Persian cats have quite the reputation! Cast as a villain’s pet in the Bond movies (and in the Austin Powers movies), and often viewed in memes as being ‘grumpy’, the Persian cat occupies a weird space for people looking for a cat.
They are fluffy and have a wide range of coat colors, but they also have that reputation for being grouchy! What’s the real truth about Persian cats and should you think more seriously about adopting one as a pet?
History of Persian Cats
Persians are one of the older breeds of cats out there – about a hundred and fifty years of popularity, dating back to at least 1871, with their ancestors go back much farther to the mid-to-late 16th century and their ancestors may go back thousands of years.
They were originally seen in Europe coming along Roman and Phoenician caravans via Persia (Iran today) and Turkey. The recessive gene for long hair was a spontaneous one, likely as a result of living in the cold mountains of Persia.
They were then brought to Europe in the 1600s by a traveler who also brought and talked about Angora cats. Other traders followed suit, bringing both Persian and Angora cats into England where they were known as ‘French Cats’.
Both breeds became very popular and were commonly mixed together and with other breeds. Angoras were more popular for a while because of their white and silky coat, but Persians grew popular because they had a stockier build.
By 1871, due to breeding, the Angora and Persians began to differ in appearance and take on distinct characteristics from one another.
Persian cats were brought to America in the late 1800s and were very popular, taking over as top cats over other breeds. The American Persian actually has different characteristics than the British Persian and that is the one that we tend to see today.
They are the most pedigreed version and unlike in Britain where each color is a distinct breed, in North America, the Persian is one breed, regardless of color.
Characteristics of Persian Cats
Persian cats are what is known as an ‘extreme’ breed, especially North American show Persians which can look vaguely mutated! (Fortunately for the cat, there has been more of a push lately to end the complete flat-faced look).
Persian cats are medium to slightly larger-sized cats with prominent shoulder blades and an upward tilt towards the hips. They have a broad chest and belly pouch. Their head is quite round and sits on a very short and thick neck. They are most well known for their ‘grumpy’ face which is caused by the face being flat with more prominent eyes.
There are actually two types of Persian cat – the doll face Persian which has a more protruding nose that is more like their ancestors, and the flat-faced one which is seen more often in shows and are called Peke-face or show Persians.
Other than the grumpy expression, Persian cats are also known for their long coats. This coat is dense, plush, and quite soft, coming in at all different colors and patterns. It is a weather-resistant coat as well, but it does require daily grooming to prevent tangles and mats.
Even their ears and toes are tufty, hearkening back to when this cat was living in cold regions of the world. Persians can also have all different eye colors, but they will complement their coat. They tend to have a medium length, very fluffy tail, and a huge ruff around their necks. In short, they are piles of fluffy fur!
Persian cats are not known to be particularly vocal, but they do have very loud purrs that can go on for a long time. They tend to be about seven to twelve pounds in weight (but can gain weight very easily, so that has to be carefully monitored) and live to be about ten to fifteen years of age, with indoor cats living a lot longer than outdoor ones.
Temperament of Persian Cats
Persian cats have a reputation for being grumpy, but this is a rather unfair one. Like humans, Persians come with all different personalities, though their default is one that is laid back, quiet, docile, and friendly with their people (if standoffish with strangers).
They love getting attention, but won’t demand it, and are low energy, so they don’t feel the need to jump all over curtains, counters, or other high places.
They do like to play with toys, but only in bursts of high spirits and then quickly calm back down to loaf with people, follow them around, or have a nap. Overall, they tend to be very calm cats who love sitting on laps and demand very little from their owners.
Persian cats are usually fine with people being gone all day as long as they come back in the evening. While they probably won’t learn many tricks like walking on a leash or playing fetch, they do quickly learn the household routine and what to expect.
They don’t really like getting into mischief, so you usually don’t have to worry about your cupboards or drawers, preferring to loaf in sunbeams or nap, especially as they get older.
When they aren’t dealing with a reputation for being grouchy, they instead get the reputation for being ‘furniture’ cats – as quiet as a cushion, ornamenting any lap, and looking (and acting) like a fluffy pillow! (Although this is a generalization – plenty of pet owners have stories of Persians who play hard and love to solve puzzle toys).
Where Persians perhaps come by their grumpy reputation honestly is in their treatment of people outside of the house. They tend to be standoffish until they get to know someone, and they bond with their family, but very few people outside of that circle.
Introducing them to other pets is perfectly possible, but it will probably take a bit longer than it would with other breeds. They can get along with children, so long as the child in question is also relatively quiet and laid back rather than boisterous.
Persian cats will not do well in a loud, constantly busy environment. They prefer a more serene household that has a good routine with little change.
They aren’t terribly adaptable and too much noise stresses them out. Their placid and loving nature, combined with their long coats, is what really makes them good show cats and very popular pets.
Health Conditions of Persian Cats
That flat face does more than make these cats look grumpy – it also leads to some health problems which are often unique to this breed of cat.
This is why there has been a slow pulling away from the extreme flat face show cats and back to the more traditional ‘doll face’ cats which tend to have a longer, and healthier life span.
This is still very much a work in progress though and Persians that win titles are still the flat-faced ones, the more extreme, the better.
Health conditions that are seen in Persian cats include:
- Breathing difficulties, noisy breathing, and snoring. The more flat-faced the cat is, the more pronounced these issues become.
- Eye drainage problems due to the placement of the eustachian tubes, requiring daily face wiping. This can also be called excessive tearing
- Dental malocclusions, meaning that the teeth don’t mesh well together
- Eye conditions like cherry eye and entropion
- Heat sensitivity
- Polycystic kidney disease
- A predisposition for ringworm
- Seborrhea oleosa which is a skin condition that causes itchiness, redness, and hair loss
Persian cats are also more disposed to get conditions like diabetes and arthritis because they gain weight more easily than many other breeds of cats do, due to their laid-back dispositions. Taking care to feed them properly is critical to prevent this.
You should also make sure to brush your cat’s teeth regularly to prevent periodontal diseases and make sure to comb your cat daily to prevent mats and tangles in their fine, long coats.
Persian cats also do well with at least one bath a month to get rid of dirt buildup. Litter can also get lodged in their paws and coat, so the litter box has to be kept very clean. Persian cats are more finicky about this than many other breeds are – if the litter box isn’t kept clean, they are more likely to avoid using it!
Persians are one of the breeds that do the poorest outdoors, so they should be kept as an indoor cat. Their coats are not meant to shed dirt, leaves, and sticky things (though it is weather resistant) and they are not the fiercest cats around, meaning that they can quickly get into trouble with other cats, dogs, and wild animals.
Outdoor Persian cats also just run the risk of getting stolen as this breed can be a little expensive, depending on its pedigree. And most Persian cats aren’t really going to try to go outside much anyway; there are no adoring fans out in the woods and fields!
Doll-faced Persians are less likely to have breathing, eye, and teeth problems compared to the show Peke-faced cats, but it’s still something to keep in mind. If you are going through a breeder, make sure to ask questions about the health of the parents to rule out possible genetic disorders.
What is the Ideal Owner for a Persian Cat?
Persian cats do best in a quiet, sedate home with a set routine. They will get stressed out in a loud, boisterous, constantly changing home, so if this sounds like you, then a Persian cat is probably not for you.
Persian cats can get along with other cats, children, and even dogs, so long as they are properly introduced, and everyone is more laid back and sedate. They hate dogs (and children) who want to chase them around, but they will tolerate rides in baby buggies and even a small amount of dress-up from gentle children.
The best home for a Persian cat will be one with a family of people who enjoy petting and grooming her, a quiet home where things don’t change too much (but it’s certainly fine for people to leave for work and school during the day – most Persians don’t get lonely and will spend that time napping or loafing in sunbeams) and who can take the time to do daily grooming, litter box cleaning, and keep an eye on their weight and overall health.
They are a quiet cat that doesn’t need a lot of space, so an apartment is usually perfectly fine, and since they don’t exercise or climb much more than playing with a toy or two, you don’t have to worry about having perches or room for them to run. They can “ornament” just about any house, though keep in mind that the long coat sheds!
Persian cats aren’t not going to be particularly suitable for anyone with allergies. You should also make sure that you can keep up with cleaning your home or you’ll have long fur starting to pile up wherever your cat likes to sleep! (And since this tends to be your furniture, you can well imagine…).
Summary of Persian Cats
Persian cats may have a reputation for being grumpy and standoffish, but those who have owned this breed will attest that this is far from the truth. They are loving, affectionate, low-key cats that love to be petted and will generally enjoy their daily grooming routines.
They like a firm household routine, a sedate lifestyle, and do best in a quiet, friendly home with few strangers coming in and out. They bond well with their families but can be standoffish with people they don’t see daily.
However, show Persians have more health problems than the doll-faced Persians, so that is something you may want to keep in mind as you may be spending more time (and money) at your veterinarian over the course of your cat’s life.
All Persians can have breathing problems and they are all more prone to things like skin problems and ringworm. It’s important to keep your Persian indoors as much as possible and to keep an eye on their health to head off any problems before they become too serious to handle.
Persian cats are a popular breed for a reason! Lovely to look at, docile, friendly, and expert snugglers, this is one cat you should definitely consider adding to your household if you are looking for a cat!
Have you owned a Persian? What is your favorite memory?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.