Cat Breed Profile: the Lovely LaPerm

By Langley Cornwell

It doesn’t seem fair that a cat breed has prettier hair than I do, but that’s the case with the beautiful LaPerm. These gorgeous cats’ coats are curly; the curls can be loose and wavy or ringlet-style, ranging from tight Shirley Temple type ringlets to extended corkscrew curls. Their coats can be any color and coat pattern, it’s the curls that make it a LaPerm. In fact, the name LaPerm means rippled or wavy.

History of the LaPerm Cat

This cat breed hasn’t been recognized for long; in 1982 the breed actually started as a mutation of a robust, healthy barn cat. The Cat Fanciers’ Association relates the story of a farmer in Oregon whose land, located near the ancient fishing and hunting grounds of the Wishram Indians, was peppered with barn cats. One of the cats had a litter of six kittens, and one was born without a hair on her body—she was completely bald. Even though she was hairless, the kitten had big, wide-spaced ears and classic tabby-type patterns marked on her skin. At around eight weeks old, the kitten’s coat started to come in curly. And when she reached three to four months of age she had a full coat of soft, curly hair. The farmer named her “Curly.”

These Oregonians knew more about farming than they did about cats. Even though they knew the curly-haired cat was different, they didn’t give it much thought. For the next 10 years, life on the farm remained fairly steady. Since the farmers didn’t know anything about genetics or breeding, they allowed their cats to roam freely around the orchards and throughout the barns. The cats continued to breed indiscriminately, but the farm lady noticed that more and more litters included a bald kitten or two. Curious about what was happening, she began to search for information about her strange cats.

Once the farm owner was made aware of how unusual these cats were, she wanted to learn more about breeding. She started confining the cats and studying their offspring. She determined that the curly gene was dominant and was carried by both the male and female cats. The farmer-turned-breeder entered one of her beautiful, curly-coated cats in a cat show and got a huge reaction; she was overwhelmed with the amount of interest and excitement the cat generated. It was that farm lady in Oregon who established the breed and gave the cats the name of LaPerm.

That Gorgeous Coat

Being such a new breed, there is still a lot to be learned about the LaPerm. Breeders do not know if their coat is genetic or if it’s a result of hormones or diet. Some kittens are born completely bald and then their curls grow in. Other kittens are born with the curly coat but then go almost completely bald within their first two months of life. Then their coat grows back in curly. Several breeders at the LaPerm Society of America report that this process can happen many times during the cat’s lifetime. Once a cat is altered, however, their coat is usually stable.

In a quest to understand more, certain breeders are participating in a genetic DNA study on their LaPerm cats’ coats. They are trying to determine where the gene for the curly coat lies, and if the gene is totally different from other Rex mutations or if it is the same gene manifesting in a different fashion.

More Than Just Looks

Yes, LaPerms are lovely  but they are so much more. These active cats are affectionate and very sweet. Different from some active breeds, they’re just as happy playing fetch as they are snuggled up in your lap. This is also a curious and intelligent breed. LaPerms are extremely people oriented and crave human contact; they purr at the sight of you, and will follow you around the house. This strong bonding instinct makes these cats a good choice for apartment dwellers.

I’ve never had a purebred cat, but I enjoy learning about different breeds. After researching and writing about the LaPerm for the CANIDAE RPO blog, it’s clear this is a cat breed I would really like to meet in person.

Do any of you have a LaPerm? Do you know someone who does?

Photos by Bebopscrx

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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