All About LaPerms
The LaPerm is a Rex breed which differs from the Devon and Cornish Rex in resulting from a dominant gene and coming in both long and short coats. They are loving and outgoing cats whose striking, ringlet coats add something different to the cat world.
The LaPerm breed originates from one rexed kitten named Curly who was born in 1982 on Linda and Dick Koehl’s cherry farm in The Dalles, Oregon, in the traditional lands of the Native American Wishram tribe. Curly was a shorthaired tabby who was born with a rather sparse coat which grew in soft and wavy as she matured. She stayed on the farm as a working cat and was a real character and favourite of the Koehls, getting into many scrapes throughout her life. For the first ten years or so there was no formal breeding programme; rather the working cat colony interbred and the new kittens which were born grew up and took their place in the group. Curly’s first litter produced five male cats all with curly coats and it was through the efforts of these cats as they grew up and mated all of the farm’s queens that soon the dominant rex gene was spread through the whole colony. In time both long and short haired cats appeared and both would be recognised as part of the LaPerm breed.
Kloshe BB Sunshine, red tabby male LaPerm born in 1992
As with other rex breeds outcrossing has been an important part of breeding programmes, ensuring that the breed maintains a large healthy gene pool. During the development of the breed the most popularly used outcross was the domestic cat or non-pedigree as these were closest to the original stock. Not any cat could be used and these had to be carefully chosen to conform to the desired standard. Some pedigree breeds have been used for outcrossing and are permitted for use in the GCCF, including the Somali/Abyssinian, Asian group, Tonkinese and Ocicat.
The LaPerm is a cat with no extremes but whose visual drama can pack a punch at first sight. They have a moderate foreign build with long legs and a long neck and the firm muscles you would imagine a cat bred from hardy working stock to possess. Their heads are a modified wedge shape with gentle rounded contours. They have almond shaped eyes, large cupped ears, long broad noses which have a slight break in profile but no stop and long broad muzzles with firm chins. The body is finished off with a medium long tapering tail. The coat is the breed’s most distinctive feature; it is unique and does not feel like the coat of any other breed. There are both longhaired and shorthaired LaPerms and both have curls all over their bodies. The shorthaired coat is wavy and stands away from the body, sometimes with a tail like a bottle brush. The longhaired cat has a light bouncy coat which you can part by blowing on it. Ringlets can develop throughout the coat, especially on the neck, ruff and plumed tail. The ear furnishings are also curly and their ear muffs, or longer hair on the back of the ears, have been described as like angel’s wings. The coat feels very different to the other rex breeds; while stroking a Devon or Cornish rex can be like stroking a piece of rippled silk, the LaPerm has a “textured” coat which is more like stroking lambswool. All colours and patterns are possible and some beautiful combinations have been produced. The light, single coat is low maintenance and is best kept in condition with a revolving toothed comb which can move through the fur without pulling the curls straight.
The LaPerm temperament is very bold, inquisitive and friendly. They like lots of attention and cuddles and if you are foolish enough to ignore their demands to be picked up they may take matters into their own hands (or paws) and leap into your arms. They are very playful, energetic cats and some will bring their toys to their owners and ask for a play session, retaining their kittenish ways into adulthood. They are tactile cats and enjoy being stroked making their pleasure known with their loud purrs.
The LaPerm is still a young breed but is gaining in popularity around the world. Although still rare the breed is now well established in its home land and has been promoted to championship status with TICA, CFA and FIFe. LaPerms have spread to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Russia, Japan and several European countries, particularly the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The first LaPerm to arrive in the UK was Champion Uluru BC Omaste Po of Quincunx, a lilac tortie & white female who was bred by A. D. Lawrence in the USA and imported by Anthony Nichols on 23rd May 2002. Shortly after arriving in the UK she gave birth to a litter of five kittens: Quincunx Rexray Spex, Quincunx Siouxsie Banshee, Quincunx Nancy Spongecake, Quincunx Sid Luscious and Quincunx EverythingButTheCurl. These cats were the UK foundation stock and a breeding programme was started with the GCCF using these cats, some carefully planned outcrossing and some subsequent additional imports from both the USA, Holland and New Zealand. There is a small friendly group of people working with the breed and interest from others who want to get involved is always welcome.
The breed is supported by the LaPerm Breed Advisory Committee, which is one part of the Joint Rex Breed Advisory Committee, and includes the LaPerm Cat Club, the Scottish Rex Cat Club, the Rex Cat Association and the Rex Cat Club. The BAC works to support breeders, exhibitors and judges of the breed.
Eventually Linda was persuaded by all the comments of visitors to the farm to look into what she had. She did some research and realised that she had a dominant rex gene and that this was something new. She attended a CFA show with some of her cats and met with a very positive response. Several of the judges she met became actively involved and were very keen to ensure that these beautiful and unique cats were preserved and developed with a proper breeding programme. CFA judges Dennis Ganoe and Kim Everett provided invaluable advice, encouragement and support. A group of people became involved with the LaPerm and took on breeding cats, including Linda who started registering her LaPerms under her prefic which was Kloshe (a native American word meaning 'good'. LaPerms started to be shown in TICA shows also where they received much support from Dr Solveig Pflueger, the head of the TICA genetics committee.
The natural origins of the LaPerm have given rise to a healthy breed with no known problems. They are devoted mothers who tend to produce big strong litters which develop rapidly. Both coat lengths can occur in the same litter. The LaPerm gene is dominant, which means that some LaPerms (known as heterozygous) can carry the gene for straight hair. Sometimes straight haired kittens, or LaPerm variants, can appear in litters. These cats are like LaPerms in every way except their silky flat coats. They cannot be shown but are useful in breeding programmes and make great pets. Unlike the Selkirk Rex, there are no differences between the homozygous and the heterozygous LaPerms. Breeders sometimes use the initials BC, BB or BS in their kittens’ names; these stand for Born Curly, Born Bald and Born Straight. Those kittens like Curly who are born bald then develop a curly coat have become rarer as the breed has progressed.
Linda Koehl, the LaPerm breed founder. Her vision and quiet determination secured a future for the LaPerm and gave us the beautiful cats that we have and love today. Thank you for your legacy to the world!
Kloshe BB Papoose, brown tabby female LaPerm Shorthair, born in 1985. Sadly no photos survive of Curly, the original LaPerm, but Linda said that Papoose looked just like Curly, who was her grandmother.
Kloshe BC Dragonfly, female tortie tabby LaPerm Longhair, born 1999
Kloshe BB White Paw, male brown tabby LaPerm Longhair, born 1993
Kloshe BB Dark Foot, tortie tabby female LaPerm Longhair, born 1990
Kloshe BC Rainbow Spirit, tortie & white female LaPerm Longhair, born 1997
Tsagaglalal, or She Who Watches, guards over the spirits of those born in the Columbia River Gorge, birthplace of the LaPerm