New study: Persian cats at high risk of health issues


They’re awfully pretty, but prone to problems.

New research out of the United Kingdom has found that almost two thirds of Persian cats in the UK suffer from at least one health condition.

That’s according to an article out of the United Kingdom by the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompass Program in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

One of the most popular cat breeds in the world, Persians ranked number four on the Cat Fancier Association’s list of the most popular breeds of 2018. They’re instantly recognizable by their luxurious coats and flattened faces.

Which may be a big part of the problem.

By analyzing the clinical records of 3,325 Persian cats, the researchers  found that haircoat disorders, dental disease, overgrown nails, and eye discharge are the most commonly diagnosed conditions.

The researchers say that the high levels of dental and eye problems seen in Persians result from their brachycephalic heads (commonly referred to as flat-faced). Previous research has shown that this abnormal head shape has been associated with various health problems in both dogs and cats, although the condition in cats has been less publicized. Meanwhile, the high levels of haircoat problems seen in the study are associated with their thick, long coats, which are prone to tangling and matting.

Key findings include:

  • Almost two thirds (64.9%) of Persian cats in the study had at least one disorder recorded
  • The most common specific disorders were haircoat disorder (12.7%), dental disease (11.3%), overgrown nails (7.2%), and eye discharge (5.8%)
  • Dental disease was more common in males, while claw/nail problems were more common in females
  • The most common causes of death were kidney disease (23.4%) and cancer (8.5%).

The researchers hope the study will help spread awareness of brachycephalic-related health problems in cats.

Dan G. O’Neill, MSCVetEPI, PhD, FRCVS, lead author of the study and a veterinary epidemiologist at the RVC, said, “Welfare concerns over brachycephaly in dogs have been recognized for some years. Now, our new study of Persians provides evidence that cats with flattened faces are similarly predisposed to some unpleasant and debilitating conditions.”

The researchers say the results of the new study will help veterinarians spot diseases earlier and encourage owners to take preventive measures for known health risks: “Owners of Persians need to be especially alert to dental, eye, and haircoat issues in their cats and seek treatment at the earliest signs of ill health,” O’Neill said.

There’s a message here for breeders, too, O’Neil added: “Hopefully this evidence baseline will kick-start demands to reform the Persian breed’s health by breeding toward a less extreme body shape.”  

Photo credit: © iStock/GlobalP

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