That coat! Those eyes! The Persian is the princess of the cat world: elegant but sweet, with a calm demeanor that takes her through any situation with aplomb. It’s no surprise that Persians — in particular the Himalayan variety — are among the top five cat breeds in popularity (their short-haired cousins the Exotics are No. 1).
Persians are decorative, no doubt about it, but they are also affectionate cats who adore their people. The Persian has a long, flowing coat, but there’s more to this cat than her looks. The Persian’s serene personality makes her not only a pleasure to live with but also adaptable to many types of homes and families. She can be equally happy in a home with a retired couple or one with rambunctious kids, if treated kindly and given the attention and care she needs. Don’t get a Persian if you don’t yearn to play kitty hairdresser on a daily basis.
There’s a rumor that Persians are snooty or stuck up. Not true! Their upturned nose can give them a snobbish look, but they don’t have a mean bone in their body, says cat lover Terry Albert, who shares her home with silver Persians Sterling and Whisper.
Persians are the ultimate lap cats. They love to snuggle but aren’t demanding of attention if you’re busy. When they do want something, they will inquire about it in a quiet, melodious voice. Laid-back Persians are companionable and get along well with other pets, including dogs. They enjoy gentle play, including tea parties with children.
All that fur covers a short, broad body carried about on short, heavily boned legs. These earthbound cats are the perfect choice for people who don’t want a climber or jumper.
A cat of many colors, it takes seven color divisions to describe them all: Solid, Silver and Golden, Smoke and Shaded, Tabby, Particolor, Bicolor and Himalayan. White Persians are typically shown as examples of this breed, but other solid colors include blue, black, chocolate and lilac.
Silver and golden Persians have green or blue-green eyes. Smoke and Shaded Persians gaze out with eyes like bright copper pennies. Tabbies have a reputation as the extroverts of the breed, and tortoiseshells — in the particolor division along with blue creams and lilac creams — are the flashy ones.
Bicolors include calicos and tabby and white among other patterns. The pointed Himalayan — developed by crossing Persians and Siamese — has vivid blue eyes and is a favorite of Persian lovers.
The Persian’s ancestry is lost in time, but cats like them have been around for centuries. They were thought to come from Persia — hence the name.
The first Persian known to have been brought to Europe arrived there in 1626 courtesy of Italian world traveler Pietro della Valle. Here’s how he described them: “There is in Persia a cat of the figure and form of our ordinary ones but definitely more beautiful in the luster and color of its coat. It is of a blue-gray and soft and shining as silk. The tail is of great length and covered with hair six inches long.”
More than 200 years later, Persians were favorites of pet-loving Queen Victoria, which made them popular with everyone else, too. They were first imported into the United States in the late 19th century, where they were equally popular. Through selective breeding, their appearance has changed dramatically over the decades, giving them a rounder head, flatter face and chubby cheeks, but their popularity remains high.
Most important: Persians require daily grooming, and they do shed, leaving big wads of fur in their wake year-round. Don’t get a Persian if you’re not willing to put in time with a comb and brush. And it never hurts to accustom a long-haired cat to baths at an early age.
Persians are medium-size cats who typically weigh 7 to 12 pounds. They live about 12 to 20 years.
Because of their exaggerated facial features, some Persians can have breathing difficulties and be sensitive to high temperatures. They may also be prone to some hereditary conditions, including polycystic kidney disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and progressive retinal atrophy. Ask your kitten’s breeder about the parents’ health screening results.
Thumbnail: Photography ©Photos.com | Getty Images.
Kim Campbell Thornton has been writing about cats and dogs for 32 years. She is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles on pet care, health and behavior.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!