The changes in the Persian and The Siamese Cat
The Siamese cat has been known to have been kept as a pet as early as the late 16th century in Siam (Thailand) where it is now known they originated. The US was introduced to the Siamese around 1890 with the UK first recording the Siamese in a modern day cat show in 1871.
Out of all of the cat breeds the Siamese and The Persian, the latter of which I will write more of later, seems to have gone through the most significant changes in appearance, mainly due to the standard description in cat shows, and this has produced detrimental health issues to the modern day Siamese and Persian as well as noted behaviorial changes.
The standard original Siamese (which are referred to as ‘apple heads’) had a full round face, long slender legs, a wedge shaped head and muzzle, medium to large almond eyes and round cheeks. The fur on all Siamese cats is called Point Coloration, which is when an animal has a pale body and has dark coloration on the face, feet, ears and tail. There are many colour coats to the Siamese, some recognised by the cat fancy associations and with some members still in disagreement about other colour points.
The modern day Siamese cat is thin, flexible and muscular, with a thin pointed face, and although their eyes are the same almond shape, their ears are large and high and sit more on the side of their head then that of the original. Some original Siamese cats had kinks in their tails and were cross-eyed but these were seen as a flaw and breeders have largely managed to eradicate these traits.
Below are photographs of the Siamese as it went through changes created by breeders to appease the standards mentioned in cat shows. Sadly the standards for the Siamese face have gone to the extreme with long thin triangular faces and skinny bodies being the desired look.
The Persian Cat
The first Persian cats arrived in the West from Persia (now Iran) during the 16th century and by 1871 was being presented at the first cat show, in Crystal Palace, London, organized by Harrison Weir. Typically, in the UK, they are called Persian Longhair or Longhair. The breed is stocky in body with a large round face and thick fur and with a shortened muzzle.
Selective breeding has enabled a wide variety of coat colours with Queen Victoria, who owned two Blues, giving the breed Royal Patronage. Selective breeding has also led to the extremely flat face and even shorter nose. Many health issues come with this facial structure and it is known that hereditary polycystic kidney disease is prevalent in Persians with reports suggesting almost half the population of Persians are effected in some countries. Other health issues are connected to the Persian – the respiratory system with extreme breathing difficulties, narrowed nasal cavity, teeth problems, sinus problems, skin problems, and the tear ducts always overflowing leading to constant runny gunky eyes. If the eyes are not cleaned on a regular basis skin infections can result.
You can see from the 2 sets of skulls, below, how different they are. The traditional Persian is also called doll face and the extreme Persian type is referred to as ‘Ultra Type’ or ‘Peak Faced’ . Two of the largest cat show associations will only recognise the ‘Ultra’ Persian cat as the true breed. The Doll face traditional look is no longer shown under the Persian Category at international cat shows.
The brachycephaly (having a disproportionately short head – flat faced) mutation is the reason for the ‘Ultra’ face. It was noticed during the 1950’s as a spontaneous mutation amongst red and red tabby Persians. Breeders took a liking to this look and started selective breeding in its favour . Sadly the Persian has been singled out as one of the breeds with the most health problems due to the brachycephaly head. Having said this the Persian is still the most popular pedigree cat breed in the US although not so heavily favoured now in the UK.
Claudia Schlueter from the veterinary universities of Leipzig and Vienna identified four categories of brachycephaly. The findings appeared in the Feline Advisory Bureau’s Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in November 2009.
The Findings are quoted below:
” Category I, mild: nearly vertically positioned upper canine teeth without a dorsally rotated jaw, an inconspicuous stop, and clearly developed facial and neurocranial (brain-case) bones.
Category II, moderate: characterised by an incipient dorsorotation (lifting) of the upper canine teeth and jaw to a dorsal direction, a distinct stop, reduced nasal bones and a rounded or even apple-shaped brain-case.
Category III, profound: pronounced rotation of the jaw and the upper canine teeth was obvious. Additionally, these cats showed a distinct stop with reduced nasal and neurocranial bones. Because of the dorsally rotated upper jaw, the tip of the nose was at a higher level than the lower eyelid.
Category IV, severe: a more extreme form of the characteristics described for category III. These handicapped cats showed nearly horizontally positioned upper canine teeth and a high-grade dorsorotation of the jaw. An overly pronounced stop, underdeveloped facial bones and a rounded neurocranium were visible”
Today there are many ‘types’ of Persians such as Chinchilla Persian, Exotic Short Haired Persian, Peke Faced Persians, Himalayans, Smoke Persians; to name a few … The following pages shows the changing face of Persians through the years.
For further cat info or if you have any feline behaviour issues please feel free to contact Catnips – West London Cat behaviour and cat grooming service.