The Persian is an old breed. To those who love this elegant cat, it will come as no surprise that the longhaired beauty originated in the cradle of civilization: Mesopotamia, which was later known as Persia and is now modern-day Iran. The breed’s long hair was probably the result of a natural mutation, and its striking appearance attracted the attention of 17th-century Italian nobleman and world traveler Pietro Della Valle, who is credited with bringing the first longhaired cats to Europe in 1626. At that time, the cats had shiny, silky gray fur, but thanks to selective breeding Persians are now found in a kaleidoscope of colors, including bi-color (a color plus white).
A show-quality Persian has an extremely long and thick coat, short legs, a wide head with the ears set far apart, large eyes, and an extremely shortened muzzle. The breed was originally established with a short muzzle, but over time, this characteristic has become extremely exaggerated, particularly in North America. Persian cats can have virtually any color or markings.
The Persian is generally described as a quiet cat. Typically placid in nature, it adapts quite well to apartment life. Himalayans tend to be more active due to the influence of Siamese traits. In a study comparing cat owner perceptions of their cats, Persians rated higher than non-pedigree cats on closeness and affection to owners, friendliness towards strangers, cleanliness, predictability, vocalization, and fussiness over food.
Since Persian cats have long, dense fur that they cannot effectively keep clean, they need regular grooming to prevent matting. To keep their fur in its best condition, they must be bathed regularly, dried carefully afterwards, and brushed thoroughly every day. An alternative is to shave the coat. Their eyes may require regular cleaning to prevent crust buildup and tear staining.
Keeping the Persian indoors also keeps it safe from transmission of disease and parasites, as well as the dangers of urban life. With an annual trip to a trusted veterinarian, and good nutrition and care, the Persian can live as a family member for easily 15 years, and some surpassing 20 years. Persian breeders dedicate themselves to breeding healthy cats, availing themselves of the latest in veterinary screening procedures to test for any heritable disease conditions. A well-bred Persian is a hardy and healthy cat and is not more prone to illness and respiratory infections than other breeds. However, the large eyes do mean that a certain amount of tearing is normal, and a daily face wash is recommended.
Persians aren’t the best choice for a houseful of boisterous children and dogs, but they have no objection to being the object of a gentle child’s attentions or to rubbing along with a friendly dog who doesn’t chase them or otherwise cause them anxiety.