From Humble Barn Cat...
To CFA's Newest Championship Breed

Arohanui LaPerms

Published February 2008

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CH Arohanui BC Yankee Doodle
Photo by Donna Burdick

Spring 1982: In the barn of a cherry orchard, in an isolated gorge along the Columbia River at the end of the Oregon Trail , a new breed was born. A common brown tabby barn cat named Speedy gave birth to a litter of 6 kittens. Linda Koehl, the orchard owner said the only female was the oddest kitten she had ever seen, a tabby marked, hairless baby with large, wide-spaced ears. Linda had doubts about this kitten's survival.

The little one did survive and by the time the litter was up and about, learning to become barn cats, the odd looking female had started to grow a coat - a curly coat! Linda could not keep from picking the kitten up and petting her and aptly named her Curly.

Curly and her descendants bred freely for the next 10 years producing more and more curly-coated kittens, even to the chagrin of her neighbors, who presented Linda with a litter of curly coated Siamese and another neighbor with litter of curly Manx. Since no matter what type of cat was crossed with Linda's curly cats produced more curly cats, it became obvious that this was a dominant mutation, unlike that one found in Cornish and Devon Rex.

Some people still have doubts if this is a different mutation from that found in the Selkirk Rex, who's founding cat was found a few years later, in 1987, a few states away. Solveig Pflueger, head of Genetics at TICA states that the LaPerm gene is unique. It differs from the Devon & Cornish Rex in that it is dominant, and from the Selkirk Rex and the American Wirehair by being a complete dominant gene. Homozygous Selkirk Rexes look different from their heterozygous counterparts. It also differs from the American Wirehair in that has complete penetrance, i.e. 50% of kittens from a heterozygous LaPerm crossed with a domestic will be curly.

Unlike the Selkirk Rex, which used already established purebreds, Persian, British Shorthair, American Shorthair, and Exotic Shorthair and acquired championship status rather quickly; the LaPerm breeders have continued to stay with the roots of the breed and use only domestic cats of unknown origins.

QGA RedDazzle BC Sweet Tyler
Photo by Helmi Flick

LaPerm In TICA

The LaPerm was first granted New Breed status by TICA in 1995, and with the support of several breeders attained championship in 2002.

No breed is without growing pains and in May 2003, those breeders who had been showing cats in TICA found that because of an oversight of the Breed Committee, the very same cats shown to obtain championship could no longer be shown. The LaPerm was not designated to have a limited gene pool, so the LaPerms with their only allowed out-cross, the domestic cat of unknown origins, could no longer be shown. Those breeders who are still dedicated to keeping the establishment of the LaPerm based upon it roots are still working to rectify this oversight.

As of December 2007, there have only been approximately 500 LaPerm registered in CFA and TICA since both registries started tracking this breed, realizing that the same cats are registered in both registries, this is still a very limited gene pool. Using domestic cats of unknown origins allows us the widest gene pool available; these numbers are still too low to disallow the showing and breeding of LaPerms with domestics in their pedigrees.

Once the LaPerm had its foot in the door with TICA in 2000 recognition Miscellaneous class was granted by CFA. Another split in the breeders arose, when CFA allowed AOV (any other variety) Ocicat for a two-year period, but this out-cross was suspended after this trial period.

Photo by Helmi Flick

LaPerm Around The World

In the mean time the LaPerm started to migrate to other counties, first to Germany, then Japan, followed by New Zealand, South Africa, The Netherlands, England, Russia, France, Sweden and Australia. Some of these people who imported LaPerms, knowing what the out-cross policy was in both TICA and CFA have gone off in a completely new tangent, allowing a variety of purebreds as allowed out-crosses, Somali, Abyssinian, Ocicat, Asian Shorthair, Tiffanie, European Burmese, Tonkinese, Oriental SH, Oriental LH (Angora), Siamese, Balinese, plus variants of these breeds. There are independent breeders, who have also used Maine Coons, Turkish Vans, Turkish Angora, Munchkins, Persians, Russian Blue, Javanese, Chinchilla, and Burmilla.

TICA allows the registration of all non-allowed out-crosses and CFA offers Cats Ancestral Tracking Service (CATS) for those people in other countries who do not want to follow CFA breeding guidelines. The breeders who do not want to follow TICA and CFA guidelines should utilize these services, instead of asking CFA and TICA to allow other purebred out-crosses. Proposals have already been sent to both Boards asking for purebred out-crosses which have been turned down. A proposal was asked at this year CFA Board of Directors for the importation of LaPerms without a pedigree, simply a registration certificate stating the cat's parents were registered as LaPerms in the country of birth. This was soundly defeated in an 18 to 1 vote.

In 2005 CFA moved the LaPerm to the Provisional Class. Breeders extended their efforts and LaPerms were shown in every region. Some breeders bringing as many as 6 cats to each show, paying for breed information booths out of their own funds. Their efforts finally paid off with championship status being granted on February 4, 2008!

Arohanui BC Smoke on the Water
  TICA's Best LaPerm Kitten 2007

Photo by Donna Burdick

A Bit About LaPerms

The LaPerm is a delightful medium-sized cat without any extremes. The head is a modified wedge, slightly rounded, gentle contours. Whisker pads should appear full and rounded. Both coat lengths are allowed, but the longhairs should never have a heavy coat like a Persian or even a Ragdoll. In CFA the breed will be in the Shorthair Specialty Ring, the very first shorthair championship was awarded in TICA only last year, in November 2007. All genetically possible coat colors are allowed and eye color is independent of coat color.

The LaPerm is a clown in a curly coat. True to their barn cat roots, this is a thinking cat, a problem solver, in other words very clever and can be troublemakers. If a door is closed, they want it open, if a toy is just out of reach, they want to get to it. They are very clever at using the front paws to get what they want, be it a toy, food or attention, out comes the “magic” paw. They will follow you from room to room, ride on your shoulders, sit on top of you computer, play fetch, just to be close to you, but are not vocal or clingy.

We are hoping now that championship has been granted in both TICA and CFA this will attract more people to the breed, be it as pet owners, exhibitors or breeders. Please contact a breeder close to you for more information.

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