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How Did Persian Cats Get Flat Faces?

Persian cat white

Have you ever wondered how your fluffy Persian cat got his or her cute little flat face? Your Persian was more than likely born with their flat face, but Persians didn’t always have flat faces. Selective breeding, these days, is how breeders get the flat or peke-faced look that some Persians have. My own Persian cat Milo is of the peke-faced variety.

History of the Persian cat

Persians originated in Iran. In the Middle East area, they’re Shirazi cats, and in Iran, they are Shiraz cats. The Western world calls them Persian because that area of the Middle East was known as Persia until 1935.

The first Persians imported from Iran went to Italy and eventually made it to England. The cat fancy, a cat lover culture, recognized the Persian breed since the nineteenth century. The English were the first in the western world to breed the Persian until after the second world war when the Americans began producing them. Some organizations’ breed standards consider the Persian a variant to the Himalayans and Exotic Shorthairs, but others consider them a breed of their own.

The first Persian cats imported from Iran had a round face with a short muzzle. These Persian cats are known as traditional or doll-faced Persians.

A natural mutation in red and red tabby Persians in the late 1950s started the popularity of the peke-faced Persian. These cats were named after the flat-faced Pekingese dog. The peke-faced Persian is a registered breed in the Cat Fanciers Association. By the mid-1990s, the popularity at the CFA dropped due to serious health issues that plagued the peke-faced Persians. Between 1958 and 1995, only ninety-eight cats were on the register.

Even with the peke-faced cats losing popularity, breeders still liked that look and bred toward the peke-faced appearance. They did this with what is called selective breeding, choosing pairs with desired traits and mating them to get the desired outcome. They call this extreme or ultra-typing. They wanted cats that looked like the peke-faced Persian. They have described these new extreme-type cats peke-faced, but the proper use of peke-faced should only be used for red and red-tabby Persian cats since it was that particular coloring that had the natural mutation.

Selective breeding allowed the development of a wide variety of coat colors. This breeding led to Persians having flatter and flatter faces. The cat fanciers favored this head structure, but it can bring with it health problems.

Some Persian health problems are:

•           hereditary polycystic kidney

•           hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,

•           progressive retinal atrophy,

•           bladder stones,

•           cystitis (bladder infections)

•           liver shunts.

Those are the more severe issues. Persian’s also have trouble with their eyes watering, difficulty breathing, and sometimes their teeth won’t fit their mouths right.

Some breeders try to preserve the older, traditional breed that has the more pronounced muzzle. This type of Persian is more popular with the general public. They also don’t have as many health issues as their flat-face peers.  


Flat-face or peke-faced Persian cats are quite appealing to some people. However, for those that like that look, remember that once you get your flat-faced feline, you may face medical issues if your Persian isn’t from a reputable breeder. Before you decide on whether to get the peke-face Persian or a more traditional Persian with the short snout, you should consider the health issues you could face.

For those that already have a Persian, do you have a traditional or flat-faced Persian? What issues, if any, have you experienced? We’d love to hear your stories, comment below.

2 thoughts on “How Did Persian Cats Get Flat Faces?”

  1. I own a Peke face female calico Persian. She will be 14 years old in May of 2021 and the only medical issue that I have had with her is that she experienced anal prolapse. She had this happen twice since I had her. She can only eat a consistent diet of soft pate’ cat food, such as Fancy Feast Classic.

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