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About Extinct Persian Cats

When Leonardo Da Vinci made the observation that: "The smallest feline is a masterpiece", the Persian cats, the most gorgeous and royal of all cats, had not yet been introduced into Europe. We can only imagine what his amazement would have been if he had seen one.

But do you know that these wonderful Persian cats seen here are nearly extinct today?


My Persian kitties: Phebe, Tommy, Nelly, Rory, Olsy and Effy

In reality, the beautiful and healthy Persian cats are sold as pets and castrated; the deformed ones are kept for shows and breeding!

Pet owners in general prefer the normal, more natural look, though often one has no choice. However, many people looking for a pet do not see the differences not the consequences of getting a deformed creature, which is also much more expensive to keep, as it has to go to the vet quite frequently. They think that the cat with very flat, so-called pig face (I am referring to the look of the extreme, Peke-faced brachycephalic cats) just looks funny.

I do not belong to any animal rights organization and I am against the policies that some of them want to see adopted, to the extent of having recourse to aggressive measures against breeders who would not even dream of letting their cats outside. The idea behind these measures is that if there were no pedigree cats around, people would adopt cats from the animal shelters. It is wrong to punish cat breeders just because many people are so careless as to leave their pets unwatched and let them breed at will heedless of the sad outcome. Most of the breeders I spoke to, adore their cats and carefully interview clients before letting the kitten go to a new home.

All my cats are neutered and I am not a breeder, only a cat lover. However, I would hate to eventually see these beautiful creatures extinct and replaced with extreme types that, in addition to looking repulsive to me, have a shorter life span and many health complications to boot.

When I lost my nineteen-year-old Shaded Golden Lissy in 2000 and went looking for another cat, it was terrifying to see what had happened to the beautiful Persian breed over the past twenty or so years. The cat's new look was rather like that of an owl than a cat: very flat face, nostrils positioned between large round eyes and a displaced jaw. I wanted a cat with a normal face and nose and slightly slanted "cat eyes". I contacted more than thirty breeders in search of such cat. One breeder ridiculed me by saying that I "may find what I am looking for, in the back yards of Kentucky". Fortunately, after two months, I was able to find three kittens (first photo above).

During the time of my search for a new cat, I spoke to many breeders who had been in this business for more than thirty years and most of them were very unhappy about being forced to breed deformed cats. I need to explain here that breeders in order to have a successful business have to show their cats to the judges at Cat Shows, who make decisions according to their organizations official breed profile. My main concern is about the Persian cats as I have always had one, but in general I am sorry for all animals that are subjects to selected deformities.

Welcome to the Persian Cats Dark Ages


In the dark ages the few cats that survived were intact genetically, so when given the chance to breed they were unaltered. Can we state the same about Persian cats today, bred especially to produce cranial and other skeletal defects?

Brachicephaly (having a very flat face) is a birth defect and we certainly don't want to have our human babies born with it, so why should it be OK in our pets? Nature rarely allows genetic faults to be repeated, yet, Persian cats are mated to reproduce such skeletal deformities again and again (without mentioning the inbreeding that often still takes place). An animal confined to a room or a cage is left with no choice. It is the person involved with the breeding who should feel the responsibility for that animal as well as for her present and future kittens.

It is hard to understand how this trend of breeding such unnatural-looking cats took place today, when we are so much concerned about everything being natural. Out of the blue, a deformity that not only causes health problems but also often threatens the life of cat is considered to be not merely acceptable, but is actually promoted and prized.

Many cat organizations are proud of their support of research in feline diseases while at the same time their judges enforce rules that result in disabilities in cats!

From time to time we hear some horrifying cases of animals that have been mistreated, yet if saved in time, they have a good chance of survival. If not genetically mutilated, they could still lead a healthful life. Those people who have mistreated these poor animals are probably mentally unsound but if not, they should end up in court. However, genetically changing the physical structure of a cat, resulting in painful or in some cases fatal health problems seems to be being officially sanctioned.

Imagine for a moment that these mutations were happening to our children or to ourselves? Imagine our bodies becoming stunted, our eyes incessantly runny, our breathing heavy, and the jawbone inhibiting a proper bit. Would we find it easy to live with such abnormalities?

It is noticeable at most of breeder's web sites that their silver and golden cats are already quite altered too (i.e. getting closer to the look of the other Persians). Although it has taken some 30 years to get to this point of abnormality, in breeding terms it is still a trend. If, however, this trend is not checked in time we will bring about the complete extinction of this beautiful breed of cats and they will be replaced by deformed creatures which, if able to survive at all, would be incapable of living out their normal life span of around twenty years, and would perhaps be lucky to live to be ten.

I do believe that in the future, when breeding practices are more closely scrutinized, these practices will be appraised as harmful to Persian cats (and the same seems to be the case with some Siamese breed). The crucial course of action, if we are truly concerned with the well-being of this magnificent breed of cats, is to give up this infamous misconduct so that the future normal life of thousand of animals may be guaranteed, or is the public simply interested in winning ribbons for its cats at shows?

Moreover, prizes could still be competed for if the rules of the game were simply reversed so as to favor the golden mean or in other words - moderation!

Please get in touch with any comments or reactions to my site.

All photographs and graphics copyrigted by Maya Elston