Are Persian cats hard to breed?

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Table of Contents

How do you get a Persian cat to mate?

The first thing that needs to be understood about Persian cats is that they are an aristocratic breed.  This may sound a little ‘snobbish’ but, ask anyone who has had the pleasure of owning a Persian, or two, and they will tell you that these cats, while their behaviours give us certain clues that are a dead give-away where well-bred cats are concerned, and they can be a little fussy in their choices of owners, food and even mates; are the most gentle and loving feline friends.  When we say fussy – we absolutely mean it.  This is especially the case where mating is concerned.  

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Are Persian cats hard to breed?
Are Persian cats hard to breed

Where do Persian cats come from? 

Persians do, in fact, originate from Persia (Iran) and have been a popular choice of breeders in the UK, Europe and the United States since the 19th Century when the cat show circuit started to gain traction in the United States.  It was at this time that Persians were introduced into the USA and rapidly overtook the Maine Coon cat as America’s most preferred long-haired cat breed.  With their signature ‘flatface’ look, long hair and beautiful round eyes ranging from bright blue to orange, these cats are truly beautiful creatures.

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Yet, before you rush into breeding your Persian, there are a few important things you need to know about how to go about it in the right way.  Firstly, Persians must be bred with other Persians.  Since they are an aristocratic breed, most Persians are bred for sale and the most beautiful and interesting ones are exhibited at cat shows.  Depending on the quality of the cat, Persian kittens can fetch quite a price.  Nevertheless, there are other factors to consider such as the qualities and characteristics that you would like to breed into your new litter as well as those that you do not want.  As such, the colour, size, and character of the kittens will be ‘downloaded’ from the parents and some will be born to look like the mother and some will resemble the father.  There is no in-between – the new kittens will come out like one or the other. 

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Another important issue is to understand that Persians are not just left to their own devices when it comes to mating.  The male cat, also known as a ‘tomcat’ or ‘stud’ is specifically chosen for the female or ‘queen’ based on compatibility with the overall desired results one would like to achieve with the new litter.  When the queen cat is in season, or ‘on heat’, she can remain that way for approximately 10 days or so.  It is during this period that she will be able to mate with the tomcat. 

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How to breed Persian cat

The Persian breeding process begins when the queen comes into season.  Most often, the queen cat is kept in a breeding cage for the period that she is in season and introduced to the tomcat at regular intervals to ensure that she ‘takes’.  Click this affiliate link to get your breeding cage.   However, life in the Persian cat community is not always simple and cut and dried.  At times, the queen cat may reject the tomcat and when this happens other studs should be introduced until eventually the queen gives in.  This can be frustrating for breeders and cat owners alike.   

Once the queen is pregnant, she needs to be well-cared for throughout the pregnancy to avoid the possibility that she might miscarry.  This means ensuring that she is taken for regular check-ups at the vet where necessary and that she has the right diet and is given her favourite foods, supplements to improve her condition and that she is carefully groomed to ensure that she is free from knotted fur so that she is as comfortable as possible throughout her pregnancy.  

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Miscarriages are common in Persians and every effort needs to be made to ensure that the cat successfully carries to full-term. 

The gestation period is approximately 9 weeks, that is from about 63 to 71 days.  Once the queen has been confirmed to be pregnant, the delivery date can be accurately estimated.  This delivery date, believe it or not, is as important in Persian cat breeding as it is with determining pregnancy due dates in humans, since, with Persians, the breeder often will need to assist the queen to successfully deliver.

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When a Persian queen miscarries, this can be due to genetic problems such as close inbreeding or inherited disease.  Persians are prone to kidney disease for instance.  A Persian queen can also miscarry when she is not keen to embrace motherhood.  Something in the cat’s physiology and psychology goes awry and she can spontaneously miscarry at any stage during the pregnancy.

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Case study:  Princess Babalina – the cat that refused motherhood

Let’s now turn to a typical case study example of a Persian queen who refused to become a mother on three separate occasions.  Princess Babalina was approximately 18 months old when she became pregnant for the first time.  The breeder who initially owned her bred Princess from a show cat mother, ‘Missy’ and a show cat father ‘Ziggy’ – whose show cat name was Bollinger Boy and whose own father was imported into South Africa to be used as a breeding cat specifically for breeding show cats.  Princess Babalina was an exquisite looking cat who resembled her father and was born with a slight jaw defect – many Persians are born with slight defects.  When this happens to a Persian cat, the cat is never used for show purposes since the standards at cat shows are extremely high.  But, this does not mean the cat will not make a good breeding cat since the defects can be bred out via the subsequent generation. 

Princess Babalina’s first pregnancy traumatised her.  Instead of staying at home to embrace her confinement, she wandered from the breeder’s home one night during a storm and landed up in the author’s garden.  The author’s son discovered her huddled in amongst a few shrubs trying to keep out of the rain and brought her inside.  Since we had no idea where this cat had come from, we took her in and looked after her.  However, none of us had any idea that she was pregnant.  A few days later, unbeknown to any of us, she had given birth prematurely to two kittens one night which we discovered behind one of the couches in the living room the following morning.  However, what we found when we discovered the kittens was not what one would expect.  The kittens had been born, but, many Persians do not automatically ‘break the birth sack and clean it’ when they give birth and since the sacks of both kittens were still intact when we found them, the kittens were unable to breathe properly and consequently had already passed away. 

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This is where the help of the breeder comes into play.  A breeder who is assisting a queen to give birth will break the sack to welcome the kittens into the world.  Yet, this is not the only thing that the breeder will do when the kittens are born.  Often, a small pipe is inserted into each kitten’s mouth and a little way into the throat area which kicks off the ‘breathing process.’  Once this happens, the kittens are fully birthed and can be handed back to the mother to commence the nursing process.

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Once Princess Babalina had healed from her first miscarriage, she was once again introduced to another tomcat by her breeder.  But, a month into her pregnancy and she once again miscarried.

A third attempt at bringing Babalina to motherhood was considered.  This time, we took her to another breeder and she spent her full season period of 10 days in the breeding cage at the new breeder’s home and was introduced to two different tomcats.  However, she refused them both!  While Princess Babalina is a prime case of a Persian who refused to breed, this does not mean that all Persians are the same.  It does, however, show that these cats definitely need a lot more care and attention than some of the other cat breeds.

What health problems do Persian cats have?

Due to the selective breeding of Persian cats, many different physiological problems have arisen, often resulting in birth defects.  While cat show judges and some breeders prefer a certain look, and as such selective breeding of Persians has become the norm, there are often cases where the health of the cat suffers due to physiological issues.  Here are some of the common physiological problems that Persians are born with.

Eye problems

Persians have large protruding eyes that can reduce their ability to close their eyelids which results in increased cornea exposure.  This is a factor in exposure keratitis and more than likely contributes to the development of corneal sequestrum, which Persians are prone to.

Epiphora (occular discharge)

Epiphora is the Persian ‘runny eye disease’.  This occurs as a result of deformities of the tear ducts which, due to the change of facial shape of Persians as a result of over-breeding can mean that the cat suffers from runny eyes.

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Dental problems

The abnormal shape of the skull of Persian cats means that not only is the nose short but the teeth and jaw are also affected.  In short-nose Persian cats, their teeth do not align properly which means that they cannot bite or chew properly and this can eventually lead to dental problems.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome 

Many Persians suffer from what is known as brachycephalic airway syndrome, which happens when the affected cat has a very narrow external nose opening, narrow nasal passages and a substantially long soft palate.  This causes breathing problems in the cat where the cat can sound like it is snorting or snoring.  In some cases, this problem can severely affect the health of the cat.

Case study:  Cooper – the cat that was born with a lump on his head

Cat owners and cat breeders alike often spend a lot of money on breeding their cats for the best outcomes possible.  This includes the cost of mating – yes, breeders do charge a fee if you take your Persian queen to a breeder for a mating session with one of the breeder’s studs.  Yet, while every effort is made to breed in desired characteristics and breed out defects, some Persians are still prone to genetic defects.  Take for example Cooper.  Cooper was a black Persian with large orange eyes and for all intents and purposes a most beautiful cat.  Yet, despite his good looks, he was born with a slight lump on his head which meant that the breeder could not sell him as a show cat.  The breeder could not even keep him for breeding purposes since his siblings were chosen for the task.  While Persians are indeed expensive to buy, Cooper’s head bump meant that he was up for gifting – and this is how he came to live with the author and became one of the sweetest feline companions to own.  This begs the question of whether owning a Persian is only reserved for those who can afford one.  Clearly not – if you are lucky enough to receive a beautiful gift like Cooper!

Are Persian cats hard to breed
Cooper – the black Persian with orange eyes

How many kittens can a Persian cat have?

As we can see, Persians are somewhat different to other cat breeds in a lot more ways than one.  Their unique physiology means that purebred Persians also have very compact hips which means that Persian queens give birth to relatively small litters as compared to other cat breeds.  Most Persians will produce a litter of between two to 6 kittens at the most and their lifespan is on average between 15 to 18 years. 

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Conclusion

Ask any Persian cat owner whether they think that Persians are hard to breed and most will say that it is not that these cats are difficult – they are just fussy!  Given the aristocratic nature of Persians, this is absolutely true!  Yet, Persian physiology is the main consideration when breeding your cat.  If your cat is healthy and is not behaving like Princess Babalina, then there is no reason why Persians should be that hard to breed if conditions are right.

Persians with long hair need special grooming.  Click this affiliate link to order your grooming brush.

Your Persian is a special breed of cat.  Click this affiliate link to order the right food to keep her healthy.

Helen Fenton – Content Director

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

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