Persian cats are adored for their looks and for their quiet, sweet natures. For these and a myriad of other reasons they are a consistently popular choice for cat loving pet owners. In fact, many of the GVC team are owners of rescued Persian or Persian cross breed cats (Dr Katrin and Dr Vito both adore their fluffies!) and as a team we are passionate about helping these cats live comfortably, which is not as straight forward as we would like.
Now the Persian cat as a breed has been around the block a few times… And like the recently mentioned Pug, their recorded history provides a useful means to track the physical changes that have occurred over the years and, as with the Pug, one of the most noticeable features to change in the past few decades has been the increasing predominance of the flattened face with minimally protruding muzzle in the “pure bred” Persian cat (as well as some other long haired breed felines).
There is a wealth of evidence to confirm that the flat faced, or brachycephalic cats (and dogs) suffer several health issues as a result of their engineered breeding. Sadly, as these breed variants become more and more popular (and exposure via social media is certainly contributing to this) so too do the more extreme versions of what is already an anatomical abnormality.
The picture on the right demonstrates the variance between the common feline facial shape and a brachycephalic face.
Persian cats bred for these characteristics often suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) which can cause respiratory issues during their lifetime as well as being potentially life limiting.
Additional to the respiratory issues (because, maybe breathing is overrated…) these cats can also be affected by difficulties eating and a susceptibility to eye issues. Not to mention the increased likelihood of hereditary polycystic kidney disease that is prevalent in the breed (and becoming a factor in Persian crosses – see Scottish Fold blog here).
The challenge to eat is caused by the malformation of their jaw making it extremely difficult to pick up food normally. Plus, as their massively misshapen mandible and maxilla still need to fit all the same teeth as any other kitty, so dental overcrowding is common. Furthermore, many owners notice eye discharge and tear staining, due to their tear ducts being physically unable to drain effectively.
Besides the “cute” face, the Persian is also desired for their long and luxurious coats. This is a beautiful attribute but does need a huge amount of maintenance. Going back to their structural issues, because some Persians have a misalignment of their jaw and teeth, regular self-grooming is difficult.
These cats are certainly not ideally suited for an outside lifestyle here in the UAE. Imagine trying to relax outside while wearing a full length fur coat as well as dealing with all the dust and sand that we enjoy day to day!
All of the above can combine to impact the breed’s character traits and, as with the previously mentioned Scottish Fold, these Persian cats are often sought out for their relaxed and docile nature which is quite likely a direct result of their anatomical abnormalities acting as a limitation on their natural feline tendencies and energies.
So, understanding that these wonderful creatures are a lot more than just their looks, there are a number of ways that we can make their lives as luxurious as they deserve.
Here are Dr Katrin’s top tips to help your Persian (and related long haired breeds) live a healthy, loving and much-loved life!
- Knowledge is Key – as with our other blogs for the Scottish Fold and the Pug (and in reality, all our furry friends), knowing what to look out for and what can be done to help is so important in reducing or even eliminating the impact of these breed- and species specific health challenges. Our pets may not be able to speak and tell us directly how they’re feeling but that doesn’t mean we are not able to understand how they are feeling.
- Grooming, Grooming AND Grooming! Brushing at home and regular visits to the groomer are essential (we’re delighted to have an amazing cat friendly groomer on the team). Long haired cats are often unable to maintain their coats and can present with severe matting, to the point where the entire coat becomes one tight knot, pulling at their skin and causing great discomfort. Most owners who bring their Persians for a trim comment how “kitten like and playful” their (reduced) fluffy felines are afterwards… we all recommend this!
- Food – Consider a Persian specific food (the Royal Canin version is Dr Vito’s choice for his cats!) and choose a specially designed food dish that has elevation and a slight angle, so your flat-faced kitty has an easier time eating out of the bowl.
- Skin and Eye care – The folds on a Persian’s face can be prone to skin infections and their inability to groom these little crevices easily means that as owners we need to give them a little help. A hypoallergenic face wipe (Earthbath® ones are awesome!) is a gentle way to help clean these areas.
- Make Preventative Health Care a priority! Being a Persian parent means that regular visits to the vet should be the norm. At GVC, we highly recommend regular check-ups, especially as these beauties can be predisposed to the conditions mentioned. The GVC Pet Health Club is a perfect support for a positive and proactive health plan!
Always remember that all cats are masters of disguise when it comes to illness and injury… so if you think that your feline friend is in any way not themselves, be safe and bring them for a check-up.