Persian cats have a distinct reputation for being lethargic and lazy. There are probably three reasons why this breed has been labelled with this description. The first is that through selective breeding over decades, cat breeders have not only selected cats of a certain appearance but of a certain character. Over time this character has become synonymous with the breed and so there is a certain genetic thread running through this popular breed.
The second reason is perhaps because these cats overheat easily. They have extraordinarily long coats. The coats are unnaturally long because Persian cats cannot groom themselves adequately. They need human intervention to keep their coats from matting. Once again this is due to selective breeding since about the 1950s.
It is plausible to suggest that such a coat might lead to the cat overheating under normal conditions and certainly overheating under warm or hot conditions. No one has asked a Persian cat if they feel hot. Perhaps every Persian cat in existence is dying to tell their owner to turn down the central heating.
It is said that the reason why being hot makes people, and I presume cats, feel drowsy is because the body has to work hard to keep cool and this extra labour makes people feel tired. And we know that heat saps the energy from us. Although Persian cats cannot sweat except through their paw pads, the bodies might be trying to keep cool under difficult situations which requires extra work which in turn makes the cat feel tired. Although this argument feels a bit far-fetched in relation to domestic cats.
Perhaps being hot makes cats feel lethargic because they need to keep still to try and stay cool.
I favour the genetic reason as being far more likely although there is probably a combination of reasons. Cat breeders try to ensure that their cats breed true which means that the offspring are the same as the parents. If the parents are ideal or near ideal in terms of appearance and they have a character which is what people expect i.e. lazy, then through line breeding they perpetuate this character.
I suspect there is an element of providing cat owners with what they expect in a Persian cat. If the reputation is that Persians are lazy, people who want to adopt one are looking for a cat with this character. This sort of behavioural trait is attractive to a lot of people. There are many advantages such as the cat being happy to be indoors all the time and not demanding to be let out to wander and live dangerously. It is relaxing for an owner if their cat is happy to snooze on the bed all day and get up for a couple of hours.
That is the lifestyle as described by one Persian cat owner on the Reddit.com website. Lindsey Simpson says that her eight-year-old female Persian lies on the same part of her bed all day. She gets up for about two hours and then goes back to the same spot all night while Lindsey sleeps. The Persian cat can resemble a favourite item of furniture. No worries for their owner.
The extreme flat-faced Persian cats have brachycephalic heads which can cause very severe health problems which in turn can cause cognitive deficits which in turn might produce this apparently lazy and inactive behavioural trait. You can read about this shocking information by clicking on the following link: Extreme flat-faced Persian cats are like humans suffering from coronal craniosynostosis.
There is a third possibility, by the way, which has just occurred to me. Persian cats are nervous. It is said that they are slightly predisposed to peeing and pooping outside the litter box due to their nervous disposition.
If a cat is inherently a bit nervous, they will naturally be more unadventurous and more defensive which in turn lends them to staying put in one place and not venturing out. I think, this too, is a factor. They might not be laid back at all but anxious.
Keeping your cat cool
If your cat goes out into the garden provide plenty of shade either natural or artificial and you might want the plant shrubs or provide a place for your cat to hide in. If your Persian cat has white fur keep them inside between 10 AM and 3 PM when the sun is at its hottest. You can apply sunscreen to your cat’s ear flaps because these are particularly vulnerable. You have almost certainly seen amputated ears because of sunburn leading to cancer in ear flaps. Seek your veterinarian’s advice about suitable sunscreen.
If I’m right about Persians becoming too hot then you might like to place fans around the house to keep the air circulating. You might freeze a bottle of water and wrap it in a towel or pillowcase and place it in your cat’s favourite place.
Your cat will need to ensure that she is hydrated so place the water bowl away from the food, make sure that it is fresh, avoid plastic bowls, using clear transparent bowls may help, use large bowls, use running water if that helps, place bowls around the house if that helps and finally you might like to mix water in with their prepared food such as boiled fish.