Perhaps one of the most widely recognised cats in the world, the Persian is thought to hail from Khorasan, Persia, as its name would suggest. A cat of uniform appearance first emerged in 1620 when it was imported to Italy and later into Turkey and France. An Italian explorer is credited with having discovered the breed whilst travelling through the Middle East, and it was during the 19th century that the Persian made its first appearance in Great Britain. On its arrival, the breed became very popular and was presented at the Crystal Palace cat show of 1871. It is reported that Queen Victoria owned two Persians during her reign, which were either gifted to her by visiting nobles, or accompanied her back from her travels. The Cat Fancier’s Association officially recognised the Persian breed in 1914, and it is also registered by the International Cat Association.
The Traditional or Doll Face Persian is recognised the world over, although perhaps not as much as the peke-faced variety that emerged in the 1950s as the result of a genetic mutation. This flatter-faced variety is vulnerable to several health complaints resulting from its squashed features and is not particularly favoured by cat enthusiasts, especially when the peke-face is deliberately crossbred for its unique traits. The Traditional Persian is characterised by a sturdy body structure with nimble but muscular legs, a rounded face, wide, slightly oblique eyes, and small ears. The Persian possesses a plush coat that is easy to maintain with regular grooming, and is observed in a variety of patterns and colours, from solids, shaded and smoke, to tabby, bicolour, Himalayan and silver.
Unlike more active cat breeds, the Persian prefers a quiet life and is more than content to relax on a sofa or in your lap. That said, the Persian is a highly intelligent cat that benefits from mental as well as physical enrichment and will enjoy interactive toys and playthings to occupy it throughout the day. The Persian is not a demanding breed but does prefer to be kept company, pining for its family if left alone. If you work long hours and do not have a dog that could provide the added company, the Persian cat is probably not the best breed choice for you. Inherently gentle, loyal and affectionate, the Persian is, however, well suited to domestic living in a family that will return its love. Typically, an adult Persian will weigh 8-12 pounds, with a life expectancy of 10-15 years.
Despite the Traditional Persian not being susceptible to the same breathing difficulties as the peke-faced variety, they are still prone to various health conditions, most of which are hereditary. Some of the complaints documented in the breed include polycystic kidney disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – the most common type of heart disease in cats – progressive retinal atrophy, cystitis, liver shunts and bladder stones.