LaPerm: A Curly-Haired, Dexterous Cat

Close-up image of an LaPerm cat
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

The cat family has been blessed with immense varieties of cat breeds all around the globe. There are so many cat breeds available today that they all almost seem to blend together; the trait that is called unique in one breed is actually often found in many other breeds as well. But the same cannot be said for curly-haired cats. The number of cat breeds that have curly hair can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and one of them is the LaPerm.

The LaPerm looks as if they stuck their paws in an electric socket and got electrocuted. The LaPerm has an inquisitive nature; they love heights and enjoy human company—especially when given the utmost attention. Although their hair might have led you to believe otherwise, this cat is actually easy to groom. Another unique nature of theirs is how dexterous they are. Known for being able to use their paws to do a good number of unexpected things—including opening doors and turning on a faucet—these cats are anything but boring to be around.

Studio picture of an Close-up image of an LaPerm cat lying down

Interested in learning more about this quirky cat? You’re in the right place. This article will help you decide whether to adopt a cat of this breed or not by elaborating on their history, physical traits, personality, and how to properly care for a LaPerm to keep them bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Good

  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good

  • Exercise Needs: Above Average

Cat Breed GroupSemi Long-Haired, Mixed Breed
WeightMales: 7 - 10 pounds

Females: 5 - 8 pounds
Life Span10 - 14 years

Coming into existence due to a spontaneous mutation that was first evidenced in an Oregon farm in 1982, the LaPerm is an amazing cat that possesses some unique characteristics as compared to other felines. Born to a brown tabby barn cat, the LaPerm—named Curly—was the only kitty of the litter with unique characteristics that distinguished her from the rest.

The cat stood out for her near hairlessness, wide-set ears, and tabby markings on her skin that were quite similar to those of her mother. With a curiosity to learn more about this unique feline, the cats’ owners Linda and Richard Koehl retained the cat till maturity and were amazed at how Curly developed soft and curly hair as she approached maturity.

The LaPerm cat is recognized as a divergent feline. This cat has an inquisitive nature and a great sense of humor that distinguishes the breed from the rest of the felines. Although this cat has a disheveled shaggy appearance, they have a noble heart that makes them a loving feline. Described as clownish by most pet parents, this cat makes good use of their paws to do a variety of amazing tasks such as opening doors, swapping things around, and tapping your head or shoulder whenever they need your attention.

a LaPerm cat beeing held by her owner

Now, unlike the Mekong Bobtail, the LaPerm doesn’t like clinging to or following their owner around. Instead, this feline is quite versatile and can keep themselves amused if you’re not available to groom or pet them. The LaPerm can transition from a fierce mouse hunter to a loving and gentle cat that enjoys human compassion. This cat is not known to be vocal, but they do meow at times—especially when they desperately need your attention.

In accordance with their roots, the LaPerm is considered to be a working cat that can become resourceful if trained. Gifted with immense intelligence, the kitties can be trained and become extremely welcoming to the point of interacting and guiding guests from the main door to the living room.

The LaPerm’s outstanding feature is, of course, their hair. Recognized for the bouncy curls that extend throughout their body, this cat may either be shorthaired or longhaired with shades or patterns that extend from the head all the way to the tail. According to pet breeders, the coat may feature various patterns of tabbies, reds, and tortoiseshells.

Studio image of a beautiful a LaPerm cat lying down

Due to the nature of their coat, the LaPerm requires less grooming as compared to most other breeds. The coat can be brushed either once or twice a week with a stainless steel comb with wider teeth on one side and narrower teeth on the other. Pet parents can opt to brush or to bathe the LaPerm. In case you decide to bathe this feline, always remember to press the towel into the coat to soak up moisture before leaving the cat to self-dry or before you blow-dry them.

As a working cat, the LaPerm is considered to be a hardy cat with a low potential to develop any health problems. However, owners should still keep the cat in safe environments and take care of their overall conditions to ensure that maximum care is observed throughout their life.

Finally, the LaPerm enjoys human companionship and likes it when they are involved. They enjoy the company of older kids who can treat them with respect. Since they are fond of climbing on top of tall perches, the LaPerm requires a cat tree to keep them engaged throughout the day.

Main Highlights

  • The LaPerm’s existence came about as a surprise after a barn cat named Speedy gave birth to a litter of kitties—one of which was bald with a long body and tabby stripes on the skin.

  • Although the LaPerm is born bald, the cat develops curly or wavy coat as they approach maturity. The cat is actually recognized as a Rex breed—which is a name given to breeds with a genetic mutation that results in curly or wavy hair.

  • The LaPerm can either be long or short-haired with coats that cover a variety of different colors and markings. Among the most common shades include black, chocolate, lilac, and red.

  • The LaPerm is a moderately-sized cat that reaches maturity when they are about two to three years old.

  • The early LaPerm kitties were born near hairless. However, as the breeding program progresses, the kitties of this breed are now born with moderate curls already in place.

  • The LaPerm’s curly coat is very easy to groom. However, owners should ensure a routine cleaning of the cat’s ears, trimming of the paws, and cleaning of the eye discharge.

  • The LaPerm isn’t usually vocal but may sometimes become noisy when they need your attention.

  • Described as an intelligent cat with lots of talents, the LaPerm enjoys human companionship—especially resting in your lap, on top your laptop, or riding on your shoulders.

Breed History

The LaPerm was the result of a spontaneous mutation. They came into existence as a surprise. Curly, the first LaPerm cat, was among a litter of kitties born to a barn cat. Curly was discovered to possess distinguishing characteristics—such as near hairlessness, wide-set ears, and narrow eyes.

Discovered in an Oregon farm in 1982, the cats’ owners—Linda and Richard Koehl—thought the unusual cat would definitely die due to its strange features. To their amazement, Curly survived; surprisingly, she grew soft and curly fur after several weeks. Curly was an excellent mouser just like her mother and was notably affectionate when it came to relating to humans.

Studio image of a Brown And White Laperm Cat

Having seen much of the cat’s amazing features, Linda and Richard never bothered to follow up on the cat and instead allowed Curly to mate freely with other breeds in the neighborhood. Among the males that mated with Curly, notable ones included the Siamese and the Manx.

As years of uncontrolled breeding went on, Linda discovered that all the kitties born by Curly had a similar coat characteristic of curly and wavy fur that resembled the mutated Rex gene. She found out that the curly coat was dominant in all the kittens regardless of the males—with a few notable differences being seen in the color shades.

Cute white laperm cat walking in the yard

After researching and realizing that she might have discovered a new cat breed, Linda took four of the cats to a cats’ concert in Portland Oregon. Ready for any form of criticism, Linda was amazed at how dazzled the pet-loving audience was when they saw the new breed. Inspired by the audience’s positive reaction, Linda went ahead to officially enlist the cats as a new breed with an official breed name: LaPerm.

Following a series of supervised breeding by professional geneticists, the LaPerm was officially granted a new breed status by The International Cats Association in 2003. Later on, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and the Cat Fanciers Association granted these cats their status—making the LaPerm a globally recognized breed in other parts of the world, such as Australia, New Zealand, U.K., and South Africa.


The LaPerm is recognized as a medium-sized cat that’s a bit smaller as compared to other medium-sized breeds. According to geneticists, this cat reaches maturity when they are at the age of two to three years. With a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years, the LaPerm is a reasonably healthy breed.

grey-laperm kitten sitting on a table

The LaPerm’s weight can greatly vary depending on whether it’s a male or a female. Males can weigh anywhere between 7 and 10 pounds while females can weigh from 5 to 8 pounds. Unlike other cats that can weigh up to 15 pounds, the lightweight nature of the LaPerm is generally an advantage as it means the cat is not prone to obesity.

Personality and Character

The LaPerm is a medium-sized cat that got most of their features from their predecessor. Because this breed was first born to a barn cat that was a working cat and an excellent mouser, the LaPerm has strong hunting instincts. But these cats can transform into an affectionate and loving cat when they are in the company of humans.

The LaPerm is active, intelligent, and resourceful. With a high sense of humor, this cat may use their paw to tap the top of your head to seek attention. The LaPerm can follow you around, sit on your shoulder, play around, retrieve things, sit on your laptop, or rest on your lap while waiting to be groomed. The cat is affectionate, but not vocally demanding.

Studio image of a gorgeous-laperm cat

These cats are affectionate, patient with humans, and very welcoming especially when trained to socialize as a kitten. As a working cat, this cat loves heights as they always want to supervise whatever is going on. Therefore, pet parents planning to adopt this breed should prepare enough space for the cat to move around in.

They do best as an outdoor cat. However, in case you live in a small apartment or a small space for that matter, there’s nothing to worry about. Since the LaPerm loves heights, all you need to do is prepare cat trees or shelves. Also, remember to provide them with pet toys such as scratching posts to keep them occupied.

Health and Potential Problems

Most pedigreed and mixed-breed cats are known to suffer from varying health conditions that may be genetic in nature. Despite such predilections, the LaPerm is considered to be a generally healthy cat. We think the secret behind the LaPerm’s good health could be due to the fact that they are a working cat—something which makes them strong and generally active. Now, despite of this breed’s great resistance to hereditary illnesses, the LaPerm is just as vulnerable as the next cat to common illnesses such as:

  • Neonatal Isoerythrolysis: this condition is rare and mostly affects newborn kitties. What happens is that an immune reaction takes place when different blood-type antibodies between a queen and her kittens react. For instance, if a kitty with blood group B is nursed by a queen with blood group A, antibodies from the queen attack the kitty’s red blood cells—causing anemia, weight loss, congenital abnormalities, and later, death.

  • Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: another condition that’s likely to affect the LaPerm cat is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). Known as a cardiac disease, this illness involves a thickening of the ventricles—making it difficult for the heart to pump blood. If this problem is not treated ASAP, a cat is likely to develop severe heart failure, blood clots, and arrhythmias. Common symptoms of this illness include lethargy, rapid breathing, and open-mouthed breathing.

  • Glaucoma: this condition is an eye disorder that damages the optic nerve. It’s caused by an increase in pressure inside the eye—leading to discomforts and later an enlarged, bulging eye. This condition has no known early symptoms—making it an extremely dangerous disease. Most cats that have been diagnosed with this condition will develop partial or total blindness after some time. Treatment may involve a life-long medical therapy or perhaps the removal of the affected eye to avoid further damage.

  • Hyperthyroidism: known to cause glandular disorder or hormonal imbalances in cats, hyperthyroidism is a condition caused by an excessive concentration of a thyroid hormone known as T in the bloodstream. Common symptoms include weight loss, increased appetite, excessive thirst, increased shedding, diarrhea, panting, and increased urination. Treatment includes normal medication or radiotherapy.

  • Polycystic Kidney Disease: this condition involves the formation of cysts in the cat’s kidneys. This condition is quite dangerous as the signs do not show until a cat is about 3 to 10 years old. What happens is that the cysts continue to grow larger and larger as the cat grows older. As the condition spreads, the kidneys become weak—making it hard for them to continue functioning normally. When the condition gets to an advanced stage, your cat develops kidney failure. Common signs of this illness include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, frequent urination, and poor coat quality.

Care Features

Hailed for their high activity level, the LaPerm enjoys perching on elevated areas to get an aerial view of the entire household. This character trait makes this cat extremely lovable and easy to deal with—all you have to do is prepare a cat tree to keep them amused.

Owner grooming his laperm cat

As we’ve mentioned earlier, pet parents can opt to involve this active feline in daily exercises within the household or simply buy a variety of pet toys such as cat trees, wireless rat toys, laser pet toys, and cat caves to keep them engaged and happy. Although they do enjoy playing on their own with the available pet toys, this feline cannot resist resting in your lap or on your shoulders given the opportunity.

Something else we can’t miss to mention is that LaPerm owners should ensure that they maintain a high level of cleanliness that involve cleaning the cat’s ears, trimming their nails, and cleaning their eyes with separate damp cloths to avoid spreading any infections.

Feeding Schedule

Like other cats, LaPerms are obligate carnivores and should be fed with food rich in animal-based protein. Some pet parents may not understand how to feed these felines, so you’ll see them feeding the LaPerm with vegetables, fruits, and carbs. This is not recommended as it can expose the cat to severe health issues such as obesity and diabetes. Therefore, it’s advisable that you seek information from your local vet to check your cat’s condition before devising a feeding schedule.

close-up image of a Laperm kitten

LaPerms are occasional eaters—meaning they enjoy feeding throughout the day. You can put the food out for them to enjoy whenever they want; as long as the food is of good quality, the LaPerm is not prone to developing obesity. For those who like giving their pets treats, always ensure that you give the LaPerm minimum snacks to reduce chances of stomach discomforts.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

One notable feature of the LaPerm is, of course, their coat that comes with soft or hard bouncy curls that cover the entire body—including the ears, the neck, and the tail. The hair can come in varying lengths and colors or patterns that may include tabbies, tortoiseshells, and reds. There are even cases where a LaPerm cat is born with a straight, neat coat.

Despite the fact that LaPerms have long, curly hair, grooming this feline is generally easy. Cat owners are recommended to brush their fur once or twice a week using a stainless steel brush. You should also bathe the cat to remove any accumulated dirt in the coat.

Black and white laperm cat looking at the camera

Apart from cleaning their fur, other grooming assistance a LaPerm cat might require include brushing their teeth regularly to prevent them from contracting gingivitis, trimming their nails, wiping their eyes to remove discharge, as well as cleaning their ears.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The LaPerm is a friendly and affectionate breed that is suited to large families with pet-loving children and other friendly pets. Due to their intelligence, this cat can learn new tricks to play and interact freely with almost everyone provided you don’t disrespect them.

brown and white laperm cat lying down and relaxing

Children enjoy interacting with this feline thanks to their unending patience. Parents with young kids are advised to teach them how to handle this cat to avoid pulling off their curly hair. If you have pets around, it is advisable that you introduce them patiently to the LaPerm in a controlled setting till they bond.

Wrap Up

Did you know that the LaPerm—alongside the Selkirk Rex, German Rex, Devon Rex, and Cornish Rex are the only cat breeds known to develop curly fur? This cat sure is full of surprises. A loving, patient, and affectionate cat that loves heights, the LaPerm enjoys getting involved in daily activities regardless of what it is.

Now, some people state that the LaPerm is hypoallergenic since they don’t shed much. According to professional breeders, no cat breed is 100% hypoallergenic. Since people are different, they will respond to the allergens differently. Also, the protein Fel d 1—the one that’s responsible for triggering allergic reactions—is actually found not in the cat’s hair, but in their saliva and skin oils. To reduce dander, the best you can do is to keep their skin dandruff-free.

laperm cat lying down with her head up

Last but not least, the LaPerm is considered to be a healthy cat with no known predilections to diseases. While this might be the case, pet parents are advised to buy their cats from breeders who provide a written health guarantee in case the cat succumbs to any genetic health issue.

Are you looking for a working cat that’s a fierce mouser but also an affectionate cuddler that enjoys human attention? If so, the LaPerm is the best choice for you. Or perhaps instead of cats with curly hair, you prefer cats with no hair at all? Having said much about this cute, loving feline, we would like to hear your views in the comment box below. Please share your experience if you’ve lived with a cat breed with such unusual characteristics before.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.