Persian Cats are the most popular breed in the United States per the Cat Fanciers Association, the largest registry of pedigreed cats today. Their gorgeous long hair is one reason so many love them. Early Egyptians first domesticated the cat around 4,000 years ago, but the cats depicted were sleek and shorthaired.
Some sources suggest that hieroglyphic references to longhaired cats brought to the west from ancient Persia over 3,500 years ago were the precursors of the breed. Others indicated that early domestic cats interbred with the European Wild Cat or Pallas Cat, both of which had longer, thicker hair. Others believe the long hair appeared as a genetic mutation.
But despite their long hair, are they hypoallergenic? We’ll take a look at the history and their appearance, factors that affect shedding, how to maintain a healthy coat, and more.
Persian Cat History
The history of the modern Persian as we know it begins more recently. In the 1800s, traveling diplomats brought longhaired kittens back home to England and Europe from their travels in the Middle East. The cats were known by country of origin. Travelers brought Persians from Persia (Iran) and Angoras from Ankara (Turkey). Europeans and Americans were smitten with this elegant but personable cat, and by 1871, the first cat show was held in London. Fanciers continued to breed the cats with specific traits in mind, and their efforts created the Persian as he looks today.
Persians come in so many colors that they’re broken into divisions. The divisions include solid color, silver and golden, shaded and smoke, tabby, parti-color, calico and bi-color, and finally, the Himalayan division. All colors have a coat that is similar in type. The fine-textured coat of the Persian is long and abundant, with a full ruff around the neck and long ear and toe tufts. Their heavy undercoat requires daily grooming to keep it from matting. How much time you’ll dedicate to coat care depends on the thickness of your Persian’s undercoat and how much you need to mitigate shedding.
Persians are heavy-boned, cobby-bodied cats, and their abundant coat makes them seem more imposing than they are. Their stout bodies stand on short, strong legs. Healthy adult Persians generally weigh between nine and thirteen pounds for males and seven to ten for females.
How Much Do Persians Shed?
The fine texture of the hair makes it mat easily, so your Persian will need to be brushed more frequently than some other longhaired breeds. His hair is long over his whole body, and he has a thick ruff encircling his neck and extending between his front legs. He had tufts on his ears and between his toes. Even his paws must be checked for debris and tangles. They shed this coat seasonally but lose some hairs year-round. How heavily they shed as the seasons change depends on several factors.
Because Persians have such long hair and so much of it, they will leave more hair behind than a shorthaired cat even though their double coat sheds no more frequently than most cats. Because hair and dander are the most typical allergens, Persians are not hypoallergenic cats. There are ways to mitigate and manage even heavy seasonal shedding. The less they shed, the less allergen-triggering protein spreads through your home.
Health Factors That Affect Shedding
Several health problems can make a cat shed unnaturally. Consider external parasites if you notice bald spots or red, irritated skin patches. If pests are not the problem, consult your veterinarian to check on the following.
If you see evidence of fleas on your cat, this may be causing his skin irritation, especially if he is allergic to them. Eliminate fleas, and you may solve his itchiness. If you see no fleas but your cat is chewing on and scratching his skin, he could be allergic to microscopic mites you can’t see. Your vet can perform a skin scrape to check and eliminate the possibility of external parasites.
Just like people can be allergic to cat hair, dander, and saliva, cats can have itchy, irritated skin that loses hair abnormally because of allergies. Food allergies are the third most common cause of allergies in cats, just behind flea bites and inhaled substances. Food allergies cause small, pale, fluid-filled lumps on your cat’s skin, and these cause him to scratch, further irritating sensitive skin. If you notice these around your cat’s head and neck, they’re probably from a food allergy.
If you suspect a food allergy, the next step is determining the ingredient(s) that bother him. Talk to your veterinarian about an elimination diet with a novel source of protein and carbohydrates. If your cat’s symptoms improve after ten weeks on this diet, you know food allergies are the problem. You may reintroduce each protein and carbohydrate one at a time to discern what triggers your cat’s hair loss. When you give him the one to which she’s sensitive, symptoms will come back in about a week.
Bacterial And Fungal Infection
Cats can develop bacterial infections from bites or irritation from allergic scratching. Cat bites or other injuries are hard to detect on a longhaired breed and may abscess under the skin. Subsequent scratching opens the skin to secondary bacterial or fungal infection. Ringworm is one common skin fungus that’s easy to recognize (circular patches of hair loss with itchy, scaly skin), and Persians are more susceptible to ringworm than other breeds. When your vet performs a skin scrape, they’ll be able to determine the cause of the hair loss and treat it accordingly with antibacterial or antifungal medication.
Other Factors That Affect Shedding
Cats shed more as the calendar moves through Spring and Fall. Your Persian sheds her summer coat and grows a thicker winter coat as the days get shorter and cooler. In Spring, she sheds her winter coat for a lighter summer coat as the days get longer and warmer. Cats that spend more time outdoors in the elements will do most of their shedding during these two times of the year. Your Persian is likely an indoor-only cat. An indoor cat will shed year-round.
If your cat lives outdoors, her shedding will be more pronounced as her body reacts to the environmental changes around him. Indoor cats experience less temperature and daylight fluctuation than cats who live outdoors and experience more natural changes, so they shed more steadily. A stable temperature can lessen shedding, but it won’t stop it altogether. Extending the day through artificial lighting can trigger early shedding or keep animals from putting on a heavy winter coat.
Healthy skin sheds appropriately, but unhealthy skin sheds hair and skin cells more than they should. Your cat could have bald patches and dry, scaly skin from nutritional deficiencies. If your cat has a thin coat, slow hair regrowth, scaly spots, and faded color, you might need to check what you’re feeding her. Be sure your food conforms to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards for nutritional adequacy. It will need enough protein, fat, essential fatty acids, and minerals to meet your cat’s needs at each life stage.
Certain breeds of cats have alopecia (hair loss) because it is a genetic trait. An example would be thinning hair on the rear flaps of certain breeds’ ears and the preauricular region (the top of the cat’s head in front of his ears) of aging cats of all breeds. While Persians are a relaxed, even-tempered breed, some individuals may develop psychogenic alopecia or hair loss from stress. If nothing else explains your Persian’s hair loss and you’ve had a recent significant change, that could be the cause.
How Do I Groom My Persian?
A Persian must be de-matted daily. The wooly undercoat tends to tangle around the ears, armpits, and hindquarters. Gently pull apart any mats with your fingers, then comb through with a wide-toothed metal comb. Avoid pulling out the whole tangle with the comb, or you may be pulling hair directly out of their skin. Persians can feel greasy and may need to be bathed. Special degreasing shampoos will help remove excess oils, although you may need to wash and rinse your cat multiple times to remove any residual shampoo. De-mat and brush out his coat before using a gentle shampoo, conditioner, and grooming spritz after his bath. Bathing is an excellent way to remove dead hair and dander that can trigger allergies.
A Persian might tire of grooming sessions longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Persians are friendly and even-tempered, but even the most relaxed cat can run out of patience when required to sit still for long periods. Quickly inspect your cat’s skin for cuts, rashes, or other lumps and bumps. If you find a mat in her hair, work it loose with your fingers first. After you’ve loosened it, gently comb through it with a metal comb or pin brush small enough to maneuver tight areas like his armpits.
Persians love attention. Your grooming sessions can be a great bonding time. Be gentle and work quickly when you de-mat and brush loose hairs from your Persian. Be patient when removing knots, and always brush in the direction her hair grows.
In addition to keeping your Persian in optimal health and grooming his coat regularly, there are a few other ways to reduce the allergen load in your home. Vacuuming and air purification can help reduce the hair and dander on surfaces and in the air in your home.
You can minimize how much your Persian sheds with good nutrition and frequent grooming, but you can’t stop him from shedding. Adding air purification to your home has benefits beyond tackling cat hair, but it can reduce the amount of hair in your home and the allergens in the air. The most significant allergen cats introduce is Fel d 1, which can spread via dander, the dead skin cells constantly sloughing and falling along with shed hairs. Unneutered male cats produce the most of this allergen, although production rates vary by individual. Having neutered males and females can help reduce the allergen in your home. Some companies are even trying to reduce the amount of Fel d 1 a cat will produce.
Cat dander is roughly five to ten microns, although it can be smaller. An air purifier that effectively eliminates airborne particulates smaller than this can significantly reduce the amount of pet dander available to trigger allergic symptoms. The Filtrete Air PurifierFAP-C03BA-G2 claims to capture 99.97% of airborne particles (as small as 0.3 microns), including dust, lint, dust mite debris, and mold spores, pollen, pet dander, smoke, smog, bacteria, viruses, exhaust particles, and ultrafine particles.
Vacuuming may not be fun, but it’s an effective tool in the arsenal against pet hair. If your air purifier eliminates the airborne particulates that trigger your allergies, a mechanical vacuum can take care of anything that lands on surfaces in your home or car. The best vacuum is lightweight, so you’ll use it frequently, and versatile enough to tackle multiple surfaces in your home and elsewhere.
While it is a traditional handheld stick vacuum, the Bissell Featherweight Cordless XRT also includes specialized pet tools. It converts to a handheld vacuum with a crevice tool and upholstery brush to get pet hair wherever it settles. This lightweight vacuum handles hard surfaces and area rugs but may not have the power for a home with wall-to-wall carpets. Carpet is a significant factor in how much hair and dander stay trapped in a room. You may consider the more powerful Bissell ICONPet Edge for fully carpeted homes. The best floors for allergy sufferers are hard surfaces that can be vacuumed or wiped clean of hair and dander.
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
Hypoallergenic means less likely to cause an allergic reaction than most things in a category. Hypoallergenic cosmetics can still trigger a reaction, but they contain ingredients unlikely to do so. Because the allergen cats produce that typically triggers an allergic response is in their saliva, skin, and urine and transfers to their dander and hair, no cat is entirely hypoallergenic. Some breeds lose less hair and dander than others, and certain breeds produce less of this protein. They would be less likely to trigger a reaction in an allergic person, but they can. Spaying or neutering your pet also reduces how much Fel d 1 they produce. Some breeds considered less likely to trigger allergies are the Siberian, Russian Blue, Bengal, Burmese, and Sphynx.
Persians shed, and they are not hypoallergenic. Their thick, luxurious coats shed more than most cat breeds. With attention to your cat’s health and nutrition and regular grooming, you can minimize how much hair and dander stay in your house. Consult with your physician to help manage your allergy symptoms. If you absolutely can’t be around cat hair or dander, a Persian may not work for you.
When you decide on a Persian, you’ve signed up to groom her daily and bath her frequently. Persians’ kind, sweet nature makes the time you spend together a joy. No cat is truly hypoallergenic, but if you can’t manage the shedding and dander of a high-shedding breed like a Persian, you may find that same sweet disposition in hairless or low-shedding breeds better suited to your needs.