Country of Origin: United States
Also known as: Curls
Males: Height: Weight: 3-4.5kg
Females: Height: Weight: 2.5-3kg
Care Requirements: Low
Lifespan: 20 years
Best Suited as: Family Pet / Show Cats
Despite the American Curl’s unusual ears that curl back towards its head, looking almost devilish, they make wonderful pets. Often more doglike in personality, they are affectionate (without being annoying), and great playmates.
American Curls are rightfully named for their distinct ears that curl back towards the back of their skulls. Strangely, they are not born that way – it takes about ten days for their ears to form their curly shape on top of their rounded head. After about five months when the cartilage in their ears has hardened, the degree of curl varies from 90 to 180 degrees. Judges favor the later, although ears that touch the back of the head are disqualified.
Both the long and shorthaired variety is considered worthy of show with silky fur that lays flat against their bodies. Their coats come in a large variety of colors and patterns. Most American Curls are medium sized and the longhaired variety often sports a lovely fluffy tail. The tail’s length is equal to the body’s length. They exhibit large, friendly, walnut shaped eyes.
Curl cats are considered adults after two to three years of life.
We can trace the origin of the Curl Cat to a longhaired silky black female stray kitten named Shulamith in Lakewood, California. Shulamith decided to pay Grace Ruga, a cat lover, a visit one day in June, 1981. Although Grace’s husband asked her not to feed the stray, Grace could not resist fostering a relationship with affectionate Shulamith. Shulamith soon won over Joe Ruga as well and later that year Shulamith produced her first litter of kittens in their home. In that litter, there were four kittens, two of which had the same curly ears as their mothers. Surprised by this, the Rugas contacted a geneticist to examine the cats and he determined that this unusual ear gene was a spontaneous mutation and would be passed down in every case. The gene was considered dominant, with no deformities and would follow a single dominant pattern. In plain English, this means that any cat with a copy of this gene will have curly ears.
The Rugas continued to breed Shulamith who had several other litters with straight-eared toms. Friends and family members of the Rugas received the kittens as presents, including Grace’s sister, Esther Brimlow. Mrs. Brimlow gave two of her Curls to former Australian Shepherd breeder Nancy Kiester, who showed her Curls to cat judge Jean Grimm. Grimm told Kiester that Curls were unknown in the cat show world. Wanting to make a name for the American Curl, Kiester and the Rugas came together to write the first breed standard.
In order to be considered a true American Curl, any cat must trace their pedigree back to Shulamith. In 1983, the first American Curl appeared at a cat show. By 1986, the American Curl cat was officially recognized by two of the largest cat registries and in 1987, the longhair American Curl was given championship status by The International Cat Association (TICA). They are now recognized and registered in all major cat associations.
Further research was performed by Renowned English feline geneticist, Roy Robinson and was published in December 1989. He analyzed data from a sample of 383 kittens from 81 litters. He confirmed that the curly ear gene was unique and that it was inherited with no deformities.
In 1993, the American Curl set a precedent in the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) for being the first breed accepted by Championship Class as one breed with two coat lengths. Today, breeders cross breed their American Curls with similar straight eared cats to maintain genetic diversity. In doing so, at least 50% of the offspring will have curly ears.
Even in adulthood, the American Curl loves to play. They are curious and intelligent cats known to be affectionate people lovers. Some describe them as almost dog like in their interactions and can be easily taught tricks and to play fetch. They can even be taught to open a door by successfully jumping on a doorknob and using their weight to push it open.
They make excellent companions and often playfully nuzzle their owner’s faces. Not big talkers, your sweet tempered American curl will mostly likely let you know what they want through body language or by a quiet “coo”.
Care and Grooming
American Curls are easy to care for and groom. They have very little undercoat and therefore their coats do not become matted much like some of their longhaired cousins. They require only an occasional bath and intermittent brushing.
While your children may be tempted to play with their pet’s ears, do not allow them to force the ears into unnatural positions because damage to the cartilage may result.
In general, the American Curl is a healthy breed because it shares a large genetic pool with non-pedigree cats. Many pure pedigree cats do suffer from genetic defects, but the American Curl is fortunate in this regard.
Not surprisingly, these cats are prone to ear infections and injury to their ears due to their vulnerable nature.
Suitability as a pet
If you are planning to purchase an American Curl, it is best to wait until the cat is over five months, when their ears have fully formed their curly shape. You will also know then if your Curl is show worthy.
American Curls adapt easily to any home environments and other pets. They will do well with seniors, kids, and as family pets. American Curl is not the kind of cat that will shun attention. It needs daily interaction with its people to be content. They love to play games with their owners and can often be found curled up in a lap. Often it is best to have more than one so that they will have a playmate when you are not around.