The modern brachycephalic Persian has a large rounded skull and shortened face and nose. This facial conformation makes the breed prone to breathing difficulties, skin and eye problems, and birthing difficulties. Anatomical abnormalities associated with brachycephalic breeds can cause shortness of breath. Malformed tear ducts cause epiphora, an overflow of tears onto the face, which is common but primarily cosmetic. Entropion, the inward folding of the eyelids, causes the eyelashes to rub against the cornea, and can lead to tearing, pain, infection and cornea damage. Similarly, in upper eyelid trichiasis or nasal fold trichiasis, eyelashes/hair from the eyelid and hair from the nose fold near the eye grow in a way which rubs against the cornea. Dystocia, an abnormal or difficult labor, is relatively common in Persians. Consequently, stillbirth rate is higher than normal, ranging from 16.1% to 22.1%, and one 1973 study puts kitten mortality rate (including stillborns) at 29.2%. A veterinary study in 2010 documented the serious health problems caused by the brachycephalic head.
Persians have hereditary health issues that can be a concern. They include polycystic kidney disease (PKD), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), bladder stones, cystitis (bladder infections), and liver shunts. Responsible breeders take steps to avoid these problems.
Polycystic kidney disease is a hereditary condition that causes cystic degeneration of the kidneys and eventual kidney dysfunction. It can affect one or both kidneys. Signs of illness initially appear between 7 and 10 years of age, although it can appear much earlier in some cats. Reputable breeders are working to establish PKD-free breeding programs. Ask the breeder for proof that both of a kitten’s parents are free of kidney cysts, which can be detected on ultrasound.
A hereditary form of progressive retinal atrophy occurs in Persians, although its prevalence is unknown. In Persians, PRA causes vision problems early in life, at four to eight weeks of age, and progresses rapidly. Cats can become completely blind by the time they are 15 weeks old. You may have heard that PRA in Persian cats is limited to those from chocolate or pointed (Himalayan) lines, but in a recent study, no such associations were found. That means that PRA may be more widespread in the breed than is currently believed. A study is under way to determine which gene causes the disease and to develop a genetic test to identify cats that are carriers of this disease. Because many other breeds use Persians as outcrosses, health problems such as PRA can spread quickly and widely to other breeds.
As within dogs, hip dysplasia affects larger breeds, such as Persians. However, the small size of cats means that they tend not to be as affected by the condition. Persians are susceptible to malocclusion (incorrect bite), which can affect their ability to grasp, hold and chew food. Even without the condition, the flat face of the Persian can make picking up food difficult, so much so that specially shaped kibble has been created by pet food companies to cater to the Persian.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Persian at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
Other conditions which the Persian is predisposed to are listed below:
Although these health issues are common, many Persians do not exhibit any of these problems.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
Persians should be healthy and vigorous, able to breathe normally and produce only normal amounts of tears. Even if Persians do not have any overt breathing problems, flat-faced breeds are sensitive to heat. They need to live in air-conditioned comfort, protected from hot weather. Keep in mind that many airlines will not transport them in the cargo bay (which isn’t recommended for other reasons, as well) because of their potential for respiratory distress or even death in stressful conditions.
Persian cat lifespan expectancy is between 12 and 17 years. Avarage Persian cat lives around 14 years.