Pet OwnersVeterinary

Persian cats at ‘high’ risk of health problems, study suggests

Almost two thirds of Persian cats suffer from at least one health condition according to the largest every study of this breed, the research was conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

The study revealed that haircoat disorders, dental disease, overgrown nails and eye discharge are the most common conditions diagnosed in the Persian cat.

Many of these health issues may be related to the long coat and flat face that is characteristic of the Persian breed. These health issues represent major welfare challenges for Persian cats that should be considered by breeders and future owners. There are an estimated 100,000 Persian cats in the UK.

The report found that 64.9% of Persian cats 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%) and the average lifespan of a Persian cat is 13.5 years.

Previous research has shown that this abnormal head shape has been associated with various health problems in dogs, as well as cats. Meanwhile, the high levels of haircoat problems seen in this RVC study are associated with the thick and long coat of the Persian which is prone to tangling and matting.

Dr Dan O’Neill, lead author and VetCompass veterinary epidemiologist at the RVC, said: “Welfare concerns over brachycephaly in dogs have been recognised 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.

“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 haircoat issues in their cats and seek treatment at the earliest signs of ill-health.”

A spokesperson from the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) stated: “We welcome the findings of this study and have long advocated for further research into health issues faced by brachycephalic cats. We have previously raised our concerns regarding the health issues experienced by Persian cats.

“This study also provides a useful starting point, which GCCF hope will lead to future, more detailed studies aimed at defining the degree of brachycephaly that contributes to the associated health problems. This information would be of interest to breeders, judges and regulatory bodies, who continue to work tirelessly to improve the welfare of one of the oldest and most popular cat breeds.”

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