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Not just a pretty face

Name: Natalie Waters from Stillorgan

Problem: Pedigree kittens may be cute, but they can have health problems if you're not careful

I don't often see pedigree Persian kittens, so when Bonnie was brought in to see me a few weeks ago, I posted her photo on to my Facebook page. Within a day, her picture had nearly 200 "likes", with more than 30 comments such as "gorgeous" and "ahhh", "purrfect".

But a few people took a different view. They said things like "Sad that anyone finds this kitten cute". What was going on?

The problem is a simple one: Persian cats have been bred specifically to produce a flatter face than standard cats. This gives them an unusual, exotic type of appearance, which is part of their charm.

But it can also contribute to health problems, such as blocked tear ducts, narrowed nostrils and other complications.

Additionally, Persian cats are prone to certain specific inherited diseases, such as a type of kidney disease. Some of my followers on Facebook strongly believe that it's wrong to produce pedigree cats that are more likely to be sick than normal cross-bred pet cats.

I spoke to Natalie about this when she came in the next time. As it turns out, Natalie's story of how she chose Bonnie is a good example of how people ought to choose new pets. Many people just decide "I want one of those" when they see an appealing animal.

Natalie had taken a much more careful, thoughtful approach to getting a new kitten. She wanted a pet for her apartment and she'd decided that an indoor cat was what she wanted. She'd met a friend's cat -- a Blue Persian male called Reggie -- and she'd liked his good looks and temperament.

Natalie had visited friends who had skittish, nervous cross-bred cats that were not very friendly. She decided that she'd prefer to have a friendly cat like Reggie, and she wanted to meet her new kitten's parents because she knew that temperament had a strong genetic influence. All in all, a pedigree Persian cat seemed like the right choice for her.

Natalie then did some research on the breed, discovering about the risk of inherited problems. She spent many months seeking the right kitten.

Finally, she found Bonnie's breeder. There was no history of any illnesses or respiratory problems in the breeder's establishment. She met both of Bonnie's parents, who were calm, relaxed cats. Natalie was then able to choose a kitten from a litter of four.

It is true that there is international concern about the Persian breed: over the years, the face of the Persian cat has become flatter and flatter, as breeders have competed to produce exaggerated versions of the latest show-winning cat. It'd be far better if breeders started to produce Persian cats that had the same lovely temperament, but with a more "cat"-shaped face that was less prone to respiratory and eye problems.

If anyone is considering a Persian kitten, they need to be sure to do the same level of research as Natalie. Bonnie is a cute -- and healthy -- kitten, thanks to Natalie's careful choice.