Persian cats are, perhaps, best known for their flat faces, big eyes, and long, luxurious coats, but there’s much more to these pretty kitties than just looks. From their interesting—and somewhat mysterious—origins to the genetic change-up that contributed to their famous flat faces back in the 1950s, there’s a lot to learn (and love) about Persians.
If you’re considering adding a Persian cat to the family, already own a Persian, or just want to learn more about one of the world’s oldest and most famous breeds, read on to learn some fascinating facts about Persian cats—and check out some seriously cute pictures.
Persian Cats Have a Mysterious Origin Story
Although Persian cats can be traced back to the 1600s, their origin story is still somewhat of a mystery. It’s commonly believed that Persian cats originated in Mesopotamia, which was later named Persia—explaining the name “Persian” cats. Eventually, this country came to be what we know as modern-day Iran. Despite this widely held belief, some research shows that Persians’ genetic make-up is very similar to that of cats that originated in western Europe.
The true origins of Persian cats may remain a mystery, but one popular theory says that an Italian nobleman named Pietro della Valle brought some Persians home to western Europe after learning about the breed while traveling through Iran. Similar theories say that they were brought to Europe by sailors (who often brought kitties on board for good luck), merchants, or travelers. Whatever the origin story, once Persians arrived on the western side of the world, they quickly became one of the globe’s most beloved breeds.
Persians Come in a Range of Colors and Varieties
When you think of Persian cats, you probably picture the iconic Persian with long, silky, white fur and bright, blue eyes sitting on a pink silk cushion—or was that a Fancy Feast commercial?
Despite their appearances in cat food commercials, Persians can come in a wide range of colors and varieties. In addition to the white or silver Persians we all know, these pretty kitties can have grey, orange, black, tri-colored, and even calico coats. And there are just as many varieties of Persian cats, including tortoiseshell, calico, and tuxedo.
Persians Haven’t Always Had Flat Faces
Persians are probably best known for their squished faces, but you may be surprised to learn that Persians didn’t always have flat muzzles. In fact, they didn’t develop this unique trait until a genetic mutation occurred in some red tabby Persians in the 1950s.
When kittens were born with flat muzzles, many Persian breeders loved the look. They started to selectively breed other Persians for these traits until it became common to the breed. The extremely flat or squished face—originally known as the peke-face—was accepted as part of the breed’s standard appearance according to the Cat Fanciers Association up until the 1980s.
Because it can lead to several serious health issues, the Persian Breed Council began to adjust the standards and advocate for breeding Persian cats with less extreme features. It is common for Persians to have teary, runny eyes, respiratory issues, dental issues, difficulty eating, and many suffer from a congenital kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease. It is possible to find Persians with longer, pointed muzzles. Known as “doll face” Persians, these traditional kitties bare the closest resemblance to their Iranian ancestors.
Persians Have Incredibly Thick Coats
Another distinguishing Persian characteristic is their long, luxurious coats. Comprised of two layers—a shorter undercoat and a long, silky topcoat—Persian coats tend to shed a lot. If you’re thinking about adopting a Persian or already have a Persian and are buried in cat hair, here’s our advice: invest in a vacuum specially designed to suck up cat hair, put some strategically stashed lint rollers around your house, brush your cat frequently to remove loose fur, and stop wearing black.
Persians Aren’t Big Jumpers
Unlike many other cats, Persian cats aren’t known for their ability to leap into the air—or even jump from pieces of furniture. Why? Their solid, stocky bodies aren’t the most aerodynamic or agile, so Persians typically prefer to stay firmly on the ground.
Persians Aren’t Actually Divas
Thanks to their glamorous looks, Persians have somewhat of a reputation as being divas or high maintenance. While Persians can make excellent pets, their long fur and breed-related health issues can require additional care.
Most cats will bathe or groom themselves; however, cats with long coats may require additional grooming, including daily brushing to avoid matted fur, and even occasional baths to be sure to keep their long fur free of dirt and dust. Some Persian owners like to trim their cat’s hair into what’s called a “lion’s cut”—or a very short haircut for lower maintenance. Trimming the fur around their paws and hind end can also help keep them clean between grooming sessions, too.
Additionally, due to their flat face conformation, many Persian cats have chronic eye tearing which also leads to staining of the fur under the eyes. It may be necessary to wipe their faces frequently to keep clean. The confirmation of their face also affects their bite and teeth alignment and may make them prone to dental disease. It is especially important to brush their teeth and monitor for signs of dental discomfort for this reason.
A Persian Won the World’s First Cat Show
Did you know the world’s first cat show was held way back in 1871? Hosted at London’s Crystal Palace, the event drew nearly 20,000 visitors—and put some of the world’s most exotic cats on display. Kitty competitors included Siamese cats, Angora cats, Scottish Wild cats, polydactyl cats, and—you guessed it—Persian cats.
At the end of the day, a Persian cat took home the gold and was named “Best in Show.”
Persians Made Their Way to America Around 1900
It’s believed that Persian cats first arrived in the United States sometime after 1895. When the Cat Fanciers Association was formed in 1906, Persian cats were one of the organization’s first registered breeds.
Since then, Persians have become one of the most popular breeds in America. In fact, according to the Cat Fancier’s Association, Persians regularly snag one of the top spots in their ranking of the most popular breeds.
Royalty, Historical Figures, and Celebrities Love Persian Cats
Cat parents aren’t the only ones who love their Persians—famous figures throughout history loved these long-haired kitties, too.
Some of the world’s best-known Persian parents include Queen Victoria; Florence Nightingale, who had over 60 cats in her lifetime; and Marilyn Monroe, whose white Persian was named Mitsou.
Persians Have Graced the Silver Screen
Persians have their place in history and on the silver screen. In addition to the well-known Fancy Feast mascot, James Bond’s archenemy Blofield had a white-haired, blue-eyed Persian companion. And, let’s not forget, Mr. Bigglesworth of Austin Powers fame. (After a bit of a plot twist, the Persian version of Mr. Bigglesworth was replaced by a hairless Sphynx cat for the rest of the movie.)
Persians Are Part of the World’s Largest Cat Painting
Sold for a whopping $826,000, the world’s largest cat painting—named My Wife’s Lovers— features both Turkish Angoras and Persian cats. The painting is a sizable 6-foot by 8.5-foot piece of art, securing the title of the world’s largest painting of kitties.
There are a number of other famous paintings that feature Persian cats, but none are quite as large.
- How much is a Persian cat?
Persian cats range from $1500 to $3000.
- How do I groom a Persian cat?
Persian cats need to be brushed on a daily basis. Try lifting up hair sections so the brush begins at the base, near your cat’s skin. You may also need to bathe your Persian cat occasionally, as their long coats can collect dirt, dust, or become greasy. Starting them on these routines when they are kittens will help get them used to it.
- What does a Persian cat eat?
You can feed for Persian the exact same diet that you feed your domesticated shorthairs. Wet food is better than dry simply because it’s easier for the cat to navigate the bowl with its flattened face.