Vital Stats:Life Span: 12 to 16 years
The American Curl is one of the youngest cat breeds. It was born of a natural genetic mutation that first appeared in Shulamith, a stray black kitten with long, silky hair and, strangely, ears that curled backward. She found her way to the welcoming door of Joe and Grace Ruga in Lakewood, California. The Rugas named her Shulamith after the “black and comely” princess in the Old Testament book the Song of Solomon.
Shulamith had a litter of four kittens by an unknown father, and two of them shared her curly ears. A consultation with a geneticist showed that the trait was caused by a dominant gene. Cat fanciers began selectively breeding the cats in 1983, and the new breed, named the American Curl, began to be registered by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1986. They were recognized by The International Cat Association in 1987 and achieved full recognition from CFA in 1993. With almost unheard-of rapidity, the trip from stray to pedigreed breed took only six years. The breed also stands out for being the first single breed with two coat lengths recognized by CFA.
All American Curls are descended from Shulamith. The cats can be bred to other Curls or outcrossed to non-pedigreed domestic cats with straight ears that otherwise meet the Curl breed standard. This helps to ensure a large gene pool and genetic diversity. Straight-eared kittens from American Curl litters can be used in breeding programs or placed as pets.
The American Curl is a medium-size cat, weighing 5 to 10 pounds.
The friendly and gentle American Curl is known for his people-loving personality. He even likes children, which is not always the case with cats, and has been known to seek out their company. True to to his domestic shorthair heritage, he is moderately active, curious and smart. He is likely to follow you around to see what you’re doing, but he’s not talkative or bossy like some breeds. If need be, he will quietly petition you for attention, food or whatever else he wants. When you come home from work, he will gladly greet you with a head bump and may even extend the affectionate gesture to guests in the home.
American Curls are often called the “Peter Pan” of the cat world. It is not unusual to see older Curls flying through the house with just as much joy as younger ones. Males and females are equally active.
The Curl likes to play and can learn to fetch. He’s also capable of opening doorknobs, so be careful what you put away in any cabinets that are within his reach. When he’s ready for a break, he will happily settle into a lap. He is alert and adaptable, well suited to any home or family who will love him.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. American Curls are generally healthy, but some lines have problems with narrow ear canals, which can lead to ear infections from wax buildup.
The Curl’s coat can be short or long, and both lengths are easy to care for. The longhaired variety has little undercoat, so it’s unlikely to mat or tangle. A weekly combing is plenty to keep the longhaired or shorthaired Curl looking beautiful. Try running the comb backwards through the shorthair’s coat; it can help to remove any dead hair that has accumulated. Shorthairs shed year-round and tend to shed more than the longhairs. During warm months, when the longhairs may shed more heavily, it’s a good idea to brush or comb more often. A bath is rarely necessary.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection.
Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear. Handle the ears carefully; you don’t want to break the cartilage.
Keep the American Curl’s litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene.
It’s a good idea to keep a American Curl as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. American Curl who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Curl stands out for his distinctively shaped ears, but even without them he is a striking cat with a sweet expression, and a silky coat that can be long or short and any color, including such exotic shades as chocolate tortoiseshell smoke, silver patched tabby and lilac lynx point. The longhaired variety has a pretty plumed tail.
The ears, however, are the most intriguing characteristic. Straight when a kitten is born, they begin to curl back at two to 10 days after birth. They curl, uncurl and curl some more until reaching their permanent shape when a kitten is about 4 months old. A kitten destined for the show ring will have a crescent-shaped ear with a minimum 90 degree arc of curl but no more than 180 degrees. The tips of the moderately large ear are rounded and flexible, often adorned with tufts of fur. When Curls are alert, their ears swivel forward, but the tips point to the center of the base of the skull.
Children And Other Pets
The Curl is sweet toward children, making him a good choice for families who will supervise children to make sure they pet the cat nicely and don’t pull his ears or tail. He is happy to live with cat-friendly dogs, too, thanks to his amiable disposition. Introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.