13 February 2013

Persians: Unhealthier than other Cats?

 Are Persian cats overall unhealthier than other cats?  Interesting question and maybe not as simple as it seems.

The first problem with this question is to define "other cats".  There are mixed breed cats (mogglies) and then there are purebred cats.  I would suspect the answer varies depending on the comparison group.

The another problem is lack of data.  Vets in general do not report to anyone the number of visits by any type of cat.  My vets have made comments like, "We see that a lot in Persians", but this hardly can be translated in claiming Persians are more unhealthy than mogglies.

So, what one is left with is anecdotal evidence, usually based on cost.  Now, I have 6 Persians.  Here's their vet bills for the last year:

  • Clarissa -- $700
  • Wendy -- $400
  • Olivia -- $150
  • Isabel -- $150
  • Spencer -- $0
  • Anya -- $200
Are they more expensive than my mogglies?  Yes, but... here's the problem.  Two of my mogglies, Clancy and Dante, are CRF kitties which I treat at home for basically free.  So, do I include that in for comparison?  $150 per sub-Q fluids... The other thing to remember about my Persians, they are rescues and Clarissa, Wendy, and Isabel all had life-threatening issues when I got them.

Olivia and her mousy
I think, rather than pure cost, one should look at types of problems.  Olivia and Isabel had UTI which occurs in a lot of cats, so I don't think Persians have more problems than others.  Anya's bill was from a routine new cat check up.  Wendy's bill was from two things -- a scratched eye and digestive problems.  Now these are problems I might point to as more common in Persians.  Their eyes with no nose to protect them are so easily scratched.  

As for the digestive problems, well, Spencer can (and does) eat everything.  Wendy can eat poultry raw or Greenies treats -- anything else is a problem.  The difference probably comes down to breeding.  Spencer appears to be from better lines than Wendy and Clarissa, who probably are inbred.  The more inbred, the more problems such as severe food allergies.  Persians are somewhat inbred in general, but thanks to unscrupulous breeders, many are very inbred and so they develop these problems.  But this inbreeding could happen to any cat breed -- ask the Siamese enthusiasts.

Robby, domestic longhair
Another source of digestive problems is the hair.  Clarissa's bill was mainly from her $500 hairball of recent times.  But having had domestic longhairs, hairballs and digestive problems related to hairballs are not a Persian-only problem.  Any long-haired cat has issues!

Now, two areas that I do think are Persian problem areas are their noses and their teeth.  Both are from their  flattened faces.  The nose does cause breathing problems in some cats and must be related to internal structures and nostril size.  Their teeth are generally misaligned and do seem to build-up tartar more than mogglies.  This is especially true for Wendy.

But, interestingly, Persians are seen as much more unhealthy than other cats.  Why?  Well, several things pop into my mind:
  1. Vets may remember a gorgeous Persian longer than the average moggly and ascribe more problems to Persians.
  2. I hate to say this, but some vets see a Persian and assume the owner has money so the vet, consciously or subconsciously, sees more problems. 
  3. Persian owners, especially those who bought expensive cats, may be more likely to take the cats to vets.
  4. Related to #3, if owners are taking their Persians to the vet more often, then I would guess they are being vaccinated more.  I'm convinced there is a relationship between vaccinations and immune problems.
  5. Persian owners are told and believe their cats are more unhealthy so they look for symptoms.
So, are Persians more unhealthy than mogglies?  I would say they have a few more problems or at least the potential for more problems.  Are Persians more unhealthy than other purebreds?  I honestly don't think they have more problems than any other popular cat breed.   

The answer to the opening question is a definite maybe.

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