Your long-coated Persian cat is gorgeous and he knows it. However, his beauty might come at a price, especially if he is exceptionally flat-faced. Persian cats often suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome because of the shape of their heads.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Brachycephalic airway syndrome doesn't affect only Persian cats, but also dogs such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers -- breeds with pushed-in faces. In the feline world, the Persian's breed cousins, the Himalayan and Burmese, are also prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome.
Cats with brachycephalic heads have shorter skulls than normal cats, with shorter noses. These animals are created by breeders going after a certain appearance, generally for the show ring.
If your cat is a more traditional Persian, with a less pushed-in face, he's no more prone to respiratory issues than any other cat. If he's a very short-faced cat, a type often seen at cat shows, that's another story. According to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, cats affected with brachycephalic airway syndrome often have breathing difficulties, which affect their lives in many ways. These include general discomfort, stress, interrupted sleep, activity restriction and a lesser quality of life. "Stenotic nares" is a medical term for small nostrils, usually found in brachycephalic animals. If Kitty has a respiratory illness, his nasal passages clog faster than usual for a cat.
You'll notice if Kitty has obvious breathing difficulties, but keep an eye out for signs of future problems. If he snores a lot while sleeping or makes snorting noises when breathing, he could have brachycephalic airway syndrome.
Other things to watch for include a purple tongue, coughing and lethargy. Kitty might get worse when it's hot, or if he's excited about something. Persian cats aren't much in the exercise department, but observe him when he's playing to see whether he's easily winded.
If your cat suffers from brachycephalic airway syndrome, you can do things to make him comfortable. It's unlikely your Persian goes outdoors, but if he is an indoor/outdoor cat, keep him inside during hot and humid weather. While he's inside during those times of year, keep him in an air-conditioned environment.
If you want to travel with Kitty, be forewarned: Many airlines don't allow brachycephalic breeds to fly as cargo because of their respiratory problems.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Cats
- Vetinfo: Persian Cat Ailments
- VetStreet: What You Need to Know About Persian Health
- Messy Beast: The Ethics of Breeding for Deformity: Extreme Brachycephaly
- Universities Federation for Animal Welfare: Brachycephaly
- The New York Times: What to Know When Traveling With Your Pet
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.