Named for its characteristic curly hair, the LaPerm lineage began on a small cherry farm in Dalles, Oregon in 1982, when a kitten with tabby markings and meager fur was born to an otherwise ordinary barn cat.
The LaPerm is a rex breed, a term given for the naturally occurring genetic mutation that results in curly or wavy fur. The LaPerm’s fur may be short or long, and accepted appearance can cover a wide range of colors and markings. The curls may also vary, from soft waves to tight ringlets, resulting in a coat that is light and springy to the touch. The fur does not have a neat appearance; rather it has a disheveled, shaggy appearance. The longhaired LaPerm will have a full, plumed tail and full ruff, both of which are usually curly, while the shorthaired will not have the full tail and ruff, but will still have curly or wavy fur in those areas. Most will also have curly whiskers. Coat length may vary with the season, but like other curly coated animals, the LaPerm is otherwise a lightly shedding breed, making it a good choice for those with mild allergies to cat dander.
In accordance with its origins as a working barn cat, the LaPerm typically weighs between 6 to 12 pounds and is considered sturdy for its actual size. As with other cat breeds, the male is generally larger than the female.
As its roots would indicate, the LaPerm remains a capable working cat that easily transitions from fierce mouse hunter to gentle and affectionate lap cat. They are not known for being especially vocal, but will "speak" when they want attention. They respond very well to personal attention and return affection with enthusiasm.
Also in accordance with its roots as a working cat, the LaPerm is clever and resourceful. Therefore, it will require sufficient attention, playtime every day and enough space to move around. That is not to say that this breed will not do well in a smallish apartment type of environment, but it does mean that delicate objects should be kept out of reach, so the LaPerm can be free to leap onto high shelves and dash around the room when the need arises.
There are no known predilections to disease with this breed. As with many types of working cats, the LaPerm is hardy, given that overall health considerations (a healthy diet and safe environment) are taken into consideration.
The first LaPerm was born to a barn cat owned by Oregon cherry farmers Linda and Richard Koehl. From an otherwise normal appearing litter of kittens, one stood out for its near hairlessness. Over its first several weeks, the kitten’s fur grew in soft and curly, earning it the name “Curly,” and it showed itself to be an excellent mouser and notably affectionate and patient with people. While the Koehls appreciated their divergent feline, they didn’t give much thought to what made it different and allowed it to breed freely. Over the next several years, as more “curlys” were born, the Koehls began to pay attention and made a concerted effort to sort those that carried the mutated rex gene from the rest of the population of barn cats.
With supervised breeding, the LaPerm was consequently established and granted breed status by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1995. It has also been granted status with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) and the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA).
Early LaPerm kittens were recognized for their near hairlessness at birth, with the airy curls growing in over several weeks, but as the breeding program has progressed, many of the kittens are born with their curled coats already in place. Still, it is common for LaPerm kittens to lose much of their fur while young, sometimes more than once, and regrowing their curled coats.