Sunday, April 3, 2011
Breed of the Day: American Curl
Another of America's native breeds, the American curl is a medium sized cat with unique ears that curl out and back in a graceful arc, giving an bright and alert appearance to the cat. The swept-back ears give the cat a happy, perky expression that quickly brings a smile to everyone who sees them. The sophisticated head combined with a graceful body provide the American curl with a stylish and dynamic presence.
The American curl's story begins on a hot sunny day in June 1981 in Lakewood, California when Joe and Grace Ruga found a stray black kitten with a long silky coat and unusual ears on their doorstep. The affectionate kitty quickly endeared herself to the Ruga's and was named Shulamith. In December 1981, Shulamith had her first litter of kittens and two of the four kittens had the same curled ears as their mother, beginning a world-wide discussion on the genetics of the unusual ears. 1983 saw cat-fanciers developing selective breeding programs to conserve the gene and develop a breed based on it. At the same time, the unique cats were presented to the cat fancy to showcase this rare new addition to the feline world.
Roy Robinson, the renowned English feline geneticist, worked with the breeders and analyzed the data on 383 kittens from 81 litters. He confirmed the ear-curling gene was unique and that it was an autosomal dominant gene; that mean any cat with even one copy of the gene will show the trait. In an article published in the December 1989 Journal of Heredity, he reported that he had found no defects in any of the crosses that he had analyzed and this laid the foundation for a new and healthy breed.
American curls are curious, exuberant and loving that greet each day with joy as they look for new challenges and adventures. They are exceedingly people-oriented and will head-butt you to get your attention as they want to include you in all of their activities. They want to be with you all the time whether sleeping in your bed at night or curled up on your lap as you watch your favorite tv shows. They adore children and adapt well to other pets and new situations. When introduced to their new homes, they are alert and inquisitive but will respect the resident occupants. These even-tempered, intelligent companions are devoted to their owners and follow them around to be sure they don't miss anything in your daily routines. Expect their help with all of your projects around the house! They have quiet voices and are not overly talkative however they make their wants known with gentle trilling and cooing sounds. Their kitten-like personalities have earned them the nick-name of the Peter-Pan of cats.
American curls come in long-haired and short-haired versions and a myriad of colors. The coat is a silky, flat-lying coat with little undercoat. Consequently there is little shedding and the coat requires little grooming. While the curled ears are the major feature of this breed, other key characteristic of the American curl are its large, walnut-shaped eyes and medium-sized rectangular bodies.
All American curls are born with straight ears. They start to curl back into a rosebud position at 3-5 days old, gently unfolding like a rose petal until they reach their final shape at about 16 weeks old. The degree of curl in the ear can vary greatly ranging from almost straight to an arc of 90 to 180 degrees. To ensure the health and genetic diversity of the breed, breeders do out-cross breeding to cats without curled ears. At least 50% of the kittens from these breedings will have curled ears. 100% of the kittens in a curl to curl breeding will have curled ears. The straight eared cats still have the personality of their curled-eared counterparts and make equally delightful pets. The gene that curls the ear affects the cartilage of the ear which remains firm to the touch; it should never be stiff or floppy. However, care should be taken with the ears so as to not break the cartilage and the ears should never be forced to curl.
American curls are well-balanced, medium-sized cats with a rounded head, a substantial muzzle and distinct whisker pads. They have an elegant, alert appearance with a sweet, open expression with their remarkable ears. While both the long-haired and short-haired versions have soft-silky coats, the long-haired American curl also has a beautifully plumed tail.