Bred initially from Oregon barn cats with a "Rex" mutation for curly coats, the LaPerm cat breed is still best known for their distinctly textured coats. The original breeder called the cats "LaPerm," which means wavy or rippled.
Sometimes called "curly-coated cuddlers," these unique cats are known for being lovable, people-oriented pets.
Read on to learn what you need to know about LaPerms to decide if these curly cats might be the right breed for your family.
Characteristics of a LaPerm
The LaPerm has a wedge-shaped head with medium-large almond-shaped eyes set moderately far apart. They have slightly flared, medium-to-large ears and the long-hair variety may have lynx tips — pointed hairs that grow out of the top of the ears.
A LaPerm is medium-boned with a muscular build. They have distinctive curly coats ranging from waves to ringlet curls to corkscrew curls. The tightest curls are typically on the cat's underside, the throat, and the base of the ears.
LaPerm's can have short or long coats. The short-haired LaPerm has more texture to their coat, typically causing the coat to stand away from the body and part down the middle. The long-haired LaPerm often has a curly tail and a curled ruff.
Some LaPerm kittens are hairless, but most are born with short wavy or straight hair. LaPerm kittens typically go bald at two weeks of age and remain bald or partially bald for the first four months of life until their mature coat starts to grow in. Their full coat doesn't come in until a LaPerm is three years old.
Coat variations are expected throughout a LaPerm's life, and they can have thin coats from seasonal molting.
The LaPerm's coat can come in any color or combination of colors, including red tabby, chocolate tortoiseshell, calico, classic tabby, white, black, blue, and fawn.
Eye color can be copper, gold, yellow, green, blue, or aqua. A LaPerm's eyes can be one color or two different colors. There's no relationship between coat color and eye color.
The LaPerm is a medium-sized cat. Females are generally smaller than males.
The LaPerm is an affectionate, people-loving breed that loves to play and socialize. While LaPerms are very active, they have a sweet, easygoing nature that makes them a good playmate for children.
A LaPerm craves companionship and does best with families who will be home frequently or can provide an animal companion such as another active cat or a cat-friendly dog.
In summary, common LaPerm characteristics include being:
Caring for a LaPerm
The LaPerm is a low-maintenance breed that's easy to care for — they shed very little, and their coats rarely get matted. Since the breed is meant to look unkempt, they rarely require brushing, though you can use a wide-tooth comb on their coat as needed.
The LaPerm doesn't need bathing unless they get exceptionally dirty or sticky. If your LaPerm does need a bath, be sure to use a shampoo formulated for cats, and avoid using shampoo on their face, ears, and eyes.
It would be best to brush your LaPerm's teeth at least three times a week using a toothpaste formulated for cats and a toothbrush designed for cats. More than half of cats over age three have periodontal disease, leading to pain and tooth loss. Regular brushing helps to prevent these dental problems. Consult your veterinarian if you have questions about providing dental care for your LaPerm.
Like all cats, your LaPerm needs regular nail care. Using cat nail clippers, clip only the white part of your cat's claw — the pink part, called the quick, contains nerves and blood vessels and will bleed if accidentally cut. You can stop bleeding with a styptic powder, but it's better to err on the side of trimming too little than over trimming your cat's claws.
Declawing your LaPerm is not recommended — as with all cats, declawing can lead to chronic pain and behavioral problems. To discourage inappropriate scratching, trim your cat's nails every two to four weeks and provide scratching posts, a cat tree, or other scratching surfaces for your LaPerm.
LaPerm Tick and Flea Prevention
You can help prevent ticks and fleas by giving your LaPerm a regular tick and flea preventative. Tick and flea preventative products come in various formulations: chewables, sprays, topical treatments, powders, and flea prevention collars. They are available both over the counter and by prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right flea and tick prevention for your LaPerm.
LaPerm Medical Care
Like all cats, a LaPerm must visit the veterinarian every three to four weeks during the first four months of life. Annual well checks are necessary after they reach one year of age. All cats need core vaccines. Your LaPerm kitten will likely receive their first vaccines between six and eight weeks of age.
Core vaccines include:
- Feline panleukopenia (FPL), also known as feline parvovirus or feline distemper
- Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), also known as cat herpes
- Feline caliciviral disease
Your LaPerm might need non-core vaccines, depending on their risk of exposure to these diseases. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if any non-core vaccines are necessary for your LaPerm.
Non-core vaccines may cover:
- Feline chlamydiosis
- Feline leukemia virus
Veterinarians generally recommend that all cats receive year-round heartworm prevention medication. Heartworms are a parasitic infection transmitted through mosquito bites. Heartworm larvae infest the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries and can cause respiratory failure and death.
While cats are less likely to get heartworms than dogs, recent studies have shown that more cats are infected with heartworms than previously thought. Heartworms are more challenging to diagnose in cats, and there's currently no effective treatment for heartworm-infected cats. While outdoor cats are more likely to contract heartworms, heartworm infections can and do occur in both indoor and outdoor cats. Talk to your veterinarian about options for preventing heartworms in your LaPerm.
LaPerm Health Issues
The average LaPerm lifespan is 12 to 15 years, though some LaPerms have reached age 20. The LaPerm is a generally healthy breed, and no breed-specific health problems are currently known. Diseases common in all cats to be aware of include:
Like humans, cats can have Type I or Type II diabetes, though Type II diabetes is more common. Cats with diabetes will likely need insulin therapy.
Symptoms of diabetes in cats include:
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination/urinating outside the litter box
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your LaPerm may have diabetes.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
A cat infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus may not show any symptoms for years but will eventually weaken the cat's immune system and make them susceptible to infections.
Symptoms of FIV include:
- Weight loss
- Dental disease
- Wounds that won't heal
- Behavior changes
If your LaPerm has FIV, they need to be kept indoors and have more frequent visits to the veterinarian. Talk to your vet if you suspect your LaPerm may have FIV.
The LaPerm cat origin is in Dalles, Oregon. A newer breed, the LaPerm first appeared in the early 1980s. The original LaPerm kitten occurred spontaneously when one barn cat kitten, Curly, was born with a unique "Rex" mutation. Curly was born entirely bald but developed a full coat of soft, curly hair over a few months.
When Curly reached adulthood, many of her kittens inherited her unique curly coat. Curly's owner, Linda Koehl, didn't attempt to breed the cats selectively for another decade. When Koehl realized how unique her cats were, she began to breed the cats selectively.