Last updated: February 18, 2017
The American Curl is one of the newest breeds of purebred cat. It is an affectionate breed that really enjoys spending time with his owner. They can be an excellent choice for a family pet with a somewhat unique look.
The American Curl is a medium sized cat that is generally 7-10 lbs. They come in a variety of colours and patterns with no specific exclusions or preferences for one colour or pattern. Because the breed is frequently outcrossed with domestic cats to keep the gene pool large and diverse, there is a substantial range in colours and patterns. The body is rectangular shape with medium bone. The tail length is equal to that of the body and starts wide at its base. The eyes are large and walnut shaped which contributes to the sweet expression that is characteristic of the breed.
The coat can be long or short. Neither coat length has much undercoat and shedding is minimal. The longer coat should be brushed or combed out on a weekly basis.
The defining feature of the breed is the ears. Ideally, they curl back smoothly in an arc of 90-180 degrees. The base cartilage is firm and it is a wide, open ear. The upper cartilage is much softer. Care should be taken when handling the ears to avoid injuring the cartilage. The curl is different from that of Scottish Folds and is genetically distinct as determined by English feline geneticist, Roy Robinson. It is a dominant gene and all cats carrying at least one copy of the gene will have curled ears although the degree of curl can vary from almost none to an extreme 180-degree curl.
When kittens are born, the ear appears normal. They begin to curl back at 3-5 days of age and continue to curl over a period of weeks. Final ear set is usually determined by the time kittens are 16 weeks old. Cats that remain straight eared or have little curl still have the same delightful personality as they curled-ear brethren but cannot be shown and are usually sold as pets on spay-neuter contracts.
This is a very new breed and all American Curls can be traced back to a cat called Shulamaith. Joe and Grace Ruga found a stray black kitten with unusual ears near their Lakewood, California home in 1981. They named her Shulamaith. When two of the kittens in her first litter also had the curled ears, the search into the genetics behind them was launched and, ultimately, a new breed was born. By 1983, breeders were working to preserve the gene and the breed.
Today, the American Curl’s unique appearance and unusually sweet expression have made it a favourite with fanciers. While examining the genetics behind the ears, the health of the animals and expression of genes which lead to genetic disease and illness were studied at the same time. The findings were extremely healthy which was great news to the cat fancy as unusual mutations such as the one that produced the curled ears can sometimes be accompanied by other genetic health issues.
There are few known health issues specific to the American Curl however it is important to provide regular care for their ears. They are prone to wax build up and infections due to narrow ear canals. Ears should be cleaned thoroughly at least once every two weeks to avoid infections. Making ear cleaning a part of your regular routine from the time of the cat’s arrival will allow him to adapt to it fairly easily. The ears can be gently cleaned with an antiseptic wipe such as those used for cleaning babies. For those wishing a more natural cleanser, use a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and water. Do not use cotton swabs as the tips can break and going too far into the ear can also lead to damage of the eardrum. Handle the ears carefully to avoid damaging the cartilage. Signs of ear infection include redness, excessive tenderness, strong odor, swelling, and discharge from the ear. Consult your veterinarian as your cat develops an ear infection. The most commonly required treatment is a course of antibiotic ear drops. Ear infections should be treated promptly and you may need to increase the frequency of cleaning to avoid future infections. Chronic, untreated infections can lead to deafness and balance disturbances.
Although their unique appearance is often what initially attracts people to the breed, it is their personality that seals the deal. The sweet expression does not lie, this is a very people oriented, friendly cat. They like to be with their families all the time and are known for following their owners around the house and doing their best to be involved in everything they do.
They are very even-tempered cats and tend to bond well with all members of the household including children and other pets, even seeking children out to play and cuddle. They tend to be respectful of existing pets when first introduced to a household and adapt well to new situations.
American Curls are inquisitive, intelligent and moderately active. They like to be with their owners whether it is cuddling on the couch, napping in bed, or patting your hand while you work on something. They enjoy observing things from high up but given their choice will be close at hand wherever their family is currently active in the house.
They have a tendency to remain kitten-like throughout much of their lives and are nicknamed the Peter Pan of cat breeds. American Curls can be taught to fetch and enjoy interactive games played with their owners. They will greet owners at the door and continue to follow them around the house afterwards. When they want you to pay attention to what they are doing, the breed has a natural tendency to pat you. Some awaken their owners in this manner as well.
This is not a particularly vocal breed of cat and they have a tendency towards cooing and trill-like sounds when pleased.
Their unusual love of children and general even-tempered dispositions make them an ideal choice for a family looking for a purebred cat. Add to that their unique appearance, adorable expression and lack of inherited health issues and you have an excellent choice that will appeal to many fanciers and pet homes alike. When researching breeders you may find you will need to go on a waiting list as they remain less common than some other purebred cat breeds and breeders often have lists of people waiting for a kitten.