The Persian, also known as the Persian Longhair, is an elegant, graceful, gentle breed whose most distinguishing characteristics are its remarkable coat and its unique head. Today, the Persian is one of the most popular of all feline breeds due to its exceptional beauty, kind temperament and easy-going disposition. While their basic temperaments have changed little over time, their conformation and overall appearance have changed considerably. Modern Persians are medium to large in size and stocky, with short thick legs, massive rumps and distinctively cobby profiles. Their large, round paws are tufted with fur. The Persian's head is broad in skull, round and unusually large for the size of its body, while its ears are especially tiny in comparison and are tufted, which is called having "ear furnishings." The Persian's eyes are big, round and very expressive. Whatever their color, deepness of eye color is preferred in this breed. The Persian's open, pansy-like face is famously flat, with a perky up-turned nose and an extremely short muzzle that is barely noticeable. Its neck is short and thick, with a distinctive mane-like ruff, and its tail is short and bushy. The heads and facial features of Persians have become increasingly exaggerated over time.
The coat of the Persian has also become more exaggerated over the years. It is extraordinarily long, silky, dense, fine and profuse. Persians have an extremely thick, soft undercoat, with a longer outer layer made up of more coarse guard hairs. The Persian's coat requires daily grooming (including brushing and combing), along with regular bathing, to prevent the development of nasty tangles and mats. This is necessary whether or not the cat is being entered in the show ring. Persians tend to shed year-round, even more so than other long-haired breeds. They should be housed exclusively indoors to protect their prized coats, as well as to protect them from parasites and other perils of outdoor living.
Persians have been bred in an ever-expanding and remarkable variety of colors. In America, all accepted colors of the Persian are considered to be varieties of the same breed. However, in Great Britain, each different color is considered to be a separate breed. The colors of the modern Persian include the Orange-Eyed White, Blue-Eyed White, Odd-Eyed White, Cream, Red, Lavender, Blue, Chocolate, Black, Cream and White, Red and White, Lavender and White, Blue and White, Chocolate and White, Black and White, Blue-Cream, Tortoiseshell, Dilute Calico, Blue-Cream Smoke, Calico, Calico Van (Harlequin), Chocolate Tortie, Chocolate Torbie, Lavender Tabby, Blue Tabby, Red Tabby, Silver Tabby, Brown Classic Tabby, Torbie, Shaded Silver, Chinchilla, Cream Smoke, Blue Smoke, Black Smoke, Blue-Cream Smoke, Tortie-Smoke, Pewter, Golden Persian, Tortie Cameo, Cream Shaded Cameo, Cream Shell Cameo and Red Shaded Cameo. They also come in a wide range of color-pointed varieties, which in the United States and some other places are now called Himalayans, Color-Pointed Persians or the Himalayan Variety of the Persian. Going into details about the definition and description of each of these beautiful colors is beyond the scope of this article.
The Persian is an old breed with mysterious origins. They have been popular since early Victorian times, and probably earlier. Their exact origin is unclear, but historical paintings and writings have firmly established them as one of the oldest feline breeds. Persians probably descend from long-haired cats brought from Persia (now Iran) to Europe in the 1600s by way of ships on trading routes. These native Persian cats are thought to have been crossed with the original pure white, silky-haired Turkish Angora cats, which do not resemble the modern Angora cats known today.
Among the earliest Persians to arrive in Europe and the United States were those that were pure white, with piercing blue eyes. These are thought to have come from Turkey to France sometime during the 1500s, called at that time "Angoras," after the Turkish capital of Ankara. Later, after crossing pure white Persians with Cream, Blue and Black Persians, the white variety also developed vivid orange or copper eyes. Those cats lacked the genetic predisposition to deafness that existed – and still exists – in the blue-eyed white variety.
Queen Victoria was fond of and owned Blue Persians, which originally were bred from Black to White Persian crosses. Blues became extremely popular by the end of the 1800s, especially among the wealthy and aristocratic members of British society. Blues remain popular in Great Britain and elsewhere. The Brown Tabby Persian Cat Society was one of the very first purebred cat fancier clubs in Great Britain, and was established to promote the Brown Classic Tabby in Victorian times. Silver Tabbies are thought to have contributed to the development of Chinchilla Persians during the 1800s. Black Smoke Persians date back to the 1860s. Black Persians were exhibited at the very first cat show in Britain in 1871 but are thought to date back to the 1600s. They have continued to be popular. The Tortoiseshell was developed in the late 1890s, and rapidly became popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Silver Tabby was popular in cat show circles even back in the late 1800s. The Chinchilla descended from a litter born in 1882 from a silver Angora crossed with a non-pedigreed male. Goldens are thought to be descended from certain Chinchilla breedings in the 1920s. The Blue-Cream variety was first recognized in Britain in 1929. Calico Persians were first recognized in England in 1950, and Lilac Persians date back to the 1960s.
Cameo Persians were developed in the United States, New Zealand and Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. The first reported Cameo Persian in Europe was bred shortly thereafter in 1962, in Holland. The Blue Tabby was granted recognition in America in 1962, but has only achieved limited recognition in Britain. The Bi-colored Persian was not recognized for championship status in Great Britain until 1966. It wasn't until 1971 that a more realistic standard for markings of Bi-colored Persians was adopted. This led to a resurgence of interest in all of the bi-colored varieties. The Calico Van was recognized by FiFe, the international purebred feline association, in 1986, under the name "Harlequin Persian."
Well-bred Persians are fairly healthy animals, with an average life expectancy of 15 years or more (which is about the same as that of most domestic purebred cats). Their large eyes, which are set deeply in their dramatically flat faces, are prone to weeping. Regular wiping of the area around their eyes with warm water on a soft cotton ball is all that is usually necessary to keep their pretty faces tidy, attractive and free from unsightly clumping or staining.
Blue-Eyed White Persians are predisposed to deafness, as are many other blue-eyed white domestic animals, although this is by no means inevitable. Deafness in the Odd-Eyed White Persian, which has one blue eye and one orange or copper eye, if it is present, usually is limited to the ear on the same side as the blue eye.
Persians, especially middle-aged to older males, are predisposed to developing a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Females may be predisposed to a different heart condition called peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernia. Several different dermatological conditions can be seen in Persians, including dermatophytosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, seborrhea, Chediak-Higashi syndrome (in Blue Smoke Persians), periocular crusting, facial fold pyoderma, epitrichial cysts and certain skin tumors. Persians may have an increased risk of adverse side effects when given the drug, Griseofulvin. They also are prone to congenital portosystemic shunts, polycystic liver disease and certain ocular (eye) conditions, including coloboma, entropion, lacrimal punctual aplasia, idiopathic epiphora, corneal sequestration, cataracts, retinal degeneration and lysosomal storage disease.
Persians often have a longer lower jaw (mandible) than they do an upper jaw (maxilla). This condition is called prognathism, and it is acceptable in the standard for this breed. Males have an increased risk of cryptorchidism, meaning that only one testicle descends normally. The breed is predisposed to hereditary polycystic kidney disease and to development of calcium oxalate uroliths (kidney or bladder stones).
The Persian is a delightfully dignified cat that is gentle, kind and extremely affectionate. These are kind, quiet animals. When they do vocalize, they have a melodious, pleasant, non-abrasive meow. Despite their mellow temperaments, Persians are not particularly shy. Indeed, some can be quite independent and rather saucy in disposition. Persians enjoy playtime and form very close bonds with their owners. They can thrive in almost any type of household environment, as long as they are given plenty of attention and sufficient personal space. Persians crave - and need - human companionship. They do not do well if they are left alone or unattended for long periods of time. Persians typically get along well with other household pets, including dogs and other cats. They also tend to be patient with children.
Like most cats, Persians can be quite playful. They have been described as being placid, but also as being "placid with a spark." However, this is not an especially active or demanding breed. Persians are not inclined to leap, jump or climb, probably due to their calm dispositions and their short, stubby, square physiques. Although they love interacting with people, Persians are quite able to amuse themselves. Most of the time, this involves napping in a warm, comfortable spot, rather than engaging in an activity that requires any effort or exertion.
Persians are creatures of habit. They thrive in a stable, secure living environment and are not particularly fond of sudden changes. With gentle and consistent reassurance, they can adapt to boisterous households. Most Persians are meticulous self-groomers. However, they still need their owners' help to maintain their glorious coats, which can be quite a challenge. All in all, the Persian is a remarkably decorative and glamorous breed, and they appear to be quite happy to serve in those roles. They are content to languish about their indoor environment on the softest place in the house or draped over their owners' shoulders, only to rise for an occasional meal, game of fetch or trip to the cat box.
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