Persian cats are, perhaps, best known for their flat faces, big eyes, and long, luxurious coats, but there’s much more to these pretty kitties than just looks. From their interesting—and somewhat mysterious—origins to the genetic change-up that contributed to their famous flat faces back in the 1950s, there’s a lot to learn (and love) about Persians.
If you're considering adding a Persian cat to the family, already own a Persian, or just want to learn more about one of the world's oldest and most famous breeds, read on to learn some fascinating facts about Persian cats—and check out some seriously cute pictures.
Persian Cats Have a Mysterious Origin Story
Although Persian cats can be traced back to the 1600s, their origin story is still somewhat of a mystery.
It's commonly believed that Persian cats originated in Mesopotamia, which was later named Persia—explaining the name "Persian" cats. Eventually, this country came to be what we know as modern-day Iran. Despite this widely held belief, some research shows that Persians' genetic make-up is very similar to that of cats that originated in western Europe.
The true origins of Persian cats may remain a mystery, but one popular theory says that an Italian nobleman named Pietro della Valle brought some Persians home to western Europe after learning about the breed while traveling through Iran. Similar theories say that they were brought to Europe by sailors (who often brought kitties on board for good luck), merchants, or travelers.
Whatever the origin story, once Persians arrived on the western side of the world, they quickly became one of the globe's most beloved breeds.
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Persians Come in a Range of Colors and Varieties
When you think of Persian cats, you probably picture the iconic Persian with long, silky, white fur and bright, blue eyes sitting on a pink silk cushion—or was that a Fancy Feast commercial?
Despite their appearances in cat food commercials, Persians can come in a wide range of colors and varieties. In addition to the white or silver Persians we all know, these pretty kitties can have grey, orange, black, tri-colored, and even calico coats. And there are just as many varieties of Persian cats, including tortoiseshell, calico, and tuxedo.
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Persians Haven't Always Had Flat Faces
Persians are probably best known for their squished faces, but you may be surprised to learn that Persians didn't always have flat muzzles. In fact, they didn't develop this unique trait until a genetic mutation occurred in a litter of kittens in the 1950s.
When the litter was born with flat muzzles, Persian breeders loved the look—and continued to selectively breed their Persians until it became a more common trait. Although the squished face—officially known as the peke-face—is the breed’s modern standard according to the Cat Fanciers Association, it can lead to several health issues. It’s not uncommon for Persians to have teary, runny eyes, difficulty breathing and respiratory issues, and trouble eating their cat food.
It is possible to find Persians with longer, pointed muzzles. Known as "doll face" Persians, these traditional kitties bare the closest resemblance to their Iranian ancestors.
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Persians Have Incredibly Thick Coats
Another distinguishing Persian characteristic is their long, luxurious coats. Comprised of two layers—a shorter undercoat and a long, silky topcoat—Persian coats tend to shed a lot.
If you're thinking about adopting a Persian or already have a Persian and are buried in cat hair, here's our advice: invest in a vacuum specially designed to suck up cat hair, put some strategically stashed lint rollers around your house, and stop wearing black.
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Persians Aren't Big Jumpers
Unlike many other cats, Persian cats aren't known for their ability to leap into the air—or even jump from pieces of furniture. Why? Their solid, stocky bodies aren't the most aerodynamic or agile, so Persians typically prefer to stay firmly on land.
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Persians Aren't Actually Divas
Thanks to their glamorous looks, Persians have somewhat of a reputation as being divas or high maintenance. The truth is, Persians are actually one of the lower maintenance breeds—as long as you keep on top of their grooming and the cat hair clean-up.
It’s recommended that you bathe or groom your Persian cat frequently, and be sure to keep their long fur free of dirt and dust. Some Persian owners like to cut their cats’ hair into what’s called a “lion’s cut”—or a very short haircut—but trimming the fur around their paws and booties can help keep them clean between grooming sessions, too.
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A Persian Won the World's First Cat Show
Did you know the world’s first cat show was held way back in 1871? Hosted at London’s Crystal Palace, the event drew nearly 20,000 visitors—and put some of the world’s most exotic cats on display. Kitty competitors included Siamese cats, Angora cats, Scottish Wild cats, polydactyl cats, and—you guessed it—Persian cats.
At the end of the day, a Persian cat took home the gold and was named "Best in Show."
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Persians Made Their Way to America Around 1900
It's believed that Persian cats first arrived in the United States sometime after 1895. When the Cat Fanciers Association formed in 1906, Persian cats were one of the organization's first registered breeds.
Since then, Persians have become one of the most popular breeds in America. In fact, according to the Cat Fancier's Association, Persians regularly snag one of the top spots in their ranking of the most popular breeds.
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Royalty, Historical Figures, and Celebrities Love Persian Cats
Cat parents aren't the only ones who love their Persians—famous figures throughout history loved these long-haired kitties, too.
Some of the world's best-known Persian parents include Queen Victoria; Florence Nightingale, who had over 60 cats in her lifetime; and Marilyn Monroe, whose white Persian was named Mitsou.
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Persians Have Graced the Silver Screen
Persians have their place in history and on the silver screen. In addition to the well-known Fancy Feast mascot, James Bond’s archenemy Blofield had a white-haired, blue-eyed Persian companion. And, let’s not forget, Mr. Bigglesworth of Austin Powers fame. (After a bit of a plot twist, the Persian version of Mr. Bigglesworth was replaced by a hairless Sphynx cat for the rest of the movie.)
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Persians Are Part of the World's Largest Cat Painting
Sold for a whopping $826,000, the world’s largest cat painting—named My Wife’s Lovers— features both Turkish Angoras and Persian cats. The painting is a sizable 6-foot by 8.5-foot piece of art, securing the title of the world’s largest painting of kitties.
There are a number of other famous paintings that feature Persian cats, but none are quite as large.
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
O'Neill, Dan G et al. Persian cats under first opinion veterinary care in the UK: demography, mortality and disorders. Scientific reports vol. 9,1 12952. 17 Sep. 2021, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-49317-4
The Cat Fancier's Association Announces Most Popular Breeds for 2021. Cat Fancier's Association