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.