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Extreme breeding putting Persian cats at risk

Almost two thirds of Persian cats suffer from at least one health condition, according to the largest ever study of the breed.

Researchers say hair disorders, dental disease, overgrown nails and eye discharge are the most common conditions.

They hope the findings will help breeders make more informed decisions on their cat breeding. They also aim to assist veterinarians in spotting diseases earlier and owners in taking preventive measures.

Popular breed

Persian cats are a popular breed worldwide – with an estimated 100,000 in the UK – and are instantly recognisable by their luxurious coat and flattened face.

Researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the University of Edinburgh analysed the clinical records of more than 3,000 Persian cats that were treated under general practice veterinary care across the UK in 2013. 

They found almost 65 per cent had at least one recorded disorder, with hair problems (12.7 per cent), dental disease (11.3), overgrown nails (7.2) and eye discharge (5.8) the most common.

It was also shown that the most common cause of death was kidney disease (23.4 per cent).

It is essential we recognise that brachycephalic cats have many of the same problems as brachycephalic dogs, with the most severely brachycephalic ones experiencing the most serious health problems. We need to start breeding away from extreme brachycephalia before we cause even more harm to these gracious creatures.

Danielle Gunn-MooreProfessor of Feline Medicine at the University of Edinburgh

Flat faces

Experts believe the high levels of dental and eye problems are a result of their flat faces – known as brachycephalic syndrome. Previous research has shown that this abnormal head shape has also been associated with health problems in dogs.

The high levels of hair problems, meanwhile, are associated with a thick, long coat which is prone to tangling and matting.

Hopefully this evidence baseline will kick-start demands to reform the Persian breed’s health by breeding towards a less extreme body shape. Additionally, owners of Persians need to be especially alert to dental, eye and hair issues in their cats and seek treatment at the earliest signs of ill-health.

Dr Dan O'NeillVeterinary Epidemiologist at the RVC

Related links

Journal article

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

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