The Old Persian Cat Species
The Persian cat is one of the oldest natural cat breeds still alive today. These cats date back to ancient Egyptian times, but the breed was believed to have originated in Persia (Iran). From there, they were imported into Western Europe around 1620.
This breed is known in the Middle East as the Shirazi cat and in Britain as the Persian Longhair. This longhaired, medium-sized cat, is nowadays different from its ancestor. The face is different: They have a shortened muzzle and high, flattened nose. Their coat is thick and comes in colors and patterns ranging from silver to gold and may even be bi-colored.
The Persian cat is a very docile and affectionate cat who likes to be indoors. Because of the length of their fur, it is best to keep them indoors to prevent the fur from tangling and to protect them from parasites. It is important to note that they can inherit a dangerous disease called polycystic kidney disease (PKD); over 37% of Persian cats have PKD. As of now, they are still one of the most popular breeds in the United States.
History of the Persian Cat
It is believed that the origins of the Persian cat lie, not surprisingly, in Iran, formerly known as Persia and its neighboring countries. They were imported to Italy, France and England by early European travelers around 1620. In those days, these cats were kept by nobles in France, Italy and England. One version of the history of this cat breed is that their introduction into Europe was through Pietro Della Valle in Italy and by Nicholas Claude Fabri de Peiresc in France.
These cats were brought to England in 1871 where they were one of the first cat breeds to be registered. They are still one of the most popular cat breeds in the world. The ancient Persians considered these cats to be of high value; this view was shared in Europe, where nobles would have owned one. They were also considered to be rare and thus were also favored by people of royalty; there was even a time they were the only ones who owed these gracious cats.
There is a different origin story out there that states that the Persian cats of today are descendants of Felis Libyca, which has its origin in Africa and Asia. This version also suggests that this breed was first introduced before 1620 by the Romans and Phoenicians in the 1500s. But this origin story also states that this cat was highly valued by people.
Persian Cat Facts Sheet
Average Life Span
10 – 16 years
3 - 6 kg
35 - 46 cm
This cat breed sheds a lot.
Activity and Playfulness
These cat are not very playful and energetic. They mostly like to sleep or rest.
They have moderate intelligence. They are not the learning tricks type of cat.
Health is moderate, with a couple of health conditions they are susceptible for.
Maintenance / Pet Qualities
They require some work around grooming and are not really social cats.
The Persian cat’s body, relative to other cat breeds, is between medium to large. They have a strong build, with a cobby body which is covered with a long, silky coat. Their legs are short and heavily boned; they have a round head with large round eyes and a short muzzle. They have short thick necks and broad chests.
They come in so many different colors that cat shows have separate color categories for them. In today’s cat shows, they look for cats with the longest and thickest coat, very short legs, an extremely shortened muzzle and large eyes.
This breed weighs about 4.5 kilograms, so they are lighter than the average cat breed. Because of the coat, they can look a little bit obese, but this is not the case as their muscle tone is excellent.
Persian cats come in different colors:
This breed only has copper eyes, with the exception of the white variation which can have other colored eyes like blue or odd eyes (one blue, one copper).
The Persian cat is an intelligent, people-oriented cat, and very sweet and gentle. They are not the most active cats out there; they still like to run and play occasionally, yet they do tend to sleep a lot. They love to get attention and to be played with.
Petting and sitting on your lap are the things this breed lives for. They can adapt quickly to a new environment and are very friendly towards other pets and children. These cats greatly dislike to be left alone, so having some feline company could solve this when you have to leave for a while.
These cats are not especially susceptible to disease, but there is an inherited disease that can cause death by renal failure. The gene causes polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and is believed to be the result of selective breeding. Fortunately, it can be tested if they carry the PKD gene and if so, the cat can be spayed.
But the symptoms are mostly appearing after the Persian cat is old, so untested breeding stock could already have passed the dominant gene on to the next generation. According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, over 37% of Persian cats have PKD. The test costs about $70, but is well worth it if it means saving this breed.
This breed is also prone to inherited feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). According to veterinarian Rosemarie Williams, about 40% of the breed is affected with HCM. Symptoms of HCM can be very subtle; it can happen that the very first symptom the cat shows is sudden death.
Luckily, they can be tested for HCM through cardiac ultrasound and an ECG. It is highly advised to test the cat regularly because there are breeders out there who don’t test for this disease.
Caring for Your Cat
Their long hair needs to be groomed regularly so that it doesn't get matted excessively. These grooming sessions are good for bonding with your cat. Another important part of care is their eyes (which have to be cleaned daily) because the shape of their face causes eye drainage to accumulate.
All in all, the Persian cat is an elegant and social cat that loves to be cared for and likes to be intimate with their caretakers.
- Lyons A. L. PKD1 (Polycystic Kidney Disease) in Felines, UC Davis: https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/pkd1.php
- Cat Breed Information Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_cat
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sam Shepards