It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a cat owner, when you adopt a new breed for the first time, you are guaranteed to have a new experience. Every breed has its own eccentricities, preferences and biological needs, so it is essential that you do your research, even if you’re a life-long cat owner. To help you, our latest cat guide is everything you need to know about the LaPerm. Read on if you want to hear more about this smart Oregon native.

LaPerm cat lying on sofa

History of the LaPerm Cat

The LaPerm is a fairly new breed of cat, having only been officially recognized as recently as 1995, so its history is fairly well documented. The breed originated in 1982 from an Oregon cherry farm near The Dalles, when a brown barn cat known as ‘Speedy’ gave birth to one particularly strange looking kitten in a litter of otherwise normal cats. This kitten grew up to have distinctive wavy fur, earning her the name ‘Curly’ and, later, inspiring the name of the entire breed – ‘LaPerm’.

Curly was a fantastic mouser, while also being caring and affectionate with everyone who worked on the farm. The farm owners, Linda and Richard Koehl, initially left Curly to breed freely, as her mother had done, and soon more kittens with wavy coats were born. After this, they decided to investigate what had happened to create this unique family of cats. They soon discovered that curly had a spontaneous mutation that had affected her genes, giving her her unique attributes. The gene was dominant, so, with a little help from a breeding programme, they were quickly able to breed more generations, and the LaPerm was born.

As Speedy, Curly, and many of their descendants were born on, and worked on, farms. The LaPerm breed can be considered a working breed. Even today, many farmers will appreciate the mousing capabilities of the LaPerm. However, they have also become common household companions to people living all across the world.

Quick Facts About the LaPerm

Learning about the LaPerm’s history is crucial to understanding this clever, curious cat. However, there is plenty more to learn about them, other than where they came from. A great way to quickly get to know a breed is to digest some fun facts. Here is a little list of interesting things you should know about LaPerms, whether you are just a cat lover who enjoys learning about other breeds, or a potential cat owner considering adopting a new member of the family.

  • The International Cat Association first granted LaPerms breed status in 1995. After this, the breed was exported and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy gave them recognition in 2004.
  • Curly, and many of the first LaPerms, were born without any hair. However, many new generations of LaPerm have been bred to display their distinctive wavy coat from birth.
  • The LaPerm is considered a ‘rex’ breed. This, essentially, means they have curly fur as a result of a particular genetic mutation. This fur, however, can vary in length.
  • A LaPerm’s coat can vary from cat to cat. Not only can their fur be short or long, but it can be many different colors and patterns, and constitute different forms of curl.
  • The LaPerm also tends to have cute, curly whiskers.
  • An adult should weigh between 8 to 12 pounds, and will have a lean, muscular body designed for chasing and pouncing.
  • A LaPerm’s lifespan tends to range from 10 to 15 years, so make sure you can commit to caring for a cat for at least that long!

Things You Should Know About the LaPerm

Caring for any cat is a commitment, but some breeds can be easier to care for than others. Before you embark on a new experience with a new breed, you should take the time to consider what you will have to do to care for them. Some breeds have particular health concerns, while others require daily grooming. Luckily, the LaPerm can be considered a fairly easy breed to care for due to its history as a working farm cat. However, you should still take care to learn as much as you can about their needs, particularly if you are a first-time cat owner.

Health

The great news about the LaPerm is that, as a breed, it is very healthy and hardy. There are no known genetic predispositions, and their history as barn cats has made them resilient to many illnesses and health concerns. This does not mean that their health care can be, in any way, neglected, however. While you do not need to take your LaPerm for preventative check-ups related to a particular disease or health condition, or keep an eye out for specific symptoms, they do require the same care and attention that should be given to all cats.

LaPerm cat with owner

Remember to take your LaPerm to your local veterinarian for regular general checks ups. They need their annual vaccinations, de-worming, and it never hurts to check their joints and body for potential health concerns, particularly as they get older. If you are unsure how often you should bring your LaPerm to the vet, ask during your first visit. It is likely that they will need more regular check-ups when they are still kittens, or when they start getting older.

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Additionally, it is a good idea for you to regularly weigh your LaPerm. Active, working breeds like the LaPerm are naturally sleek and thin, so it can be easy for owners to misjudge how healthy they currently look. Some owners can accidentally overfeed a naturally thin cat, as they believe it looks undernourished, while others assume it is natural to see the ribcage of an athletically built cat. Consider these guidelines if you are unsure about the weight of your LaPerm:

  • As a general rule, your LaPerm should weigh between 8 to 12 pounds. Females will weight less than men.
  • A healthy LaPerm will not have much belly fat, but you should not be able to see their ribcage. However, you should still be able to feel their ribcage when you pick them up or touch them.
  • Always visit a vet if you have concerns. They will be able to formally check their health with a body condition analysis.

Feeding

Feeding a LaPerm is not too complicated if you are a seasoned cat owner. Their energy and athleticism may require a little more protein than some other breeds. However, if you are providing your cats with high-quality cat food, the balance of nutrients should be sufficient for your LaPerm. Consult a vet if you are unsure if a product is suitable for your cat. Unfortunately, the cheapest options can often lack a sufficient amount of protein to support a balanced diet for your cat.

You can choose between wet food, which offers additional hydration, or dry food, which is better for their teeth. Many cat owners choose to alternate between the two. While LaPerms are not known for their fussiness, individuals cats do have preferences, so it is advisable to try out a number of different flavors and textures until you find the best fit for them.

In terms of water, the LaPerm does not require special care. They should always have access to clean, fresh water, and you should be aware of their activity and environment. Refresh the bowl more frequently on hot days, and remember that, as an active breed, they are likely to expend a lot of energy, requiring plenty of water to stay sufficiently hydrated.

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Care

As with all cats, you must regularly change your LaPerm’s litter tray. Generally, LaPerms can be quite fussy about cleanliness, and you will hear about it if they are unhappy with their litter tray. They may complain to you, or they may just start going to the bathroom elsewhere. Try to make sure you are changing the litter tray around three times a week.

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Your LaPerm will require a lot of stimulation, due to their athletic nature. In order to support their need for activity, you must consider whether it is safe for them to be outdoor cats. As barn cats, they will particularly enjoy the freedom of being outdoors. However, if you are surrounded by roads and other hazards, it may be preferable to take them on a daily walk, or you can keep them as indoor cats if you have sufficient space. Courtyards and other enclosed outdoor areas are ideal.

Similarly, you should provide your LaPerm with plenty of toys to play with. Due to their intelligence, you should select puzzles and other challenging toys, as well as the usual scratching posts and climbing towers. This will exercise their body and their mind. Play time is essential bonding time, so make sure you provide both toys that they can play with on their own, and toys that you will play with them. Keep in mind that, as mousers, they will particularly enjoy chasing.

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Grooming

Given their fairly unique, curly hair, you won’t be surprised to learn that the most important difference about caring for a LaPerm, when compared to other breeds, is their grooming. Most crucially, a LaPerm needs more regularly bathing and brushing. This is because curly coats are more prone to greasy skin, which can allow a build up of oils and dirt.

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To bathe your LaPerm, simply fill a tub or sink with lukewarm water. You are aiming to match their body temperature, so make sure it is not too hot or cold, and then gently wet their fur and bathe them with your choice of a suitable cat shampoo. Try rewarding your LaPerm with a treat after the bath so they learn to associate it with something positive, and consider using a non-stick mat to make the experience more comfortable. Do not blow dry them, as it will cause a lot of frizz. Stick to a thorough towel drying. You should aim to bathe your LaPerm about once every month.

In terms of brushing, a LaPerm requires their fur brushed at least once per week, possibly three times per week if you have a long-haired LaPerm. Curly coats require specific combs, such as a comb with revolving teeth. Brushing is essential for avoiding matting, and you can use it as crucial bonding time and to check their skin and coat for lumps, bumps and wounds. Luckily, the LaPerm does not tend to shed often or excessively, but brushing will definitely help when they do.

Other grooming procedures for LaPerms are fairly standard. You must brush their teeth at least once per week using a suitable cat toothbrush and toothpaste, and you should regularly wipe discharge from their eyes and ears with a damp cloth. As always, further advice can be sought from your local vet.

cat looking at camera

Temperament

If you want to understand a pet’s temperament and personality, the best place to start is their history. Cat breeding was often done with specific aims in mind, whether they were a status symbol, a companion, or a mouser. As we’ve already discussed, LaPerm cats were bred as working cats, and this influences their personality as they were bred for the intelligence and stamina.

This means they will be particularly curious cats, who need plenty of attention and space. They will investigate high places and objects and will need a lot of intellectual stimulation. You will need to provide plenty of challenging toys and be able to commit to daily play and training sessions. Their curiosity may also put some of your more fragile belongings at risk, as LaPerms are well-known for investigating and knocking things off high shelves, so be prepared to carefully cat-proof every inch of your home.

Their hard-working nature does not make these cats at all unfriendly or cold, however. LaPerms were often kept as working cats during the day, and lap-cats through cold, winter evenings, so they can be exceptionally warm and sweet cats, perfect for cuddling. Similarly, while they don’t tend to be very vocal, perhaps due to the need to be quiet when stalking prey, they also aren’t afraid to let you know when they want a bit of attention, so listen closely.

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Sources:

  1. 6 Curly Facts about LaPerm Cats – Mental Floss
  2. LaPerm – PetMD
Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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