Monday, September 24, 2012

Cat Breeds: American Curl

Like many other breeds, the true origins of the American Curl cat remain a mystery. We do know that a stray kitten was found in California in 1981. This kitten had long silky hair and unique ears. The ears curled backward at the tips. No one really knows where this cat, called Shulamith, came from, but all modern American Curls can be traced back to her.

Shulamith gave birth to her first litter of kittens later that same year and two of the kittens inherited her unique ears. By 1983, breeders had started a breeding program designed to preserve and enhance the mysterious gene that gave these cats their curly ears.

But that may not have been enough to create a new recognized breed if it hadn't been for a man named Roy Robinson. An English feline geneticist of some renown, Robinson analyzed hundreds of kitten from dozens of litters. He determined that the gene for curly ears was an autosomal dominant gene. This meant that a cat with only a single copy of this gene would inherit the curly ears of its parents. But even this may not have been enough to establish the breed if he hadn't conclusively stated that he found no genetic defects in any of the cats he studied. In effect, the American Curl was a new breed, not a mutated or defective version of another breed.

Since Shulamith was found in North American, it's safe to say that the American Curl is native to that continent. American Curls are medium-sized cats with ears that curve up, out, and back. The pull of the ears gives the cat a naturally happy and alert expression. Even when irritated this breed looks like its smiling. The breed may have either long or short hair and may be of many different colors and patterns. You might have a black American Curl or a silver tabby. The defining characteristic is the ears, though the large, almond-shaped eyes are also quite distinctive.

American Curls are not born with curved ears. The ears will begin to curl after about 3-5 days, sometimes a little later. By 16 weeks of age, the ears have reached their final shape. Some cats will have more curl than others.

Because of the limited gene pool (a single cat, Shulamith), other cats without curled ears are bred to American Curls to maintain genetic diversity. Approximately half of these outcrosses will have curled ears and will be used in American Curl breeding programs. This outcrossing makes it difficult to develop a breed standard, which has limited the acceptance of the breed in associations around the world. You might think that a breed such as this would have a few genetic health problems, but American Curls are healthy creatures with a robust constitution.

American Curls are considered one of the friendlier breeds. They like to be with people and tend to follow family members from room to room. They tend to be good with children and adapt well to life with other animals. If you're looking for a vocal cat, the American Curl might not be for you. Instead of loud meows, these cats make soft cooing sounds. These sounds are made by both kittens and cats and full-grown cats act very much like kittens throughout their lives.

This breed is a good pet and companion animal. They are often sought out for their generous and sweet nature and are only rarely purchased as show cats.

No comments:

Post a Comment