The American Curl is a highly distinctive cat with elegant, wispy ears that curl backwards in a graceful arc, creating an alert, sophisticated look similar to that of a wild lynx. Kittens of this breed are born with straight ears. Within 4 or 5 days, however, their ears begin to curl back in a tight rosebud formation. Gradually, they unfurl, reaching their permanent shape by about 16 weeks of age. The degree of ear curl varies widely within the breed. Fanciers prefer a more dramatic curl for the show ring, while straighter-eared specimens are typically considered to be pet-quality. Some kittens in American Curl litters never develop the curly-eared trait. This breed is medium-sized, comes in a variety of colors and may be either long or short-haired. Either way, its coat is silky and lies flat, with little-to-no undercoat, so they are not prone to a great deal of shedding. The tail of the American Curl is fluffy and fan-like, said to resemble a feather boa. It should be brushed regularly.
The origin of the American Curl dates back to a long summer day in 1981, when Joe and Grace Ruga fed a hungry young stray that appeared on their Lakewood, California property. They named the long-haired black female, who had backwardly-curled ears, "Shulamith." She gave birth to a litter that contained two curly-eared kittens roughly 6 months later, and thus Shulamith became the foundation of all purebred American Curls. One of those kittens, a black long-haired female named Mercedes, was acquired by Nancy Kiester. She and the Rugas exhibited Shulamith and Mercedes (and her short-haired curl-eared littermate) at a cat show in Palm Springs in October of 1983, attracting considerable attention from other cat fanciers. Thereafter, they and other fanciers began serious selective breeding and developed a breed standard to promote establishment of a new show breed. The breed was recognized by the International Cat Association in 1985, and by the American Cat Fanciers' Association in 1986.
Roy Robinson, a well-known feline geneticist in London, studied 81 litters of American Curls (383 kittens). He confirmed that the ear-curling gene is an autosomal dominant mutation, which means that any cat carrying one copy of the gene will demonstrate the curly-eared trait. In the December 1989 Journal of Heredity, Mr. Robinson reported that he found no health-related genetic abnormalities in the hundreds of American Curls that he studied. This was the stamp of approval for continued refinement and standardization of this relatively new breed in the United States.
The American Curl is a very healthy breed, with no reported associated health conditions. They have an average life expectancy of 15 – 20 years. It should be noted that the ears on the American Curl should not be handled frequently because the cartilage in their ears is very fragile and can be easily damaged.
In addition to its unique ears, the American Curl has an extraordinary disposition. People-oriented, playful, faithful and highly affectionate, these cats remain kitten-like well into adulthood, and usually throughout their lives. They are remarkably adaptable to new situations and are not easily stressed. American Curls adjust to almost any type of household, are gentle with children and get along extremely well with most other cats and with dogs. They are rarely territorial and typically can be introduced into a home with established pets with relative ease, as they tend to be very respectful of other animals. American Curls form very close bonds with their primary caretakers. Owners can expect their Curls to follow them from room to room throughout the house - and sometimes, even into the shower. They demand plenty of personal cuddle-time and one-on-one attention. This is an easy-going breed that is eager to please.
American Curls are moderately active, being neither highly energetic nor particularly lethargic.
The American Curl is an especially personable cat. They like to relax in high places – such as on the very top of book shelves or kitchen cabinets – and they have a fondness for gently patting their people on the eyelids or eye-glasses with their soft, fluffy paws. They also like to lick their owner's hair and give kitty-kisses on the face. Curls are not especially vocal, but of course they purr and make trill-like cooing sounds when happy or particularly pleased. They have a very soft, chirp-like meow and only "talk" on an occasional basis. American Curls are curious and quite comical, earning them the well-deserved title of "the Peter Pan of felines."
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