The kitten that exhibited traits of the original mutation that has formed the basis for the LaPerm breed sprang from strong, healthy, domestic “barn cat” stock. In 1982, on an Oregon farm located near the ancient hunting and fishing grounds of the Wishram Indians, a litter of six kittens was born to a barn cat. One of the kittens was born completely bald – looking nothing like her mother or her littermates. While the kitten had no hair, it did have large wide-spaced ears and blueprint pattern on her skin that mimicked a classic tabby pattern. Within eight weeks, the kitten began to grow very soft, curly hair. At three to four months of age the kitten, now named “Curly,” had a full coat of curly hair. Not being very knowledgeable about cats, the owner accepted the “mutant” as unique and thought nothing more of the matter.
During the next 10 years, no attempt was made to breed selectively, but as the frequency of bald kittens increased in the random bred litters, the owner of the farm began to seek additional information about her unusual cats. She had no knowledge of genetics or breeding and thus allowed the cats to roam freely throughout the barns and orchard for several years. As she became aware of how truly unique these cats were, she started to confine the cats and control the breedings. It appeared that the curly gene was dominant and carried by both males and females. This breeder was totally unprepared for the interest and excitement generated by cats she decided to enter in a cat show. The owner gave the cats the name “LaPerm,” which means wavy or rippled.
The LaPerm can sport anything from a wavy coat to ringlettype curls that range from tight ringlets to long corkscrew curls. The tightest curls occur on the underside of the cat, on the throat area, and at the base of the ears. The longhair is generally blessed with a curly plumed tail and often exhibits a full, curly ruff. The coat is moderately soft in texture, yet each cat’s coat is distinctly unique. The shorthair has more texture to the coat than does the longhaired variety. It does not have the ruff, has a “bottle-brush” type tail, and the coat generally stands away from the body, parting down the middle.
The LaPerm comes in every recognized color and coat pattern. Some kittens can be born hairless, but most have short wavy hair or straight hair at birth. Kittens often go almost totally bald, beginning with a spot on the tops of their heads. This process generally starts when the kittens are about two weeks old, and they can be in varying stages of baldness during their first four months or so. The coat will generally come back in and will always be curly if the kitten was born curly. Coat variations throughout the life of a LaPerm range from molting that can leave a sparse, thin coat to a possible full coat after neutering or spaying.
LaPerms are gentle and affectionate but also very active. Unlike many active breeds, the LaPerm is also quite content to be a lap cat. The LaPerm will often follow your lead; that is, if they are busy playing and you decide to sit and relax, simply pick up your LaPerm and sit down with it, and it will stay in your lap, devouring the attention you give it. LaPerms seek human contact and will purr as soon as they become aware of your presence. They are inquisitive by nature and always want to know what is going on around them. They will reach for your face with their paws and rub their faces against your head, neck, and face.