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LaPerm History - As told by Linda Koehl, Breed Founder
The Dalles, Oregon is an area rich in Indian lore and legends one of which is of the woman Chief of the Wishram Indians,
She Who Watches.
It was the spring of 1982 and working barn cats giving birth was nothing new to Linda and Dick Koehl, however, Linda had never actually witnessed the kittens being born so this time when one of her gray tabbies gave birth she watched.
Nothing could have prepared Linda for what she was about to witness, for under the watchful eye of Tsagaglalal a kitten was born that would forever change Linda’s life as well as that of the cat fancy.
In a litter of six born that eventful day one was completely bald, nothing like her littermates or her mother.
Linda said she was the ugliest kitten she had ever seen with no hair, a tabby pattern marked on her skin and large, wide-spaced ears. Linda had doubts about this kitten’s survival.
Survive she did, however, and within several weeks this ugly duckling began to transform into a swan, growing a soft, curly coat of fur.
By the time it was three or four months old it had a full coat of curly hair and Linda found herself drawn to the feel of it, she couldn’t help petting it and stroking it at every opportunity. Curly, as Linda named her, loved the attention.
Curly’s temperament was different from the other cats Linda and Dick had experienced, she was affectionate, gentle and trusting, enjoying the love and attention lavished on her but willing to wait her turn to receive it. Her personality seemed to be tied to the gene for her curly coat as Curly later gave birth to five male kittens, each of them bald at birth. As they grew their temperament was the same as Curly’s, affectionate but not demanding.
Unfortunately, Curly’s insistence at remaining an outside cat resulted in her failing to show up one morning and she was never seen again. Equally unfortunate, there are no known pictures of Curly.
Over the next ten years as more and more bald kittens were born Linda began to seek additional information about unusual cats.
At the urging of her friends she entered some of the curly coated cats as an exhibition in a CFA show to get the opinions of breeders more experienced than she. The master clerk at the show, Dennis Ganoe, happened by and stopped to stare at this new breed of cat, asking many questions. He made an announcement over the PA system that everyone should come see these unusual cats and before long a crowd had gathered clamoring excitedly about the LaPerm, the name given the breed by Linda in order to be able to enter the show and which means wavy or curly in several languages.
It was at the urging of many of her friends and fellow breeders that Linda decided to begin the journey of having the LaPerm formally recognized as a new breed.
Tsagaglalal is smiling.
How the LaPerm got it's Name
O.K. people, this is the truth from the horses mouth.
I have never been a hairdresser! Now I will tell once and for all where the name ”La Perm” came from.
A long, long time ago, The Dalles, where I live, was a great meeting place for many tribes to gather and trade. When they described this place they referred to it as the place below Celilo Falls where the rapids, ripples and curls were in the river.
The Falls no longer exist, they were covered when The Dalles Dam was built. As might be expected the whole river has been changed in appearance also.
The ripples were for the shorthaired LP’s which has a somewhat ”marcelled” appearance, the curls in the rapids were for the longhaired LP’s.
The name Le Dalles was given this area by the French and Belgian fur traders who populated the area. According to one story it referred to the flat rocks in the river which reminded them of street stones back in Europe. The original cats reminded me of someone with a bad permanent. I originally wanted ”The Dalles La Perm”, somehow it ended up being just La Perm, it was not intended to be ”cutesy”. There was one suggestion of ”The Dallies” (Ugh)
Someone please file this someplace in case someone asks for info.
Below is another story that could have ended with a disaster for the breed
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.
In fact, she was nearly killed in an incident 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 came to fully appreciate her affectionate personality.
She became pregnant and gave birth under a tree in the middle of a rainstorm one night. Linda Koehl heard strange noises and took a flashlight outside to find Curly fiercely defending her newborn kittens from barking dogs.
Linda put the kittens into her pockets and took them into a warm barn to make them a safe nest in the hay. The next day when Linda was able to look at them in daylight she realized that all five kittens had the same appearance as their mother had at birth. All five were male and grew up to have the same soft curls.
None of the five were neutered and their breeding activity led to many more curly coated kittens being born.
Linda found herself with a growing colony of unusual rex cats which included long and short coats. There was a range of colors and patterns including chocolate and colorpoints, due to the input of a local cat who had a Siamese 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 show to ask for feedback and was told by exhibitors, breeders and judges that she had something very special. Several key people in the USA cat fancies gave her their support and the breed has grown and to become a well established championship breed in the States with breeding programs in many other countries around the world.