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Many people love the look of flat-faced cat breeds, and for good reason – they’re adorable! Their little squashed noses and large, round eyes are undeniably cute. What’s more, many breeds of cats with flat faces are thought to have the best temperments, being loving and sociable.
In this article, I give you 10 flat-faced cats, from the popular and luxurious Persian to the Exotic Shorthair and Selkirk Rex. Each has its unique look and personality, so there’s bound to be a cute short-nosed breed on this list that you’ll love.
However, flat-faced cats are also prone to a host of medical conditions. Their shortened noses can make it harder for them to breathe, besides being more prone to certain eye, skin, and dental conditions. So, I’ll also run through these medical conditions to help you decide whether getting a flat-faced cat as your next pet is something you’re willing to take on or not.
Let’s get started!
What Are Brachycephalic Cats?
Cats with flat faces have short noses because of an inherited genetic trait. This is known as brachycephaly and is commonly seen in cats and dogs, such as Persians and Pugs. Animals with this trait are known as being “brachycephalic” – which translates from Greek to “brachy” meaning “shortened” and “cephalic” meaning “head”.
It is caused by shortened skull bones, resulting in a flat and upturned nose and a more rounded face. Two genes are linked to brachycephaly, but the exact genes responsible for this trait are not yet known. However, it is a dominant gene as cats with flat faces will produce offspring that have brachycephaly. All kittens will flat faces will also grow into brachycephalic adult cats.
There are several different brachycephalic head shapes in cats. These are categorized based on how severe the abnormal trait is and how flat their face is. They are as follows:
- Category I – Mild: Their upper canine teeth are positioned nearly vertically, and the bend between the nose and the face is unnoticeable. The bones of the face and the cranium which surrounds the brain are developed.
- Category II – Moderate: The upper canine teeth and jaw face more of an upward direction, known as dorsorotation. The bend between the nose and the face is more distinct, facial bones are less developed, and the cranium is rounded.
- Category III – Profund: The upper jaw and teeth are obviously rotated upwards, so much so that the tip of their nose sits higher than their lower eyelid. There is a distinct bend between the nose and the face, and a clear reduction of facial and cranial bones.
- Category IV – Extreme: The upper canines are positioned nearly vertically and the upper jaw is highly distorted. The cranium is extremely rounded, the bend between the nose and mouth extremely pronounced, and the facial bones are very undeveloped.
Flat-faced cats are at more risk of certain health conditions because of their shortened faces. Think about it – all of the organs and tissues inside a normal-sized head are being squashed into this new shortened skull shape. This is links to breathing difficulties, eye conditions, and dental problems. The more severe the brachycephaly, the higher the risk of these issues.
However, despite the potential negative effects on the animal’s health, the gene causing the flat-faced trait is still bred as it is seen as desirable. This abnormal face shape is extremely cute and some of the most popular breeds are brachycephalic cats.
What Breeds of Cat Have Flat Faces?
Now we have covered what flat-faced cats are and why some felines exhibit these adorable squashed noses, it’s time to look at some examples. In the section below, I have listed 10 different breeds that all show the brachycephalic trait to some severity.
Persians are most well-known for their adorable squashed faces. In fact, they are probably the most recognized flat-faced breed of all domestic felines. The severity of brachycephaly varies – the traditional Persian breed has a more elongated muzzle, falling into Category II. However, through selective breeding, “ultra-Persians” have also been developed.
“Ultra-Persians” have extremely flat faces and fall into Category III or Category IV. This version of the breed first came about due to two random genetic mutations in red Persians in the 1950s. Breeders and owners fell in love with this over-accentuated version of the traditional Persians, which is the look that many people associate with the breed today.
As the look of the Persian shifted, as did the breeding standards from several cat fanciers associations. Many now don’t recognize traditional Persians as a breed. According to the latest amendment to the standard outlined by the CFA Persian Breed Council in 2007, the nose, chin, and forehead should all be in alignment. However, some associations such as TICA don’t specify the need for a flat face.
Aside from their squashed faces, Persians are known for their luxurious long-haired fluffy coats and long whiskers. Typically, cats with long whiskers are large, but Persians only weigh around 12lbs on average. However, their extremely thick coats give them the illusion of size, so they have the whiskers to match! They’re also known for being extremely loving, sociable, and affectionate.
2. American Burmese
Burmese cats originated in Thailand in the 1930s by crossbreeding a Siamese cat with an unknown brown cat. Some of the litter has dark coats, which became the foundation for the new breed. At this point, Burmese cats still had longer muzzles similar to their Siamese relatives.
However, the American Burmese, also known as the “contemporary Burmese”, was born as the result of a genetic mutation. These cats have shorter noses, flatter faces, and broader head shapes, classifying them as a brachycephalic cat breed. In the USA, these cats became extremely popular and are now the new redefined standard of the breed.
Burmese cats make great pets for families with kids as they are extremely playful, energetic, and sociable, requiring a lot of attention. They’re also one of the most curious domestic cat breeds, as well as being loving and affectionate. However, their curiosity means they aren’t suited to being outdoor cats – they could end up getting themselves in a lot of trouble!
Himalayan cats are the result of crossbreeding flat-faced Persians with Siamese cats. The result is a beautiful breed that has inherited characteristics from both its parent breeds. From their Persian ancestor, Himalayans have a flat face like ultra-Persians have. When you look at a Himalayan cat, you’ll immediately notice their squashed faces and upturned noses.
On the other hand, their Siamese ancestor has passed down their pointed coat markings, essentially creating a Persian-looking cat with new colorations. Their pointed coats come in several colors, including seal, lilac, blue, chocolate, red, and cream points. Breeding standards also accept tabby, tortoiseshell, and lynx coat patternings.
In some cases, Himalayan cats may have slightly longer noses similar to their Siamese relatives, but these cats will not be recognized by cat fancier associations – the flat-faced version is the only accepted type. They also have large, round eyes characteristic of brachycephalic cats in the same bright blue color of the Siamese.
In addition to their flat faces, Himalayan cats have also inherited the same luxurious coats, round and stocky build, and medium-size as the Persian. This breed is also loved for its gentle and loving yet energetic personality, a combination of both its parents’ temperaments.
4. Exotic Shorthair
Exotic Shorthairs are another breed that was developed by crossbreeding a Persian. This time, the Persian was bred with an American Shorthair. The Exotic Shorthair is very similar to its Persian relative in several ways. It has a similar docile temperament, stocky medium build, and large rounded eyes. Of course, it also inherited a Persian’s flat face.
When looking at the head of an Exotic Shorthair, you will immediately notice the short, broad nose that is upturned. Their muzzle is also short and rounded, giving them a distinctive flat face. Paired with their rounded head and broad skull characteristic of brachycephalic breeds, it’s clear to see why this cat made it on this list.
Other notable traits include its small rounded ears, large circular eyes, and thick rounded tail. Their fur coat, unlike the coat of a high-maintenance Persian, is short but dense. This makes them much easier to look after than their Persian relatives, but with many of the other desirable characteristics. So, if you like the idea of having a Persian as a pet but don’t want to deal with the daily brushing and grooming, an Exotic Shorthair could be the cat for you.
5. Scottish Fold
Scottish Folds are best known for being cats with small ears. Their ears are small and rounded already, but a genetic mutation means that their ears lack cartilage. This causes their ears to flop forward towards their head, making them look even smaller in size. However, having small ears isn’t their only distinctive trait – Scottish Folds also have squishy and round flat faces.
This squashed, round face partnered with their floppy ears and large eyes gives Scottish Folds an undeniably adorable owl-like appearance. Looking so cute, the breed quickly became popular among celebrities such as Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. However, keeping one of these cats has become a controversial topic due to the associated health conditions.
Scottish Folds already have increased health risks due to them being a brachycephalic breed. However, the lack of cartilage – not only in their ears but also in joints all over their bodies – means they are also prone to joint conditions and live shorter lives too. Nevertheless, these cats are still popular in the US.
6. British Shorthair
British Shorthairs are also considered flat-faced cats. Their noses and muzzles are shorter than most cats have and their heads are rounded, all common features of brachycephalic cats. However, compared to more severe and pronounced flat-faced breeds such as the Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese, the degree of brachycephaly is only mild.
As a result, British Shorthairs are one of the healthiest flat-faced cat breeds. Many flat-faced cats have eye conditions, breathing difficulties, dental issues, and skin infections. Yet British Shorthairs are not brachycephalic enough to develop these problems. If you’re looking for a cute-looking kitty but don’t want their aesthetics to impact their quality of life, this breed could be a good choice.
Aside from their mildly flat faces, British Shorthairs are known for being cats with big eyes. These large eyes make them one of the most attractive domestic breeds that exist. Moreover, their eyes and coat color combinations are highly contrasting, making their round eyes look even more striking. From a blue coat with orange eyes to color-pointed cats with blue eyes, there are some stunning combinations available.
Their eyes aren’t the only round thing, will all parts of their bodies having a distinctively rounded appearance. From their rounded paws to their rounded tail, ears, and body, British Shorthairs are super snuggly like real-life teddy bears. To match, they also have undeniably sweet and gentle personalities, forming strong bonds with their owners.
7. Selkirk Rex
Like the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, the Selkirk Rex is known for its distinctive curly hair. However, this is caused by an entirely new mutation – while the other two Rex breeds have no undercoat, the Selkirk Rex has more normal-length hair. As such, their coats are made up of loose curls that give them a truly unique appearance, available in both short-haired and long-haired varieties.
The breed is relatively new, being first accepted by TICA in 1992. The first-ever Selkirk Rex was discovered in the 1980s by a Persian breeder who found an unusual-looking kitten from the offspring of a stray cat. The breeder, Jeri Newman, crossed this kitten with a black Persian cat. Together, this pair has a litter of six all with curly coats which were used to create the breed.
With the Persian ancestry, it should come as no surprise that the Selkirk Rex also has a flat face. In development, outcrosses with Himalayans, Exotic Shorthairs, and British Shorthairs have also been used. These are three other brachycephalic cats, further contributing to the flat-faced trait. Cat fanciers associations still permit these outcrosses to help genetic diversity, but these will only be allowed until 2025.
Flat faces and curly coats aside, the Selkirk Rex is also loved for its temperament. Having taken on the laid-back personality of the Persian, the loving and affectionate behavior of the British Shorthair, and the playfulness of its Exotic Shorthair relative, it has an incredible personality you’re guaranteed to fall in love with.
The Bombay cat is a breed developed by crossing Burmese cats with the American Shorthair. The breeder hoped to create a domestic cat that looks similar to a wild panther, and the result isn’t far off! This breed has a strikingly dark black coat with golden yellow eyes and an energetic personality. All parts of the Bombay are black, including its nose and paw pads – something rarely seen in other all-black breeds.
Although both the Burmese and American Shorthair breeds are its relative, the Bombay cat more closely resembles its Burmese ancestor. Noticeably, the Bombay cat has inherited the Burmese’s flat face. This breed exhibits a short nose and muzzle and rounded head. However, the degree of brachycephaly is only mild when compared to other breeds.
In terms of temperament, Bombay cats are known for their intelligence. They can quickly learn new skills and tricks quickly and are full of energy, best suited for households with children or other pets. They’re also very vocal and will talk to you in a distinct voice, giving them a big personality. Get a Bombay as a pet and they’ll be the center of attention in your home for sure!
The Burmilla is still a pretty rare breed to come across. It was only developed in the 1980s and gets its name from the two breeds used in development: the Burmese and the Chinchilla Persian. Just like both of these relatives, the Burmilla has a characteristic flat face with a short nose. Around their nose is black rimming, further accentuating this adorable feature.
The same black rimming is seen around the Burmilla’s bright green eyes, similar to eyeliner. They also have soft and shiny coats, giving them a luxurious feel. These coats come in a range of colors, including silver, brown, blue, back, lilac, and cream. Combined, these features make this breed a bit of a glamor-puss, with an undeniably elegant appearance.
Their personalities are just as loved. Burmillas are incredibly laid-back and easy-going felines. They are sociable and love people, but aren’t needy or demanding. Even as these cats age, they will still always be keen for playtime, showing kitten-like behavior even when they have reached maturity. Therefore, they do love attention and need good quality time with their owners.
Muchkin cats are the Daschunds of the feline world. These are cats with short legs that are disproportionately small in comparison with their bodies. This unusual appearance is the result of a genetic mutation that causes dwarfism, preventing their limbs from growing at a normal rate. However, despite their little legs, these cats are known to be full of energy and love to play!
Since the recognition of the traditional Munchkin cat, much experimental breeding has gone underway. This breed has been crossed with many others to create kitties with unique appearances. Examples include the Minuet by crossing the Munchkin with a Persian, the Lambkin by cross-breeding with a Selkirk Rex, and the Scottish Kilt through combination with the Scottish Fold.
By crossing Munchkin cats with the above brachycephalic flat-faced cat breeds, many of the experimental Munchin cats also have short noses and flat faces. However, this trait isn’t always passed onto the offspring. Take Minuet cats, for example. They can sometimes have flat faces but typically have broad, straight noses, unlike their Persian ancestors.
What Health Conditions Are Flat-Faced Cat Breeds Predisposed To?
Unfortunately, being cute can be complicated! As mentioned, having a flat face does come with its limitations and suffering. The flat faces and squashed noses of brachycephalic cats make these breeds at higher risk of having breathing, dental, and vision problems. They may also be more prone to developing skin infections.
The severity of the associated health complications depends on how squashed the cat’s face is. For example, British Shorthairs are only mild brachycephalic and are at no higher risk of developing health conditions because of their facial bone structure. However, severely flat-faced cats such as ultra-Persians are much more likely to experience suffering.
Here’s a closer look at all of the health conditions associated with brachycephaly.
1. Breathing Problems
The breathing problem associated with cats with flat faces is known as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. This is the medical name used to describe various issues related to the upper respiratory tract. But why are breathing problems common in these felines?
Well, the abnormal head shape often results in other physical abnormalities, such as having an elongated soft palate, a narrow trachea and nostrils, and/or a collapsed voice box. These are all because the flattened skull shape means other organs and tissues can’t develop properly or to their full size. Each of these makes it more difficult for air to flow in and out of a cat’s lungs, thus harder for them to breathe.
When cats suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, you may see your cat’s mouth breathing. While cats can breathe through their mouth, this is usually only done when their airways are blocked or congested. However, their restricted airways can mean they breathe through their mouths permanently. Moreover, if you hear your cat snoring it is another sign they’re having breathing issues. Is it normal for cats to snore? Absolutely not!
Other symptoms that indicate breathing difficulties include:
- Noisy breathing and snorting
- Being extremely tired or fainting after exercise
- Coughing and gagging
- Frequent vomiting or retching
These symptoms are likely to get worse during hot weather, and they’ll have a higher risk of heatstroke on hot summer days. You may also notice their body posture is slightly strange. This is because the cat will assume different positions to try and facilitate breathing.
All cats with Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome are usually diagnosed by the age of three. Diagnosis is vital as having breathing difficulties can severely impact the quality of life. Therefore, treatment is administered immediately to help improve symptoms. The treatment offered will depend on the severity and cause for the breathing problems, but commonly includes:
- Administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation of the airways. This just treats and relieves the symptoms rather than the cause, and so the cat will need to take the medication for life.
- Surgery to correct the physical abnormality, such as removing tissue from the nostrils to make them wider or shortening the soft palate. As this targets the cause, this can offer permanent relief.
- Lifestyle changes, such as limiting the amount of exercise and stress – two occasions when breathing rate typically increases. Changes to their diet can also help to shift some extra pounds if your cat is overweight, also making it easier for them to breathe.
Having been diagnosed and given effective treatment, most flat-faced cats can live happy lives. However, being diagnosed young is vital for a good recovery. With young cats, most corrective changes can be done easily. Conversely, older felines may have developed several related health issues which makes their breathing harder to correct. The soft palate will also stiffen as cats age, making surgery difficult or impossible.
2. Eye Problems
Flat-faced cats will also more likely suffer from eye problems. Because of their squashed faces, brachycephalic cats have their eyes positioned differently from regular cats. Their bulging eyes are much more prominent and the sockets are shallower. They also tend to be much more open and rounded, so much so that sometimes their eyelids may not close all the way when blinking.
These physical traits mean their eyes are much more open and exposed. It is easier for dust and dirt to get inside their eyes, and they’re much more vulnerable to injury. This makes flat-faced cats prone to developing several eye problems, including:
- Epiphora: Epiphora is the scientific term for excessive tearing and is a symptom rather than a disease in itself. Flat-faced cats can’t properly drain the tear film from their eyes, causing it to roll down their faces. This will stain the fur below the eyes, as well as lead to skin irritation. If left untreated, this can cause skin infections.
- Exposure Keratopathy: The protruding eyes of brachycephalic cats also means that irritants such as dust and pollen are more likely to enter the eye. Over time, this will damage the outer part of the eye known as the cornea, and cause redness and irritation. This can lead to more severe eye damage and ulceration that could affect your cat’s vision for good.
- Entropion: This is a condition where the eyelid is inverted and rolls inward. The lashes then rub on the surface of the eye and cause pain and irritation. This can result in several bouts of conjunctivitis or corneal ulceration, which can decrease vision.
- Nasal Fold Trachiasis: Because of the shortened nose with several folds, hairs from your cat’s coat can also come into contact with the surface of the eye and cause irritation. The hairs here are fairly stiff and cause tearing, redness, inflammation, infection, and reduced vision.
- Corneal Sequestrum: Both entropion and trichiasis can lead to a corneal sequestrum. This is where a portion of the cornea dies and turns brown due to the damage caused. This piece of the cornea will be rejected by the healthy corneal tissue. Initially, this will only cause mild discomfort, but it can become infected and lead to the loss of the eye in worst-case scenarios.
As all of the above conditions are common on brachycephalic flat-faced cats, it is vital to keep an eye out for any eye-related symptoms. These include red or cloudy eyes, squinting, excessive tearing, rubbing of the eyes, or disorientation, and reduced vision. If you notice symptoms, take your cat to the vet for a checkup. They’ll be able to diagnose the condition and offer treatment.
3. Dental Problems
Cats with flat faces are also more at risk of dental issues. Their abnormally shaped skulls mean that their jaw is in a different position to usual. This can result in both the teeth and the jaw being misaligned, which is linked to several dental conditions.
Two of the most common dental problems include misalignment of the canine teeth, scientifically known as malocclusion, or overcrowding of the incisor teeth. Many teeth may also be located in an unusual orientation or position. It is also common to see brachycephalic cats with either an overbite or an underbite, both known as asymmetrical jaw.
While having a poorly aligned jaw or teeth may not initially seem like too much of an issue, it has several implications, including:
- Periodontal Disease: Better known as gum disease, this is where bacteria infect the gums and cause pain, inflammation, and eventually tooth loss. In flat-faced cats with overcrowded mouths, it is easier for food and bacteria to become stuck and multiply, increasing the chances of infection.
- Tooth Resorption: This is where cells called odontoblasts slowly destroy the surface of the tooth, starting in the root of the tooth below the gums. They will then work their way up and start destroying the crown of the tooth, leaving cavities. The cause is unknown, but Persians are particularly susceptible.
- Tooth Fractures: As overcrowded teeth constantly rub against each other, this will wear down the enamel and make the teeth more prone to breakages and fractures. This is extremely painful and can leave sensitive nerve endings exposed. The broken teeth can also become infected.
- Difficulty Eating: In severe cases, a cat’s mouth may be so crammed with teeth that it is difficult for them to chew and eat their food. The flat face can also make it more difficult for cats to get food in their mouths. As a result, the cat may refuse to eat, resulting in malnutrition.
As with all medical problems, it is best to take your cat to the vet if they have a severely misaligned jaw or teeth. They will help to fix the issue before it results in any of the problems listed above.
A dental veterinarian may be able to realign the teeth to make them more normal. Your cat may also have to have its teeth removed, or its jaw may be able to be realigned. However, because of their abnormal head shapes, it is more difficult to perform dental work without causing damage to the nasal passages or tear ducts on flat-faced cats.
If any of the above problems do arise, not all is lost. Your vet will be able to prescribe pain medication to help ease discomfort, as well as cleaning between the teeth to remove any lodged pieces of food or dirt. For infections, antibiotics can be administered. If the tooth is fractured, your vet may recommend tooth crowning and a fluoride treatment to strengthen the enamel.
4. Skin & Fur Problems
Cats with flat faces are also more prone to skin problems, the most common being facial dermatitis. This is particularly common in Persians and Exotic Shorthairs, both of which exhibit extreme brachycephaly. This is a skin condition that causes redness, itching, bleeding, and scabbing of the skin on the face.
In brachycephalic cats, facial dermatitis usually occurs between the folds of the skin on their faces. These folds will rub together and the friction will cause irritation. Moreover, the area is also warm, moist, and poorly ventilated. This makes it an ideal sport for yeast and bacteria to live and thrive, causing infection as well as irritation.
Aside from being genetically predisposed to developing the condition, facial dermatitis is also harder to treat in flat-faced breeds. It is difficult to apply topical treatment within the skin folds, making it extremely stubborn. Moreover, cats with excessive tearing often have more severe facial dermatitis as the wetness exacerbates the skin condition, making it more irritated, sore, and difficult to treat.
While these are the main skin-related issues that all brachycephalic cats are prone to, Persians are more at risk of developing other skin conditions. This is thanks to their abnormally long and plush fur coats. Examples of related problems for Persians include:
- Fungal Skin Infections: Persians are particularly prone to fungal infections, also known as dermatophyte infections. The most common fungal infection is ringworm. This fungus grows on the skin and lives within the hair follicles, hence why the thick coat of Persian cats is the ideal breeding spot for this parasite. The infection will be itchy and uncomfortable and will eventually result in hair loss.
- Fleas & Mites: As fleas and mites also lurk in the fur of our feline friends, long-haired breeds such as Persians are also more at risk. Most pedigree Persians will be indoor cats, which does help to limit their exposure and therefore risk of contracting a parasitic infection. However, Persian cats that interact with other animals are at high risk.
As always, a trip to the vet as soon as you notice any sign of irritation or infection is necessary. Your veterinarian will be able to provide effective treatment to help ease symptoms.
How Can I Help My Flat-Faced Cat?
If you own a brachycephalic breed, you must be aware of the health conditions mentioned above. This way, you can keep an eye out for symptoms. The quicker you identify and treat any of the above health problems, the less likely they will severely impact the quality of life.
However, there are also other things you can do to help reduce these problems and help your flat-faced cat live a happy life!
- Regular Eye Cleaning: Use a damp cloth to clean away any discharge from your cat’s eyes. This will help to prevent skin irritation caused by the dampness and make any facial dermatitis that develops less severe.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obese cats will find it harder to breathe, so keeping your feline a healthy weight can ease breathing difficulties. Any facial folds will also be larger in obese cats, increasing the risk of facial dermatitis. So, a healthy weight can go a long way in preventing complications.
- Limit Stress & Exercise: To help your cat breathe easy, you should also limit stressors and strenuous exercise. These could leave them gasping for breath!
- Cool Them Down: Brachycephalic cats also struggle in warm conditions. On hot days, be sure to provide a cooling mat or put them in a cooler room and provide plenty of drinking water to reduce the chances of heatstroke.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
There are many flat-faced cat breeds to choose from. If you’re looking to find a brachycephalic cat to join your family, this list should provide you with plenty of options. From the Persian to the Burmese, each is adorable in its own way. However, before introducing a flat-faced cat to your family, ensure you are aware of the health conditions these animals are more at risk of developing.
These cats are more likely to develop breathing problems, eye problems, dental issues, and skin conditions. The severity of these health issues depends on how flat their faces are. Breeds with mild brachycephaly such as British Shorthairs and Burmillas will rarely be more at risk than normal cats. However, cats with extremely flat faces such as Persians can develop a lot of health conditions. Their long fur coats also make them more prone to developing certain skin infections.
All in all, as long as you are aware of what you are taking on, it is ethical to have a brachycephalic cat as a pet. They’ll just need a little extra help and care from you to live happy and healthy lives. But together, we can make sure these adorable short-nosed breeds can thrive.