There are an estimated 100,000 Persian cats in the UK, popular for their luxurious coat and flattened face. However, many of the health issues identified in the study, including haircoat disorders, dental disease, overgrown nails and eye discharge, may be related to precisely the qualities which have made the breed popular.
The researchers say that the results of the new study will help breeders to select which cats to breed from, veterinary surgeons to spot diseases earlier and owners to ensure that they take preventive measures for common conditions in the breed. They will also help the public understand more about the welfare challenges relating to owning and caring for Persian cats.
By analysing the clinical records of 3,325 Persian cats using the RVC’s VetCompass programme, the researcher found:
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%).
The average adult bodyweight of a Persian cat was 3.9 kg.
Male Persian cats (average 4.3kg,) were heavier than females (average 3.4 kg).
The average lifespan of a Persian cat is 13.5 years.
Dr Dan O’Neill, lead author and VetCompass veterinary epidemiologist at the RVC, said: "Welfare concerns over brachycephaly [flat faces) 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."
Danièlle Gunn-Moore, Professor of Feline Medicine, University of Edinburgh and co-author said: "Along with growing health and welfare concerns for brachycephalic dogs, our studies raise the same concerns for brachycephalic cats. It is essential we recognise that brachycephalic cats have many of the same problems as brachycephalic dogs, with the most severely brachycephalic individuals having the most serious health problems. We need to start breeding away from extreme brachycephalia before we cause even more harm to these gracious creatures."
Photo: Danièlle Gunn-Moore
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