The LaPerm’s fur is curly thus the name “perm”, with the tightest curls being on the belly, throat and base of the ears. La Perms come in many colours and patterns and generally have a very affectionate personality
LaPerm Breed Profile
The LaPerm is a very charming rex breed from the USA whose popularity has increased worldwide steadily since it was introduced. These cats are genetically unique and not related to any other rex breeds, having a dominant gene causing their curly coats. They have an elegant and athletic build and are active, outgoing cats who like to join in with whatever their humans are doing. When people see a LaPerm for the first time it is their soft coats of shaggy curls and ringlets which make a big impression.
The first LaPerm was born in 1982 and was a spontaneous mutation in an otherwise normal litter of kittens. Linda and Richard Koehl owned a cherry farm in The Dalles, Oregon, and had invested in some hardy farm cats to keep the farm clear of mice. One of these was a plain but hard-working brown tabby shorthair called Speedy who gave birth to a litter of kittens which included a rather bald, long skinny kitten with a blueprint of a tabby pattern on her skin. Linda wondered if something was wrong with the kitten but as she grew she developed a lovely soft curly coat which everyone liked to touch. Perhaps this was also why she turned out to be so affectionate and a favourite of everyone on the farm.
Curly grew up and took her place alongside her mum working hard on the farm. One day Curly, and the whole LaPerm breed were almost wiped out when she climbed into the warm engine of a pickup truck and was sliced by the fan when it was started up. She pulled through and became a house cat for a while convalescing from her injuries, but she managed to find her way out and became pregnant to one of the farm’s toms. As a young and innocent first time mum she didn’t know what was happening and found herself in labour under a tree in the middle of a blustery rainstorm one night. Linda heard strange noises and took a torch outside to find Curly fiercely staving off barking dogs while straddling her newborn babies. Linda popped the babies into her pockets and took the family into the warmth of a barn to make them a nest in the hay. The next day when Linda was able to look at them in daylight she realised that all five kittens had the same appearance as their mother had at birth. All five were male and grew up to have the same soft curls. None of the five was neutered and their breeding activity led to many more curly-coated kittens being born.
Linda found herself with a growing colony of unusual rex cats which included long and short coats and thanks to the input somewhere along the way of a local cat who had Siamese mother chocolate and colourpoints too. It was only when people started commenting on her odd cats and asking what they were that she did some research and realised that she had some kind of rex. She took some cats to a show to ask for feedback and was told by exhibitors, breeders and judges that she had something very special. Several key people in the USA cat fancies gave her their support and the breed has grown and grown and is now a well-established championship breed in the States with breeding programs in many other countries around the world.
The LaPerm breed is strongly allied with Native American culture as the area where the Koehl’s farm is situated is in a sacred territory of the Wishram people, a Chinook speaking tribe who traditionally made a living netting, drying and trading salmon from the Columbia River. The area still contains rock carvings of the vigilant goddess Tsagaglalal. It is because of this that many LaPerm breeders give Native American names to their kittens and decorate their pens with this theme in mind when showing. The naming of the breed was a carefully considered affair; several possible names had already been used or were too clumsy sounding or close to something else so a name was chosen by Linda which evocatively brings to mind the breed’s most important feature: its curly coat, and follows the Chinook tradition of adopting French words while incorporating the definite article to create a new word.
The LaPerm is in many ways a cat of moderation with no extremes and is still true to its original type. It does, however, have a striking appearance because of its unusual coat. The muscular foreign type body is medium in size with longish legs and neck. The head is a modified wedge with gently rounded contours and a muzzle which slightly broad of the wedge. In profile, the straight nose leads into a gentle break between the eyes up to a flattish forehead. LaPerms also have rather broad noses. Their flared ears are placed to follow the line of the face, while their almond-shaped eyes are medium-large and expressive.
Like other rexes, all colours and patterns are acceptable, although tabbies, reds and torties are well represented reflecting their origins. Also, the unusual colours from the early days of the breed have been selected for, so lilac, chocolate and colourpoints are popular. Tabby points are especially attractive. Newer varieties such as ticked tabbies, shades and darker points are also being bred. The curl tends to open up the coat showing off shading, ticking or silver undercoats.
The coat itself is described as having a unique textured feel. It is not silky, having a certain drag on the hand like mohair and the texture comes as much from the shape of the curls as from the mixture of different hair types. It should be soft and inviting, although the shorthairs will have more texture to their coats. The coat is rather loose and bouncy often feeling springy when patted and stands away from the body with no thick undercoat. It is light and airy and judges sometimes blow on the coat to see if it will part. The coat varies according to the season and the maturity of the cat but is essentially wavy or curly all over with the longest and most defined curls in the ruff and on the neck often falling in ringlets. There are also curly ear furnishings including tufts at the ear tips and earmuffs. The longhairs have a curly plumed tail while the shorthairs have tails rather like bottle brushes, and both have long curled whiskers. Sometimes the coat falls into a natural parting along the back, jokingly referred to as “the parting of the waves”.
LaPerms in the UK
The first LaPerm in the UK was Uluru BC Omaste Po of Quincunx, a lilac tortie and white Longhair who was bred in the United States by A. D. Lawrence. She was imported by Anthony Nichols Quincunx using a PETS passport in May 2002 after a stopover with LaPerm breeder Corine Judkins in Holland. She arrived pregnant and gave birth to a litter of five kittens shortly after who were used as the foundation stock for the UK breeding programme. A number of other imports have followed or are in the pipeline, including cats from Europe, New Zealand and the USA. Judy Whiteford Aswani and Kate Munslow Canonna have been involved from that first litter and have both imported new cats themselves and Corine Judkins Crearwy had moved to Wales bringing her cats with her including the stud who sired the first UK litter. Other key breeding lines found in UK pedigrees include those of Edwina Sipos Cycada, Peni Cragg Wakanda and June Gillies Ballego. The breeding programme has been characterised by efforts to breed down from outcrosses for generational advancement by combining outcross lines, old lines and import lines.
LaPerm Breeding Policies
In TICA outcrossing has mainly been with domestic cats and breeders seek out non-pedigree cats closely resembling the correct body type, continuing using the kind of cats which composed most of the original foundation stock for the breed and helping to maintain genetic health by using the widest gene pool available. After outcrossing to a cat of unknown parentage, at least three generations must be bred to establish a full pedigree record. In CFA breeders used the Ocicat as the main pedigree outcross during the early development of the breed, but currently may only use non-pedigree domestic cats. In other registries, including the GCCF, a list of approved breeds is used for outcrossing and cats of unknown parentage are not permitted. In the GCCF this list comprises the Somali/Abyssinian, Asian/Tiffanie/EuropeanBurmese, Ocicat and Tonkinese. There was also a rather small amount of use of the Old Style Siamese/Balinese/Oriental during the initial development phase of the UK breeding programme, and a cut off date for use of these breeds was built in to the breeding and registration policies. In the Netherlands and Germany Somalis and Turkish Angoras, and one Turkish Van, have also been used. In antipodean countries Somalis, Tiffanies and Orientals have also been used.