Flat faces are a trait all Himalayan cats share. While this feature can be cute, it can also lead to health problems. With care and prevention, though, you can help your kitten stay healthy and enjoy a lifetime of companionship, love and cuddles with your new friend.
Breeding for Flat Faces
Himalayan cats are a type of Persian, but they have also have Siamese genes in their ancestry. As a result, their colorpoints—the colors on their ears, eyes, paws and tails—are different than those of other Persians. Himalayans have been bred to keep many Persian features, including the flat face. If you want a kitten, look for a breeder who focuses more on the health of his animals than on producing kittens with dramatically flattened faces. Also, find a vet experienced with the eye, breathing and weight issues that can face these types of cats.
Because of their flattened faces, Himalayans can have problems with their tear ducts, leading to runny eyes and sometimes infections. To lessen the risk, clean your cat’s eyes every day. Talk to your vet about the best ways to wash your kitty’s face without hurting or stressing him, and ask about ointments or other products that can help keep your Himalayan’s eyes and tear ducts healthy.
According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, Himalayans don’t tend to have respiratory trouble. Research by the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, however, indicates Himalayans and other animals with flat faces are at higher risk for these problems. Your kitten might have trouble breathing through her nose, especially when she gets older, and could be prone to respiratory infections. Have her checked regularly by your vet. Also pay close attention to her breathing, so you’re aware immediately of any changes and can get her prompt treatment.
Risk of Obesity
Himalayans who have trouble breathing don't usually run around much or get other exercise. Their sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, which makes physical activity even more difficult. While this isn't necessarily a problem for kittens, who are naturally very active, be aware of the potential for obesity as your Himalayan grows into adulthood. Make sure your kitty exercises regularly—use a feather or fishing toy if he doesn't want to stir on his own. Also avoid overfeeding him, and never share your food.
In some cases, your vet might recommend surgery to fix small nostrils, narrow airways and other features that can cause breathing difficulties. You might ask your vet to check for and, if necessary, operate on any of these problems while your cat is being spayed or neutered.