Contents: The Name | Health | Character | Coat-the gene – appearance | Occurrence | Coat Types | History | Breeding – notes + standards | Gallery – more Helmi photographs | Clubs and Breeders | Quick Guide
This is the “curly haired beauty” of the world of cats1. There are long and shorthaired varities. The longhaired cats have semi-long hair. The shorthairs have medium length coats. The body type is called “semi-foreign”1. Jerrie Wolfe is probably the USA’s leading breeder of this cat. She has contributed to this page. Update: 21st Nov. 2010: Jerrie is reducing her cattery – beautiful cats need good homes.
In 1982, the LaPerm Cat came into being in an area, The Dalles, Oregon, that is rich in Native American history. Native Americans have a very proper, well reasoned and sensitive approach to nature. I am referring to both animals and the land. They believe that animals and humans have the same “value” and that we “lease” the land and never own it. When you lease land you look after it better for the next person. Both these philosophies result in a less selfish and more sensitive approach to others, nature and animals. What a perfect place for a new cat breed to begin.
The LaPerm cat came about by a spontaneous and natural genetic mutation in the birth of a female kitten to a tabby barn cat (good stock). The barn was owned by Linda and Richard Koehl and was on their cherry farm2. The kitten was one of a litter 6. She was hairless at birth. The LaPerm cat origin is not dissimilar to other Rex cats or cat breeds created from genetic mutations. In this case the gene that mutated controls the creation of the cat’s coat. Although it is probable that this mutation has happened elsewhere and at other times, on this occasion in 1982, when the idea of cat breeds was of greater interest to the people of North America, the potential for the creation of a new breed of cat was in place. In fact, development began some time later.
It took about ten years from the discovery of “Curly” (the founding curly haired cat) before the commencement of the development of the breed by Linda Koehl, the breed founder. Remember, by the way, that Curly is female. She had a sparse short hair that developed into her classic Rex coat. Importantly, she had a lovely balanced character and liked to be an outdoor cat.
Curly’s first litter produced 5 hairless male kittens. Curly’s other litters had the occasional hairless kitten, which were left behind when Curly disappeared. Curly coated cats have also appeared in other parts of the world and are probably wandering around a town right this minute but that town is probably not in the so called developed world. In economically poorer countries, there is less interest in the idea of individual cat breeds. Curly coated cats are called “Rexes” from the Rex rabbit.
The gene that produces the curly hair can be recessive (in the Devon and Cornish Rex for example). If the gene is recessive its effects can be hidden for a long time and spring up from time to time. Indeed in offspring of uncharted births of Cornish Rexes for example it is probable that these cats existed unrecognized and when they died that ended the line and so the effect of the gene was made invisible again. In this cat the gene is dominant as is the case for the Selkirk Rex.
The tribe who lived in the area called Le Dalles were the Chinook. It is Native Indian territory. Traditionally they used French words incorporating the definite article (“La” in this case) when creating a new word. This custom probably came from the French and Belgium fur traders who gave the name of Le Dalles to the area. Apparently, LaPerm Cat breeders sometimes give Native Indian names to their cats. Linda Koehl, who started this breed of cat (and who lives in Le Dalles) says that the original cats reminded her of a bad permanent (in the UK we call them “perms” – short for permanent wave, maybe you do the same thing in the States).
Linda originally wanted to call the cat breed “The Dalles La Perm”, but this ended up as just “LaPerm”. Interestingly the name is linked to the appearance of the Le Dalles, as well as to appearance of the cat. Linda Koehl says that at the place where the river passes through Le Dalles, below the Celilo Falls, there are “rapids, ripples and curls”. This area is now covered with water because the river is damed. The ripples reflected the shorthaired LPs and the rapids the longhaired LP.
Update 22nd Sept. 2010: See more on this: Additional information on the history of the LaPerm Cat (includes Linda Keohl’s own words on the naming of this breed).
To the best of my knowledge, there are no known specific health issues linked to this cat breed. Jerrie Wolfe says, “There has never been a case of HCM, luxating petallas. hip dysplasia or Type B blood found in LaPerms.”
A speaker: Kathryn M. Meurs, DVM, Ph.D, DACVIM (Cardiology) The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Ohio State University at a Tufts convention (Oct 2-4, 2003) says that Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is suspected to be inherited in the Ragdoll, Rex, American and British shorthair. I don’t know the position. I am simply reporting what I see and read.
The LaPerm Cat is very sociable and they bond well with human companions (i.e. people orientated). The Wikipedia author calls this a cat of “moderation”. That seems to me like a nice description and a nice cat. The kind of cat you need as a reliable companion. Combining that with the interesting coat makes this a desirable but little known breed. This is an intelligent cat reflecting the fact that the breed originated as a barn cat. Intelligent cats require more stimulation. This means this breed can be more mischievous. The breed is being developed by the introduction of new coat colors and patterns through selective out crossing to a wide gene pool and for breed health. Out crossings are with non-pedigreed cats to replicate the origins of this cat breed.
As mentioned, the gene that causes the curly coat is dominant unlike the recessive gene in the Devon and Cornish Rexes. This means at least half the litter will be born with curly hair if outcrossed. The Rex type coat harks back to a king who had a curly haired rabbit. He was King Albert I of Belgium (1875-1934).
He entered his rabbits into a competition and didn’t win as the coat was unusual but the latin word for king, “Rex”, was marked against his rabbits. The genetic mutation resulting in the LaPerm cat’s coat is also not the same as the gene that causes the curly hair of the Selkirk Rex. Also the Selkirk was bred with Persians, Exotic Shorthairs and British Shorthairs resulting in the same health issues that are found in these breeds. This is not the case with the Laperm cat.
The gene is provisionally denoted by the term “Lp”. Each cat has its own distinct brand of curly hair. The coat can have ringlets or a wavy texture. The coat is not silky but soft. It “drags” on the hand like mohair. The coat develops over the first 6 months so it is difficult to predict the final appearance in the early months. The coat should be cared for carefully. The coat should be brushed and combed regularly, especially the long haired breeds. Bathing after brushing refreshes the curl and does not damage it. It is inadvisable to use a blow drier; simply towel off and air dry. This is also said to be a low maintenance breed1.
It is said that some LaPerms can become bald “at some point”. Young cats and females before their first breeding suffer this more usually than other other cats. The curly coat returns and straight haired LaPerms develop curly hair at this stage1. This type of fur is not unique to this breed of cat or cats generally. It is found for example on rabbits, hamsters and horses. The head should be broad, modified wedge with a prominent muzzle. The neck should be long and carried vertically. The body is medum-boned, muscular and heavy for the cat’s size. The legs are medium in length and muscular. The paws are round and medium sized. The tail is long and tapering with wavy hair3.
There are numerous reported and unreported incidences of curly haired cats around the world. They are less usual than straight haired coats so stand out. This sometimes generates interest but not always and I am sure that there are thousands of feral cats in the world with curly hair minding their own business without humankind’s interference. Here are some examples from Sarah Hartwell’s website:
Update: Tennessee Rex Satin Effect by Franklin Whittenburg
As mentioned, the coat can be short or long haired. All colors are accepted (by CFA). This means any color/pattern can be found on a LaPerm. This is the widest possible range, of course. Sometimes males have curlier coats than females, apparently. As you can see from the pictures, the coat is not dense but “springy, light and airy” (CFA standard). The coat will naturally have a messy roughed up look (something that is fashionable for humans in 2008). A shorthaired LaPerm coat results in a plumeless tail.
All coat colors that are genetically possible are accepted by TICA and the CFA. Sources (coat):
Above: The first litter of LaPerm kittens born in the UK. Their mother is Uluru BC Omaste Po of Quincunx who was the first LaPerm in the UK. Image is protected by copyright.
The cat registries sensibly control, in a general sense, the breeding of registered cats in order to ensure the wellbeing of both the cat and the breed. The CFA and TICA only allow out-crossing (mating with another breed) with domestic long and short hairs (moggies in the UK). From 2015 the CFA have stipulated that no outcrosssing take place and LaPerm be bred with LaPerm. It would be sensible to check the breeding policies of the major registries if this area interests you.
Above: The less common shorthaired version of the LaPerm (Sekani BC Lightning) – image copyright protected.
Anthony Nichols, the chair of the LaPerm Cat Club, a long-standing LaPerm breeder ( Anthony’s cattery website is QUINCUNX CATS) and friend of the breed founder says this about the LaPerm: “The outcrossing of LaPerms with other pedigree breeds was well established in the USA before the breed was ever exported to Europe. CFA officially approved an outcrossing programme using Ocicats (including Ocicat x Abyssinian hybrids). The offspring of these cats became key lines in the breeding programme and are behind many LaPerm lines. The first country outside the USA where a significant LaPerm breeding programme was established was New Zealand and it was here that an outcross programme using Asian group cats was trialed and proved successful. Later on in the breed’s history when LaPerms were imported to the UK and other European countries the registries required registration policies outlining which outcross breeds were permitted in LaPerm pedigrees and at which generations. The cats imported to establish the breed in Europe came from the USA and New Zealand so many of them had cats of the approved pedigree outcrosses used in these countries in their pedigrees. Therefore these pedigree outcrosses were necessarily approved. The GCCF is the registry in which the original rex breeds were developed so there is the benefit of experience and a wealth of knowledge about how to develop rex breeds through the use of outcrossing to other breeds. The LaPerm Cat Club sees the use of outcrossing wisely with the approved breeds as very beneficial. In addition, UK law defines a pedigree animal as an animal with at least a three-generation recorded pedigree.
There are similar laws through Europe. The practise in the USA of outcrossing to cats of no known ancestry, therefore has difficult legal implications when applied to Europe. In TICA a LaPerm show cat must have a three generation pedigree of only LaPerms (i.e. All parents, grandparents and great grandparents) but can have any breed in the fourth or subsequent generations. In CFA a LaPerm show cat can have any cat of unknown origins as a parent (until 2015), and ( for LaPerms registered before a cut off date) can have an Ocicat parent and Abyssinian ancestors preceding the Ocicat. In the GCCF LaPerms on the full register must have a three generation pedigree of only LaPerms (i.e. All parents, grandparents and great grandparents) and can have only approved outcross breeds in the fourth or subsequent generations. LaPerms with outcrosses at a lower generational level are placed on the supplementary register; both can be shown. The organisation with the largest number of LaPerm registrations is the GCCF Approved outcrosses for LaPerm breeding are the Ocicat, Aby/Somali, Asian group and Tonkinese. American breeders have stopped using the pedigree outcrosses because they were approved for a limited time period, but the LaPerm Society of America would like limited appropriate pedigree outcrosses to be approved again, not only for the genetic health benefits but also to enable them to work on breed programmes with LaPerm breeders in other countries. American breeders are already importing LaPerms to the USA form the UK.”
TICA Breed Standard: standard
Above: Photo © Helmi Flick – this cat’s name is “Tipi” and was brought to Helmi Flick by Jerrie Wolfe a LaPerm breeder who has helped in the building of this page. Tipi has won some big prizes and you can see why. She is a long haired LaPerm. Click image for large pic.
Above: Photo © Helmi Flick – this is Tipi again (on the right) a longhair with “Smokey”, who is shorthaired on the left. Click the image for a closer look at a large image. return to contents
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