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The LaPerm is a rex coated breed (i.e. with a curly coat) of 'foreign' type, which originated in the USA, but is now growing in popularity in many countries including Britain, and it is recognised in both longhaired and shorthaired varieties. The breed is so named because the adult coats are full of soft curls, waves and even ringlets, resembling shaggy perms, which were the height of fashion at the time the breed first emerged in the early 1980s! Kittens are usually born with a wavy coat, but sometimes have a straight coat or are even bald, the full coat developing later, with the females often having a frizzier coat. Many LaPerm kittens have a full moult, after which time the coat grows back thicker and curlier, and it can take three years for a LaPerm to fully mature. The curly coats come from a dominant rex gene, making them genetically unique, as they are not related to any other feline rex variety. This breed sheds very little hair once it is adult, and is said to be suitable for those with only mild allergies to cat fur.
The first LaPerm was born into a litter of ordinary cats at the farm of Linda and Richard Koehl in Oregon, USA, in 1982. The kitten was born bald and at first there were some concerns about her survival but as time went on she developed a wavy coat and was appropriately named 'Curly'. In due course she had her own kittens, five males, who were also born with wavy coats, and the farm gradually acquired quite a collection of the curly coated cats as none had been neutered and it was a working farm colony. A range of colours and coat patterns was emerging, including a pointed variety due to the input of a local Siamese, and some were also developing with longer coats. Eventually visitors to the farm persuaded Linda Koehl that she had something rather unusual and special with her curly-coated cats, and after doing some research and discovering that they were probably a new rex-coated variety, she took some of them to a local cat show, where they attracted a great deal of interest. A group of breeders was keen to develop this new breed, and Linda Koehl became the pioneer LaPerm breeder. The LaPerm Club of America was formed 1997, Standards were written for the breed, and it eventually gained Championship status in 2003 through the International Cat Association (TICA). The first LaPerm to be exported to Britain in 2002 was Uluru BC Omaste Po of Quincunx, a lilac tortie and white longhaired female, who was bred in the USA, but mated to a male LaPerm already living in Holland duiring a stopover visit on the way here. (BC in her name means she was 'Born Curly' - BB indicates 'Born Bald' and BS 'Born Straight'.) She came to live with her new owner, a Rex breeder called Anthony Nichols, who became the first LaPerm breeder here under his Quincunx prefix. The LaPerm gained preliminary recognition with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 2008, and they are hoping to be granted full Championship status in 2012.
The La Perm is a medium-sized, muscular cat, often a lot heavier than it looks, which appears alert and seems to be walking high on its legs. The texture of the coat is quite different from the other Rex varieties with a soft coat that is loose and bouncy, standing away from the body, and feels like crushed velvet to the touch. The tail of the shorthaired variety resembles a bottlebrush, whilst longhaired LaPerms have a full plumed tail, and both are long and tapering. It should be possible to run your fingers through the coat to the skin, and the coat should not be too thick or heavy. As with other Rex-coated varieties all coat colours and patterns are acceptable, and the cat is judged on its type (shape) and coat, rather than on its colour. The eyes are of medium size and can be of any colour, which bears no correlation to the colour of the coat. Both the longhaired and shorthaired varieties have spectacularly long curly whiskers, and ear tufts and eyebrow hairs may also be curly.
The LaPerm has a delightful temperament, very human-orientated and wanting to be part of everything that is going on. It is a very playful energetic breed, often wanting its humans to join in with the fun, and often investigating cupboards and rooms that might hold something interesting to play with. They love leaping around the room, often landing in the middle of something they weren't expecting to! The LaPerm loves to be cuddled and to have direct contact with its human family, and should not be left totally alone. It will appreciate a feline companion, but this will need to be another extrovert breed, for the sake of the companion as much as anything, as the LaPerm always wants to play, usually keeping its kittenish nature well into mature adulthood.
The Laperm is a particularly strong and healthy breed, deriving as it does from robust farm cat ancestry. It is not known to have any breed-specific health problems and many live to around the age of 15 years. In common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
This breed will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. The LaPerm will be happy to lead an existence as an indoor cat so long as it is kept fully occupied and entertained. However, if it does go out, it is necessary to remember that it is descended from hunting farm cats, and it may bring home wildlife trophies to impress you. The shorthaired variety needs very little grooming apart from stroking and gentle brushing to remove loose hairs, although the longer haired variety will need regular brushing and combing to prevent the build up of knots and tangles.