The last 35+ years..

Through Persian cat breeding the appearance of the cat that you know (probably the extreme Persian look) has been altered over a period of time (over the last 100 years and a perhaps more substantially over the last 30-40 years) resulting in a facial expression that has been described as “pansy-like” by the CFA, and “peeked”, “peke-faced”, “extreme”, “ultra”, “pig-faced” and “punch face” by cat fanciers. The latter term is used by sellers of the Persian in India.

  • “Peeked” “peke-faced” occur as spontaneous mutations it is said (I don’t agree with this). Persian cat breeding no longer uses this mutation, it seems, if it ever existed. It never existed because the flat face is a creation of selective breeding. This variant is not recognized outside the US (extremely flat faced as for the “extreme”)
  • “extreme” “ultra” “pig-faced” “piggy” “smushed” (slang) “smoshed” (slang) are interchangeable terms for the extremely flat faced (brachycephalic skull – broad and short – see cat head shape) Persian that has been bred that way.
  • an “exotic” Persian cat has been bred for short hair and can be combined with the “ultra” face. See Exotic Shorthair.

In comparison there is the Traditional Persian cat, which is described by the Traditional Cat Association (TCA) as a “doll face” Persian.

The traditional cat has a more usual appearance with a particularly endearing and attractive face. See the photograph opposite>>>>>> which is of Fuzie Faniez Faelyn, photographed by Daniëlle Rozeboom (copyright Daniëlle Rozeboom). They live together.

I would agree though that the face of extreme Persian cats is also very endearing (particularly kittens). Although sometimes the look can be too extreme, for me.

Here’s the controversial bit…!(I have no allegiance to either camp and express no views on what it right or wrong. I just report what I see and read)

TICA (The International Cat Association – a competing cat association) say that there is ample evidence to support their argument that peeked Persian cats were not part of the breed. They also say that the traditional Persian has a normal nose in respect of its position on the face and appearance. They also say that the traditional Persian is a healthy cat (implying that the peeked Persian isn’t)

Photo above of Persian show cat is © copyright Helmi Flick – the close up below is also by Helmi Flick. Please respect this professional photographer’s copyright. Breaches of copyright are acted upon by me.

In contrast the Persian CFA Breed Council says that Persian cat breeding has been astute over over a century and the breeding program has improved on nature.

They say breeders have maintained a balance between health and vigor while maintaining the gentle temperament.

The council would seem to have responded to a drift by breeders during the 1980s to developing a “piggy” look. This may have been the end of the gradual development from “traditional” to “extreme”, which reached its zenith in the late 80s. The breed standard, the breed council says, remained unaltered over the lengthy period of Persian cat breeding. This means, I would suggest, that the change was due to the interpretation of the breed standard, perhaps with the co-operation or encouragement of the show judges.

A change has taken place recently (2008) to the face “profile” in the breed standard. This would seem to reflect the change over time due to Persian cat breeding, as the desired face profile is now flat (vertical alignment). None of the early Persian cats had the facial elements in vertical alignment it would seem to me. Persian cat breeding will be modified to take into account this standard or is it that the standard is following Persian cat breeding? I think that it is a bit of both.

The breed standard for 1979 is illustrated in this picture taken from the CFA breed council manual.>>>>

The CFA Persian breed council standard currently states that the eyes should be prominent and the elements of the face (forehead, nose, chin) in vertical alignment

The nose as we know should be short, snub and broad with a break between the eyes.

As can be seen, the target appearance is very much of a rounded cobby body combined with a rounded head and a flat face requiring an extremely foreshortened muzzle. As we all know cats’ faces are not generally as rounded as that, but a little elongated at the front. says that the Persian cat’s face is very flat. The nose is short with the “break” between the eyes. The nose is nearly as high as the eyes.(, is a resource recommended by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine).

This then tells us why modern Persian cats have the appearance that you see.

Persian Cat Rescue
A list of rescue groups and notes on the subject. A carefully prepared list designed to simplify the search for a rescued Persian cat in the USA & World

The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) the major UK registry declined to comment on the development of the modern Persian when asked by me and referred me to one of their Longhair cat clubs on this matter and (surprisingly) on the matter of the breed standard. The GCCF sets “The Standard of Points” for registered breeds so I am surprised that it can’t supply me with the document.

There would appear to be a debate at the GCCF about the Persian standard. Is there a move by Great Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy to eliminate what is known there as the “Ultra” Persian?

As far back as 1985 the GCCF list of “defects” (for the Persian) included descriptions of elements of the current peeked Persian face. In other words the peeked face was (if bred beyond a certain limit) defective in respect of the breed standard.

Although, Persian cats were originally developed with a short muzzle, the muzzle has become extremely exaggerated, particularly in North America.

Persians with the more extreme head type are prone it seems to a number of health problems (specifically affecting their sinuses and breathing and tear duct drainage) caused by it. Breeders eliminate this by careful choice of breeding stock with more moderate head type. Good Persian cat breeding means cats that are as healthy as possible.

What about the appearance of the rest of the Persian cat? The lovely photographs of Helmi Flickgives you the answer. Just a few words in support. In addition to the “creation” of a peeked face Persian cat breeding has had the objective of longer fur, shorter ears, and a boxy design.

The thick fur supports the roundness of the body of Persian cats. The ideal is a heavily boned cat, solid with shortish legs as a result of successful Persian cat breeding.

Useful links=>click here Californian Persian cat rescueclick here for UK Persian cat rescue

What about the character of Persian cats? This list sums it up:

  • Sweet
  • playful
  • affectionate
  • trusting
  • gentle
  • like human companionship
  • like resting between play
  • ideal indoor cat (which a Persian cat needs to be because of its long coat).
  • quiet, with soft voice
  • like secure peaceful surroundings
  • devoted companion
  • Note: 1 in 3 Persians goes to the toilet in inappropriate places in the home (source: Capel House Persian rescue center UK)

A major feature, of course is, the Persian cats’ fabulous coat. You can read about it and how to maintain it by clicking on this link

Here is a potted history of the development Persian cats.

History of Persian Cat
Copyright © by Anna Sadler
CFA Breed Council except where indicated
Possible mating between the European Wild Cat or the Pallas Cat (longer dense coat) the earliest domestic cats, introduced longhair to domestic cat gene poolnot stated
Humans brought Persian cat from Middle East (Persia – now Iran) to EuropeMid 1800’s or 1500s (conflicting information)
Interbreeding of Angoras with native British domestic longhairs in the 19th Century makes the true origin of the breed unclear. (source: Wikipedia)19th Century
The world’s first cat show was held in England at the Crystal Palace in London in 1871 and Persians featuredJuly 1871
Persians imported to USA1869-1875
Persians and Angoras were freely inter-bred – “The Persian as it originally existed became lost in the amalgamation of breeds that maintained its name”early 1900s
During the period 1980 to the present day the breed standard changed to the peeked “pansy-like” face of the extreme Persian cat (this is not actually stated by the CFA Breed Council but must be the case)
1980 to present

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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