them indoors. Persians prefer to be kept in tidy environments, so it’s also important to clean their litter box daily.

Persians are not the most energetic or playful of cat breeds. A Persian would much rather find a nice warm spot to relax. It can sometimes get an unusual burst of energy, but that is usually followed by a long catnap with relatively no activity.

This breed is a slower learner and not considered a very trainable cat. It would prefer to watch than participate in activities.

Common Health Problems

Like all purebred cats, Persians are prone to a number of health issues that are perpetuated by selective breeding tendencies. A lot of these problems are directly related to the preferred facial structure of pedigreed Persians, though they also may present with genetic health problems unrelated to their physical features. It’s important to keep a close eye on Persians so that any concerning health issues are caught and treated early.

While responsible breeders do take steps to mitigate the spread of common health problems among their litters, no breeder can say with certainty that their cats are completely free of illness or the potential for illness. Common health problems to look out for among Persian cats include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic illness affecting one or both kidneys that generally starts showing signs when the cat is around 7 to 10 years old
  • Breathing difficulties and respiratory distress caused by their snub noses
  • Eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy, eyelid protrusions (cherry eye), and folding inward eyelids (entropion)
  • Excessive eye watering
  • Bladder stones and bladder infections
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the muscular walls of the heart
  • Liver shunts, a disorder affecting blood flow to the liver, which can cause a runty appearance, bladder stones, and anemia
  • Heat sensitivity

Diet and Nutrition

Persian cats do have a tendency to be picky eaters, but they will eat well once they find something they like. Their food should be high in protein and fiber and low in fat and can be wet, dry, raw, or a mixture of two or more types.

Since Persian cats are not particularly energetic, be careful not to overfeed them as their inactivity may lead to weight gain and obesity. Feed set amounts twice a day instead of leaving food out all of the time to limit overeating. Because of their flat faces, some Persians may have difficulty eating food of certain shapes or sizes, so if a Persian is not eating, it may require a change in the structure of the food.

Pros

  • Strongly bonds to its human family

  • Distinctive, regal look with downy soft fur

  • Does not need much exercise or enrichment, just a nice lap or warm spot to relax

Cons

  • More predisposed to kidney and bladder conditions, eye disease, and respiratory issues

  • Slow learner, not a easily trainable cat

  • Requires weekly baths and daily hair brushing

Where to Adopt or Buy a Persian Cat

You may be able to find a purebred Persian cat through a breeder in your area, but if you would rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

There are plenty of wonderful cat breeds out there. Before deciding if a Persian cat is right for you, do further research on other breeds to make sure that they are not a better fit for you and your family.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Explore more of the other cat breeds before you decide which one is right for your home.