Is the Maine Coon Healthier than the Persian?

From the standpoint of inheritable diseases the Maine Coon is healthier than the flat-faced Persian. Both are popular breeds. I believe this is worth knowing because most purebred cat adopters consider the health of the cat important.

Cat health poll
Cat health poll
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Maine Coon versus Modern Persian on inherited health issues
Maine Coon versus Modern Persian on inherited health issues. The photos are copyright Helmi Flick.

You are in the mood to adopt a cat and you fancy a purebred cat. Two of the most popular are the Maine Coon and the modern (flat-faced) Persian. A major influence in deciding between these breeds is whether there are any health issues associated with the breed due to genetic inheritance.

All things being equal, individual cats vary in their general health. The same goes for people. You can’t predict how an individual cat’s health will turn out.

However, because purebred cats are deliberate bred, mainly for appearance, they tend to develop inherited health traits because certain recessive genes which create health problems and which are normally kept dormant are pushed to the front and became active. It is a potential side-effect of controlled inbreeding for appearance.

Bearing that in mind, it is possible to compare breeds in terms of a potential to develop an inherited disease. This potential may never occur but it is still there and should be one of the things a person considers when deciding between two or more breeds that she fancies adopting.

It does not mean that all Maine Coons are healthier than the Persian. It just means that, in general, the Maine Coon is potentially more healthy. My guess is that if you compared ten pairs of cats, the Maine Coon would be more healthy in seven cases.

A point worth raising is whether the traditional Persian is more healthy than the flat-faced variety (see a full page on Persians). The answer should be yes even if we only refer to tear overflow, which is symptomatic of the flat face. As for PKD1, I am not sure of the difference in incidence of this disease with reference to traditional and modern Persians but it is high.

Note: the lists of potential diseases are quite extensive. Some will be rare or even very rare; others not so. An adopter should not be obsessed about these diseases but simply aware of them.

Maine Coon health and Persian health.

8 thoughts on “Is the Maine Coon Healthier than the Persian?”

  1. I have owned two traditional Persian cats and till date have had not much medical problems with them barring “Abscess inflammation” on 2 occasions in my 7 year old female cat “Matahari”.She also has minor dental problems. Bizarrely my 5 year old tomcat “Matata” is a miniature leopard, absolutely tough and wild.He is a kitten of “Matahari” and strangely is a failure as a “Stud Cat” for he doesn’t know the method of mating.Otherwise i have had no medical health problems with my 2 traditional Persian cats.

    • Traditional Persians and especially those in India will not have in my opinion be subjected to this long list of genetic illnesses. These illnesses come about because of inbreeding to create an extreme appearance in America, so affect American cats. That is my take on this. I would expect Indian traditional Persians to be like any other cat in terms of illnesses. I love your cats. Your Persians are nearer to the original than the American version.

  2. The current Persian queen also experiences difficulty giving birth naturally, due to the over-exaggerated head shape of the kittens. Many Persians require a cesarean delivery. (Same applies to the wedge shaped Siamese)

    As a child we always had cats, but I dreamed of one day owning a beautiful Persian. Sadly by the time I was old enough to take full responsibility for one, the interpretation of the breed standard had changed to the flat faced version. I hate how breeders (encourage by judges) have ruined both the health and appearance of this breed.

    Most polls show that the general public prefer the traditional Persian. The GCCF figures on numbers of registered pedigree cats show that breeders (and therefore buyers) increasingly favour longhaired breeds with a more traditional look than the current Persian.

    • Thank you Michele for the added info. There is a swing back to traditional (and a common sense approach). I hate to boast but I think PoC has had some influence in this because I have hammered home the misconceived idea of breeding the flat faced Persian for 7 years. In fact the breeding of this cat is in breach of CFA rules which is to not breed unhealthy cats. Yet they still accept it and promote the extreme breeding. Two-faced approach. Poor management at CFA.

      Would you agree that the UK Persians are less extreme?

      • I do think UK Persians are less extreme looking than their American counterparts. This may be because the GCCF is the only registry to specify in their points of standard that judges can withhold points if “The upper edge of the nose leather is above the lower edge of the eye.” My concern is that judges who favour the extreme look may decide not to withhold points. It is after all their interpretation of the breed standard which changed, resulting in breeders producing flatter faced cats in order to win titles.

        I may be wrong, but I have the impression that in the UK the Chinchilla Persian seems to retain more of the traditional face than other colours within the breed.

        I’m sure campaigns like those here on PoC to put health first, are having an effect on the buying public. Without access to this information, they wouldn’t necessarily be aware of those health concerns associated with the Persian and many other breeds.

        • Michael: I wonder if the GCCF have regrets about what happened with the Persian. I’m unclear what they mean by “natural morphologies” in section 2.4 of their breeding policy, but I did wonder if they had the Persian in mind.

  3. Thanks.
    This helps cement my opinion about breeders and breeding.
    Why anyone would continue to produce, over and over, any type of cat that is destined to suffer is cruel.

    • For me the Persian is a classic example of what went wrong in the cat fancy. At one time there was only the traditional Persian and it was the most popular cat breed. Then the breeders went too far and gradually the breed has lost some of its popularity in the West.


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