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, shadeds 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 velvet 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 ear muffs. 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 ďthe parting of the wavesĒ!
The LaPerm is a very charming rex breed from the USA whose popularity in the UK has increased steadily since it was introduced here. 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 which gives a clue to the fact that they are no couch potatoes, but 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 LaPerm is known for its pleasant personality. They are loving cats, that enjoy the comforting laps of loved one's, yet this lap cat is not a sedentary purring machine. Unlike some lazy lap loving felines, LaPerms can be found playing fetch and learning other tricks. They will often spend time involved in a hunt of cornered houseflies or playing with household toys. La Perms will always prefer to be close to their human counterparts and without exception will relish ruling their rust on their warm human thrones.
Think back to 1982; Cher was in the charts with Meatloaf singing Real Dead Ringer For Love, launching her rocky image with that big shaggy perm that seemed to trademark the early 80s. At the same time Linda and Richard Koehl had recently moved to the country for an easier pace of life, buying a cherry farm in The Dalles, Oregon, and not realising that they would soon be seeing a star with curls all of their own. The Koehls had a mouse problem so they invested in some hardy farm cats to keep the critters in check. 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 a bit like the pink panther 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.
Speedy didnít start sipping cocktails with Jackie Stallone and send Curly off to fame school, in fact Curly grew up and took her place alongside her mum as a champion mouser 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 pick up 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 into the arms of one of the farmís toms. As a young and innocent first time mum she didnít 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. They also took just as much interest in reproduction and with five studs keeping the farmís females entertained before long the cherry trees were as full of curly kittens as they had been with mice!
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 a 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 programmes in many other countries around the world.
The LaPerm breed is strongly allied with Native American culture as the area where the Koehlís 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, who has obviously watched over the LaPerms. 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 breedís most important feature: its curly coat.
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