The LaPerm is a recognized breed of cat. A LaPerm's fur is curly (hence the name "Permanent wave"), with the tightest curls being on the belly, throat and base of the ears. LaPerms come in many colors and patterns. LaPerms generally have a very affectionate personality.
The first LaPerm was born in 1982 and was a spontaneous mutation in an otherwise normal litter of kittens. The breed founders, Linda and Richard Koehl owned a cherry farm in The Dalles, Oregon, and had obtained some farm cats for pest control. One of these was an ordinary brown tabby shorthair called Speedy who gave birth to a litter of kittens which included a rather bald female kitten with tabby markings on her skin. The Koehls were initially concerned about the kitten's appearance but she developed healthily and as she grew she developed a soft curly coat.The kitten was given the name Curly and was given no special treatment, also working as a farm cat. Another key trait of the breed, the unusually affectionate temperament, was only fully appreciated after a particular incident took place. Curly was injured when she climbed into the warm engine of a pickup truck and was injured by the fan when the engine was started. She survived and became a house cat for a while recovering from her injuries and it was during this time that the Koehls observed her affectionate personality. She became pregnant and gave birth to five kittens which had the same appearance as their mother had at birth. All five were male and grew up to have the same curly or rexed coats. None of the five were neutered and they were allowed to breed freely with the other farm cats.This resulted in a growing colony of unusual rex cats which included long and short coats. There was a range of colors and patterns including chocolate and Point (coat color), due to the input of a local cat who had a Siamese (cat) mother. When people started commenting on her unusual cats and asking what they were, Linda did some research and realized that she had some kind of rex. She took some cats to a cat show to ask for feedback and was told by exhibitors, breeders and judges that she had something unique. Several key people in the USA cat fancy gave her their support and the colony was used as the foundation for the breed, which has grown and to become a well established championship breed around the world.The LaPerm breed has been linked with Native Americans in the United States culture as the area where the Koehl’s farm is situated is in a sacred territory of the Wishram people, a Chinookan languages speaking tribe who traditionally made a living netting, drying and trading salmon from the Columbia River. The area still contains rock carvings of the vigilant goddess Tsagaglalal. It is because of this that many LaPerm breeders give Native American names to their kittens and decorate their pens with this theme in mind when showing. Careful consideration was given to the naming of the breed; several possible names had already been used or were too clumsy sounding or close to something else so a name was chosen by Linda with the intention of evoking the breed’s most important feature: the curly coat with a resemblance to a shaggy perm. The name follows the Chinookan tradition of adopting French words while incorporating the definite article to create a new word, for example in Chinook Wawa pipe is lapeep and apple is lapom, (la pipe and la pomme respectively in French).