Drop-dead-gorgeous and luxuriously beautiful are some of the ways to describe these attractive cats. Their large round eyes, dazzling coats and striking colours are only part of their appeal – Persians are not the world’s most popular pedigree cats for nothing. They have that something special that knocks most people’s feet out from under them…
Although gentle and quiet, Persians are not without personality. They love to play and enjoy human company. They usually get on very well with fellow felines in a household, as well as dogs and other pets. Although large in size, they are agile enough to get around and run up and down a staircase or jump through windows. They are ideal pets for someone who cannot cope with an overactive or demanding breed of cat. While they enjoy the freedom of a safe enclosed garden, Persians will adapt quite happily to living in a flat or as ‘an indoor’ pet, provided they have a companion cat or human around.
Known for their exceptional beauty, Persians have show-stopper looks. Their expressive, angel eyes, flat faces and puffed-up bodies make them one of the most admired breeds at any cat show.
The Persian’s breed standard prescribes a rather large head, with rounded forehead and a very broad skull. The cheeks are full and prominent and the jaw broad and powerful. The nose is short to very short, with a well-marked break between the eyes. Ears are small, round-tipped and well tufted. They should be set very wide apart and rather low on the head. The eyes should be round and large with an open expression, and set wide apart. Most Persian cats have orange or copper coloured eyes. White Persians could also have bright blue eyes, while the silver and tabby varieties have eyes ranging from green to hazel.
Underneath the soft coat is a well-proportioned and solid body, medium to large in size. Although compact, Persians are broad in the body and have to have good muscle tone. Their backs are short and level, with well-rounded midsections, while their shoulders and hips are the same size. A Persian’s legs are short, thick and heavily boned and her feet large, round and firm, with the toes close together. The tail is short, but in proportion to body’s length and carried at an angle lower than the back.
The crowning glory of this breed is, of course, the coat. A top quality specimen has a long, glossy coat with a full undercoat, which makes it seem to stand away from the body. The tail is bushy, covered with long and flowing fur, and the cat also has a full ruff around its neck, nicely framing the round face.
Apart from the popular blue, much cherished in days gone by, today’s Persians come in wide variety of colours. They can be found in almost every colour of the rainbow! Besides the ‘normal’ feline colours, these cats can be parti-coloured with white, all the tabby variations, with or without white patches. The silvers gained immense popularity in the early years, and are still top favourites. Related to them are the smokes and cameos.
Persians need regular grooming and maintenance, but are fairly easy to groom as most of them enjoy being handled. Daily brushing to stop their thick coats from matting and minimise the formation of hairballs, is a prerequisite. Their eyes need to be cleaned and wiped regularly to keep their faces clean and eyes dry.
During the development of the modern Persian, some cats experienced breathing problems as a result of the shortened face, but through strict selection, the incidence of such problems have now been reduced. The well-bred and selected Persians of today should not have breathing problems.
Persians are one of the breeds that are prone to Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), but responsible breeders regularly select and test them to eliminate such conditions. For more on this disease, turn to pg 31.
Health matters are also dealt with by a number of cat food companies, who developed premium diets, specially formulated for Persians. Ask your veterinarian for more information and see pg 32 for feeding tips.
Text: Karen Pepler and Johann Theron
Photography: Linn Currie, Theresa Fouche and Ronnie Magic