Q: I have had two rescue cats, both Persians. Each died of disease (cardiomyopathy, autoimmune issues) at about age 11. Are rescue cats or Persian cats especially subject to disease? Are American Shorthairs sturdier? I want to adopt again but fear the pain — and expense —I’ve had with these two darling cats.
A: I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’ve had with your previous Persian cats. Persians are wonderful cats, and I understand your desire to continue adopting them. Purebred cats in general, however, are predisposed to certain illnesses. Maine Coon cats are predisposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Burmese cats are at increased risk of developing diabetes. Persians are prone to polycystic kidney disease and “dirty face” syndrome.
Doing your research and only using cat breeders with an excellent track record and excellent referrals is one way to minimize the risk of adopting a cat with a genetic predisposition to illness. When you adopt from a breed rescue group, you’re probably less likely to have a thorough history of that particular cat’s lineage. Also, I imagine that some purebred cats are relinquished to a rescue group because they might have an illness that has become too difficult — either financially or emotionally — for the original cat owners to care for, so it behooves you to ask for as much detail about the cat’s medical history as possible.
Cat rescue groups do wonderful work, though, and giving a cat a second chance at a good life is a great thing to do. If you really do fear “the pain and expense” of owning a Persian cat, your safest option would be to adopt a mixed-breed cat. Ask your cat veterinarian for a recommendation or referral. Most cat vets have a few clients who are looking to find a home for a cat they can no longer keep. If that cat is a patient at that clinic, the vet should have an excellent idea of the cat’s medical history, minimizing (but certainly not guaranteeing) that the cat you adopt will be healthy.