- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
American curl cats are a national treasure. Their unusual—and adorable—curled ears have put them on the map as one of the most unique feline breeds, but there’s a whole lot more to learn and love about them.
Coming from very humble beginnings, the American Curl has gone on to be recognized by all major cat associations, and has even been awarded championship status. They’re often described as kitten-like, as they maintain their youthful, playful temperaments throughout their lives. Between their cute appearance and lively personalities, they make lovely companions for just about anyone.
Are you a fan of American Curl cats? How much do you know about them? Read on to learn some fun and surprising facts about their history, nicknames, genetics, and more!
1. It all started with a stray cat
In 1981, two stray kittens were discovered by Joe and Grace Ruga of Lakewood, CA. They were the first known cats to have the signature American curl ears. The Rugas adopted one of them and named her Shulamith. She began to have litters that contained kittens with curled ears, and shortly thereafter, breeders started to develop the breed.
2. They’re born with straight ears
Like Scottish fold cats, American curl cats are born with straight ears. They begin to curl in three to five days’ time, and they settle into their fully-curled shape within about four months.
The Cat Fanciers Association notes that there is a lot of variance in the degree of the curl from cat to cat, claiming they range “from almost straight (pet quality) to a show quality ear with an arc of 90-180 degrees resembling a graceful shell-like curvature.”
3. They were studied by a famous geneticist
English feline geneticist Roy Robinson studied nearly 400 American curl kittens to learn more about the gene that’s responsible for their curl. According to The International Cat Association (TICA), “he confirmed that ear-curling gene was unique and that it was an autosomal dominant gene.”
In other words, unlike the Scottish fold cat, who can pass on both curled and straight-eared kitties, the American curl cat passes on the curled trait to the entire liter. Robinson’s findings set the stage for a healthy new breed with a fantastic temperament.
4. They come in many colors
The American curl cat is a breed with a lot of color variance. While many breeds are restricted to a single color, American Curl cats come in a rainbow of shades including black, white, blue, red, chocolate, cream, silver, lilac, tortoiseshell, golden, brown, and buttercream.
They also come in a wide variety of patterns including solid color, smoke, tortoiseshell, tabby, ticking, points, bicolor, shaded, and tricolor/calico.
5. They’re known as the “Peter Pan” of cats
According to TICA, curl-lovers have nicknamed the breed the Peter Pan of cats because of their playful, kitten-like personalities. Just like the lost boys, they’re adventurous and curious. Owners can expect to find them right at their side. They’re not a very vocal breed, but they’re still expressive. They tend to communicate through soft trilling and cooing sounds.
6. American curls are more than, well, their curls
While their curled ears may be their namesake feature, the breed has other defining features as well. Large, walnut-shaped eyes are a trademark, and they can come in a variety of colors from blue to amber to yellow.
Also: they won’t cover your house in hair. American curls have a silky coat and little undercoat, so they don’t require much grooming, and shedding is very minimal.
7. Ear curls must meet a high standard to show
While their ears must curl at least 90 degrees to show, the curls cannot exceed 180 degrees. They are automatically disqualified from competition if the tips of their ears curl far enough to touch the back of the ear of head. They’ll also become ineligible if their ears are not curled enough, mismatched, too thick, or if the tips are inflexible. That said, the tips shouldn’t be floppy either.
It’s important to always handle American curl ears with care, so as to not damage their cartilage. Their ears should never be bent in unnatural positions.
8. They’re crossed with other breeds, which makes them relatively healthy
While it’s safe to breed American curls together, they’re often bred with other cats to promote genetic diversity. Luckily, they were outcrossed from the very first American curl litter to ensure a large gene pool. Subsequently, they do not have a high risk of genetic disorders.
Their diverse background also explains the large variations in color and pattern. When an American curl mates with a different breed, at least 50% of the litter will have curled ears. But the whole litter, straight-eared kittens and all, will inherit the playful personality that’s typical of the American curl.