Silkenclaw Cattery

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Richard and Linda Koehl, tired of the city life and its intense demands, made a big career change and began farming cherries in the Dalles, Oregon, USA. At some point they found there was a pest problem, particularly in the barn and decided to buy some cats to help keep the rat population at bay. Linda named one of these cats Speedy. In 1982 Speedy gave birth to a litter of kittens. One of these kittens was born completely bald. Linda would later describe the kitten as one of the ugliest things she had ever laid eyes on, and was convinced at the time that the kitten would more than likely die. But the ugly duckling would later grow into a swan. Soon enough the bald kitten grew rapidly and with that grew a long, soft and very curly coat, which lead to her name: Curly.

Curly received no special treatment as with the other barn cats. However Linda quickly noticed a very different personality in this special cat. The other barn cats generally didn't give much attention to the humans on the farm. Curly would regularly approach Richard, Linda and any guests that arrived on the farm, begging for love and attention.

One particular incident nearly led to Curly's demise. One day she climbed into the housing of a pick-up. When someone started the vehicle she was injured by the fan. She survived and was rushed to the vet. Under normal circumstances a cat may easily have been hysterical, particularly when taking into the consideration that Curly lived outdoors and none of the barn cats received regular human contact. However Curly lavished the attention and amazed the vet by responding to his jabs, wrappings and tugs with purrs, head butts and kisses. Curly moved indoors thereafter for her recovery and it was then when the Koehls fell completely in love with her.

No control was kept over the population of barn cats on the farm and one night Linda heard a disturbing racket coming from outside. Dogs were barking hysterically. It was the middle of the night and a thunderstorm was booming from the heavens. Yet she grabbed her rain coat and torch to find a group of dogs surrounding Curly under a tree, straddling her newborn kittens. Linda steered the dogs off and quickly draped the kittens into her pockets and laid a nest for them in the barn. All five of the male kittens that were born grew beautiful soft curls. None were neutered and they became the foundation of the LaPerm breed.

An apple faced Siamese happened to wander in to the farm one day to stay. Thereby introducing pointed and chocolate cats into the LaPerm gene pool. When people started commenting on the unusual cats on the farm, Linda took a few to her first show at the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), the largest and oldest cat fancy in the world. Several key players in the USA cat fancies gave Linda great support, including Kim Everett, Sloveig Pfleuger, Anne D Lawrence, Dennis Ganoe and others.

Some confusion reigned in the early years as to why some LaPerm kittens were born with hair, others bald and even more confusing there were cases where straight haired kittens were born. It was presumed these kittens were simply variants as a result of outcrossing. However after a few weeks the kittens rapidly started loosing their coat. In time their coats grew back as curly as their siblings. Experts at the time wondered if Linda's cats did not in fact have three very different genes at work. To keep track of this and discover whether this was in fact the case, breeders were requested to use the initials BC (Born Curly), BS (Born Straight) and BB (Born Bald) in the registration of the kitten's pedigreed names. Later it was realised that there was only one gene in effect influencing the coat, but the use of the initials became a tradition amongst LaPerm breeders and nearly all still register their kittens using the abbreviation today.

Careful consideration was given towards the name. The area in which Richard and Linda's farm is situated is the sacred territory of the Wishram people, a Chinook speaking tribe who traditionally made a living netting, drying and trading salmon from the Columbia river. The area still contains rock carvings of the goddess Tsagaglala. Linda chose to follow the Chinookan tradition of adopting French words whilst incorporating the definite article to create a new word: the name of LaPerm was adopted, though some still refer to the breed as the Native American Rex.

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