The American Curl is a product of a natural and harmless but rare genetic mutation. Her backward-curled ears are the result of this phenomenon.
The American Curl breed's development through the efforts of cat fanciers began in California in June 1981. Two kittens of an unknown breed were left in the garden of Joe and Grace Ruga. They have unusual ears that curl backward, and this caught the eye of the couple.
Little did they know that this coincidence will lead to the existence of the American Curls. Grace allowed them to stay, and both kittens would visit her home for meals. When evening comes, they leave.
Later on, she named them according to their coat markings. One was named Panda whilst the other was Shulamith, a biblical name meaning ‘black and comely.’
The two kittens shared a strong bond. However, Panda died after she suffered from head trauma. This was because the door forcefully closed on her when a hard gust of wind blew.
After the unfortunate accident, the couple decided to let Shulamith move into her home. They were easily taken by the kitten’s loving and sweet nature.
In December 1981, another fateful happening helped the creation American Curl breed. Shulamith went on to give birth to a litter of 4. 2 of the kittens inherited her curly ears. Shulamith offspring was fathered by a local long-haired tomcat.
He didn’t have curled ears nor the gene for them. Thus, it means Shulamith was the parent that possessed the curl ear gene.
The American Curl breed’s ancestor, Shulamith, continued to mate with local tomcats and produce litters. The kittens in the litter were a mix of colours and patterns. Some of them were long-haired, whilst others were short-coated.
One of Shulamith’s first female American Curl kittens, Mercedes, was given to Grace’s sister, Esther Brimlow, who lived in Orange, California. This domestic cat also gave birth to a litter of kittens with ears that curl backward.
Nancy Kiester, a cat fancier as well as a local butcher, fell in love with them. This gave her an idea to create a new cat breed. She put this plan into motion after Mercedes’ kittens birthed a male and female. They were named Princess Leah and Master Luke.
In 1983, American Curl selective breeding programmes were established. Nancy worked with Grace and included Shulamith and her kittens in a California cat show. Cat fanciers happily welcomed the unique-looking feline family.
Nancy and Grace teamed up with Jean Grimm, who had been successfully producing Scottish Folds. She then confirmed that Shulamith and her kittens were of a different breed. The 3 women worked hand in hand to create a name and a breed standard.
This was how the American Curl finally has a name. It is not the end of breeders' efforts to improve the American Curl cats. They worked with the renowned English feline geneticist, Roy Robinson. He determined that the ear-curling gene was autosomal dominant. This means that a cat with even one copy of the gene will have backward-curling ears.
Roy was able to accomplish this task by analysing 383 kittens from 81 litters. He then published an article in the December 1989 issue of the Journal of Heredity. The geneticist stated that he found no defects in any crosses he had analysed.
His hard work paved the way for producing a healthy American Curl breed. The feline was bred with non-pedigree cats to prevent hereditary health issues. The Cat Fanciers’ Association later awarded this breed championship status in 1993.
Today’s American Curls are all descended from Shulamith. The breed is acknowledged by the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) and the International Cat Association (TICA). However, the American Curl is not yet recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).
American Curls are rare breed cats that are uncommonly seen in the UK and there are very few American Curl breeders in Britain. They are rarely found in other countries as well.
However, they are sought after by many cat fanciers around the world, especially in France, Japan, Spain, and Russia,