The LaPerm is a rex breed of cat from the US with curly fur ““ the tightest curls on the throat, base of the ears, and the belly of each cat. It comes in many colors and patterns and is not related to any other rex breeds, because a dominant gene causes its curls, unlike most rex’s recessive genetics. The coat is the defining feature of the LaPerm; made up of soft waves, ringlets and curls it resembles a shaggy perm, thus the name.
The LaPerm is a moderately sized cat with a muscular foreign-type body. It has a longish neck and a modified wedge head with gently rounded contours. LaPerms have broad noses, flat foreheads, flared ears and almond shaped eyes. Tabbies, reds and torties are the most common LaPerm patterns, however all colors and patterns are accepted, including some unusual colorpoints.
The feel of the LaPerm coat is very unique. The texture is not silky but feels more like mohair because of the shape of the curls and the different hair types. The coat stands away from the body and feels quite springy. It is light and airy, varying according to the season. Typically the coat is wavy or curly all over with the longest and most defined curls in the ruff. Curls inhabit the tips of the ears as well, and even the breed’s whiskers are curly.
The first LaPerm was born in 1982 in Oregon to a tabby shorthair mother, and to owners Linda and Richard Koehl. At first, Linda suspected something was wrong with the kitten, named Curly, but later she discovered she just had a different coat, and different genetic makeup than the rest of the kittens in the litter. Curly mated with a farm cat, and eventually several other males, and the LaPerm breed was born.
The breed is strongly tied to Native American, specifically Chinook culture, as the farm where the breed began is in a sacred territory of the Wishram, a Chinook tribe. Many LaPerm breeders today give their kittens Native American names and decorate their pens with this theme. Special care went into naming the breed itself. The name evokes thoughts of the breed’s curly coat as well as following the Chinook tradition of adopting French words while incorporating the definite article to create a new word.