Persian cat breed standard – critical appraisal and illustrated

April 11th 2011: This article is about the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) breed standard for the contemporary flat faced Persian cat. This cat is sometimes referred to as the “Ultra Persian” in recognition of selective cat breeding to an extreme degree i.e., “ultra”.

Note: This page has been republished after a check and some adjustments on 17th September 2023. Regrettably I felt the need to be critical of the breed standard as it drives the cat towards ill-health.

I am indebted to the celebrated cat photographer, Helmi Flick for her photograph of a contemporary pointed Persian cat to illustrate the breed standard. Pointed Persian cats are called Himalayan cats. The CFA treat them as part of the Persian cat breed.

Persian cat breed standard
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

See Persian cat breeding for information on the creation of the flat face that is enshrined in the breed standard. It is obligatory and it wasn’t always that way. Click on the following page for more on the Persian cat and its development: Persian Cats.

There is not a lot more to add that is not already on the photograph above. This cat is meant to show, “balance and refinement“. The whole should be “harmonious”. I must make a comment on that. This cat can neither be refined nor balanced as it is overbred. A refined cat does not have health problems bred into it – sorry. I don’t want to be critical but the state of affairs compel me to be.

The root cause of a number of the health issues of this breed is this statement in the CFA breed standard:

When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment

CFA Persian breed standard extract

It is entirely unnatural for a cat’s face to be in alignment vertically when viewed in profile. All the anatomy is distorted.

The coat should be long and thick; it softens the contours of this cat. The coat accentuates the cat’s roundness, a word often used in the breed standard. If roundness is required why is the face got to be flat!? The breed standard for the face is as stated in the photo – it has to be flat. Flat is not round! Please note, though, that there is a large following for the natural looking traditional Persian cat, which truly is refined and balanced. You can see where my sentiments lie. Seventy-five percent of the population agree with me.

Picture of a concave-faced Persian cat
Picture of a concave-faced Persian cat. Concave: having an outline or surface that curves inwards like the interior of a circle or sphere. Image: PoC based on images in the public domain.

The “short, snub and broad” nose causes health problems. You can read about them on this page: Persian cat health problems. The most obvious health problem is tear duct overflow staining the face.

The Persian has the classic “cobby” body. One of the most outstanding parts of the Persian cat breed standard is the huge number of coat colours and patterns that are allowed. You can see the list on the CFA Persian cat breed standard page (opens in a new window). Please also note that over time the breed standard may change. That would make some of the comments here redundant. I hope that happens.

Punch face Persian cat
Punch face Persian cat. Photos in public domain. Collage: PoC.

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