American Curl Cat Breeds Facts and Traits: Everything You Need to Know

American Curl Cat Breeds Facts and Traits: Everything You Need to Know

PHC LLCJan 6, '21

American Curl Cat Breeds Facts and Traits: Everything You Need to Know

The American Curl Cat is easily recognizable by its curled ears. These sweet-looking cats are playful and affectionate, friendly towards kids, other pets, and even strangers.

Though this breed is a hardy parent-pleaser, some of them still end up abandoned and in need of rescuing. Are you looking to buy, adopt, rescue, or foster an American Curl? Then you definitely want to know all about the breed and how to take care of them. Luckily, we’re here to help you with just that!

American Curl Cat Breed Origin & History

The American Curl Cat originated in California. They’re a young cat breed born from a single stray kitten that Joe and Grace Ruga took home in June of 1981. This kitten had silky black hair and curled ears, and they named her Shulamith after the biblical princess from the Book of Solomon.

Shulamith became pregnant six months later and gave birth to four kittens, two of which had curled ears like herself. She went on to have litters of other American Curls with other tomcats in the area. After expert examination, a geneticist determined that the curly ear trait was a dominant gene, and cat breeders started to selectively breed the cats in 1983. 

After three years, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) registered the American Curl Cat. In 1987, they were recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA). In 1999, the breed became the first recognized by CFA to have both shorthair and longhair divisions.

Every single American Curl today can be traced back to that single stray kitten–Shulamith. They can be bred with other American curls, but they can also breed with other non-pedigreed domestic cats as long as those cats meet the breed standards. Since the curled ears are a dominant trait, even straight-eared litters can participate in breeding programs.

Other Names

American curls are also known as the Peter Pan of cats. This is because they retain their kitten-like personalities throughout their entire lives. These jolly and active cats will jump and run around well into old age, and older cats will play with the younger ones without a problem. Some even compare their temperaments to those of dogs and puppies.

American Curl Cat Breed Personality

Shows Affection

★★★★☆ 

Kid-Friendly

★★★★☆

Hardy and Healthy

★★★★★

Pet-Friendly 

★★★★☆

Playful

★★★★☆

Stranger-Friendly

★★★★☆

Easy to Groom

★★★★☆

Sheds

★★★☆☆

American Curls may not be a very popular breed, but that's just because they're new on the block. They make excellent family pets since they're good with kids and other pets, which isn't typical for many other cats. American Curls are even known to seek the company of children!

Curls are known to be pretty quiet cats. They will try to get your attention just by following you around—no vocalization necessary.

These highly affectionate felines want pats and kisses, no matter the time of the day. American Curls are very thoughtful too, and getting them accustomed to a new home isn't too challenging. They'll give you some space for a few days, so kids and other pets can have time to adjust to them. 

American Curls are hardy and healthy cats in general, and they enjoy daily exercises even into old age. These curious cats are also known for their mischief, as they can easily learn to open doors and cabinets!

American Curl Cat Breed Characteristics (Physical)

American Curls are show cats, but they are amazing house pets too. You’d definitely know you’re in the presence of an American curl once you see their ears, but some other physical characteristics can help you distinguish them as well.

American Curl Cat Breed Cat Size

American Curls are medium-sized cats, with males reaching about 12 inches in length and females spanning about 10 inches. They don't necessarily need much space to move around and will happily sit next to kids or their parents (even though they aren't technically "lap cats.")

Weight Range (Male and Female)

Male American Curls will weigh about 12 pounds, while females weigh about 10 pounds. With proper exercise, it's relatively easy to keep this breed within an acceptable weight range. They're active and playful cats, so getting them to move around shouldn't be a problem.

Head

An American Curl will have a straight nose and a gentle curve from the top of the head into the neck. Their muzzles are rounded, and they have a firm chin.

Eye Color

Like their coat colors, eye colors in American Curls come in a wide variety too. They can be different shades of browns, yellows, blues, and greens. They can even be odd-eyed. 

Curls have moderately large, walnut-shaped eyes spaced an eye-width apart. The color of their eyes doesn’t seem to have any correlation with the color of their coats. 

Ears

American Curl cats are easily distinguishable because of their curled ears. However, not all American Curls have them.  

American Curls are born with straight ears like any other cat. If their ears will curl, they'd usually do so in about 3 to 5 days after their birth. When they're about four months old, the ears will stop curling. This is when the curled ears harden and retain their shape.

Since they may also have straight ears, show cats need to have curled ears at an angle between 90 and 180 degrees, with 90 degrees being the preferred shape that looks like a crescent moon. However, cat shows will not accept American Curls with ears touching the back of their skulls.

Legs & Paws

They have medium and rounded paws, with legs set straight from the front view. The legs are medium-boned as well.

Coat

All colors and patterns are acceptable for this cat breed, which means you can have solid colored, bicolored, tabby, smoke, shaded, pointed, patched, chocolate, and any other colored American Curl. They can also come shorthaired or longhaired. American Curl cats don't shed too much as they have a minimal undercoat, and they don't require a ton of grooming either.

Longhaired American Curls have fine, silky, flat hair. Their tails are full and plumed. Shorthaired American Curls also have soft, flat hair, but the fur on their tails is the same length as their bodies.

American Curl Cat Breed Lifespan

American Curls have an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years, though they usually live for over 13 years. There are some reports of them living up to 20 years. The breed reaches maturity at the age of about three years old.

Health Problems

Since the breed is a relatively young one, some people think that health problems are just waiting to jump out at unsuspecting owners. However, American Curl Cats are a generally healthy cat breed, thanks to the curled ears being an autosomal dominant trait.

This means that even if a cat only has one copy of the curling ear gene, it can show the trait. Since curls can breed outside of their family to non-pedigreed cats, they have a large gene pool and, therefore, none of the usual inbreeding health problems. 

This was fantastic news for breeders, as they could keep selectively breeding cats with charming curled ears and exceptional temperaments without having to worry about a limited gene pool. The diverse breeding paved the way to healthy litters of American Curl Cats. 

The main health problem these cats face is narrow ear canals in some genetic lines. Narrowed ear canals are prone to infection from wax build-up. Gentle and regular ear cleaning can help prevent infections.

Still, the American Curl cat breed is a fairly new breed, and health issues may come to light as more and more cats complete their average lifespan. Kidney disease may be one to look out for as the cat ages, but no breed-specific conditions have been observed.

How to Care For an American Curl Cat

While American Curl cats are generally healthy and easy to care for, it's a good idea to learn their needs before you take one in.

Like many other cats, American Curls like their litter box to be clean. It's also a great idea to keep them strictly indoors. Though all Curls came from a stray cat, keeping them indoors helps prevent diseases, injuries, and cat nappings. This breed is popular, and it isn't hard to imagine people wanting to make some easy cash from these affectionate cats.

Brushing and Cleaning

American Curls have a minimal undercoat, making their fur unlikely to get matted or tangled. This trait applies to both the shorthaired and longhaired varieties. Combing their hair once or twice a week is enough to help keep these cats looking beautiful. 

Shorthaired Curls tend to shed more as they lose hair year-round, and longhaired Curls will shed more only during warmer months. You can also comb the hair against the growth to remove dead hair.

Baths are rarely needed, especially if your Curl is strictly an indoor cat. Consistent oral hygiene is best for this cat breed, and you can even brush their teeth daily if you have the time. Regular dental care prevents many dental diseases. Brushing can be as infrequent as once a week, though it's best to brush their teeth more frequently.

You can also trim their nails or have a trusted vet or groomer trim them if you don't know how to. Try to learn how to do it yourself, as they'll need trimming every few weeks. As for your cat's eyes, you can use a soft, clean, and damp cloth to remove discharge to prevent infection.

Again, be on the lookout for any signs of ear infections as these are their most common problem. You can wipe your Curl's ears with a soft, clean cloth dampened with a 50-50 solution of water and filtered apple cider vinegar. This will clean their ears and help ward off infections.

Avoid using hard cotton swabs, and remember to handle their ears carefully to prevent injury. Try not to bend their ears further than their usual position.

Playtime and Exercise

The American Curl benefits greatly from daily playtime. You can teach them to fetch or just play with them for about 15 to 30 minutes once to twice a day. Try to give them a variety of toys and rotate them to avoid boredom. It's best not to leave them with strings, feathers, and small balls that can pose a risk of ingestion and injury. 

If they don't seem to be interested, try rubbing some catnip on the chosen toy. You can also give your American Curl puzzle toys to help keep their minds stimulated. Cat trees or towers provide plenty of entertainment, though these are not a requirement for keeping these charming cats active and interested. Avoid giving high cat towers to small kittens as these jumpers will try launching off of them just because.

Other than daily playtime, this cat breed doesn't need much exercise. If you notice your cat becoming less active and playful than usual or gaining weight without any apparent change in appetite, it could be a sign of a health problem that warrants a visit to the veterinarian. The American Curl is not highly energetic like Siamese cats, though they're more energetic than Persian cats.

Social Needs

Unlike many other cats, American Curls tend to trill instead of meow, and they don't really make that much noise too. They would rather cuddle and play than vocalize. 

Curls prefer homes where there are other pets to keep them company when their owners are away. They also adore children and would gladly play or lounge with them. They don't like being left alone for hours, though they'll always greet you when you come home.

One cat myth American Curls defy is the feline phobia of water. Curls can be so affectionate that they'll even try to follow you in the shower! They'll sit in front of the TV to get your attention and will even wake you up in the morning with nose kisses and hair licks.

Nutrition

American Curl cats require no special food or diet, and any age-appropriate cat food will do. But if you're fostering or adopting, consider their weight so you can help them lose, gain, or maintain. Remember that a grown American Curl only weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, and an overweight cat may have a lower quality of life than that whose weight is better maintained.

On average, these cats can eat about a quarter to half a cup of dry cat food per day. Kittens should be fed kitten food for the first year to aid their development, with a slow transition to adult food afterward.

Children, Family, & Other Pets

American Curls are pet and child-friendly, and they remain so even in their old age. This is one of the reasons why they're becoming increasingly popular as house pets.

Curls can be friendly with other cats and other dogs, and they're gentle towards kids as long as they are gentle towards them too. A slow introduction to a house with existing pets is best with Curl cats. 

For the first few days or weeks, they may appear timid as they're giving the other pets time to get used to their presence. Once established, American Curls will immediately become playful and bond with their fur-parents and their kids. And while they're not really lap cats, they enjoy lounging and just being close to both kids and adults.

More about This Breed

American Curls are fascinating, and that's not only because of their curled ears and charming personalities. Here are some other American Curl cat facts that you might be interested in:

  • Nancy Kiester was an enthusiast and cat fancier who helped the original owners of the American Curls establish the breed. She became interested in the similarity of this breed with the Scottish Folds when she first saw Shulamith’s female litter, Mercedes, in California.  She figured then that they might be an entirely different breed.

In 1983, she partnered with Grace, and they showed off the new feline family in a cat show. In the same year, the standards and the name for the breed were created with her help. According to the Cat Fancier’s Association, Nancy Kiester is still an active American Curl cat breeder for both the longhaired and shorthaired varieties. Even Grace and Joe Ruga are still active breeders.

  • The ears of the American Curls are a spontaneous mutation, and the breed history, discovery, and now popularity may just as well be products of chance! Now, American Curls are being bred in China and Russia too. They’re also sought-out breeds throughout Japan, France, and Spain.

The ears are unique from other cat breeds, not only because of their curls but also because of the cartilage, making it firm like a human’s ear would be. This is why utmost care must be taken when cleaning their ears, as they can be easily injured.

  • American Curl cats have been studied by geneticist Roy Robinson in an effort to know if they can be safely bred. The study consisted of about 400 American Curls. As it turns out, the gene responsible for their curled ears can be passed down to the entire litter.

An American Curl bred with another American curl will produce offspring displaying the curled ears. If bred with another breed, there’s a 50% chance that a litter would get the curled ear. The autosomal dominant gene only needs to be present once for a kitten to get its curls. This amazing discovery led to the American Curls being bred with even non-pedigreed cats safely, establishing a large gene pool without many known hereditary diseases!

Since the American Curl is a younger breed, it may be difficult to get a hold of one through a breeder. Though some of these excellent family cats do end up in shelters, they don’t stay for much longer as there is a high demand for these hardy cats. 

If you want to buy one, you may have to shell out $1,000 to $2,000 for a purebred and even more for a show cat. You can check out the TICA directory for American Curl breeders if you’re interested.

Only go with a reputable breeder, so you don’t accidentally support kitten mills. They do exist, and kittens there live in some of the worst possible ways. The main goal of kitten mill breeders is to sell the kittens before they show any sign of trauma and disease. 

While they may charge lower fees than a reputable breeder, funding these types of businesses means that you support the maltreatment of these poor animals. If you’re looking to rescue, here are some groups and organizations that can help you out:

  1. Rescue Me - American Curl Rescue has a nifty map that shows how many curl cats are up for adoption and rescue in each state.
  2. Petfinder - Petfinder.com can help connect you with pets in need of rescuing, rehoming, or adoption. This page already has the cats listed for your convenience. You only need to adjust your location and your desired proximity.
  3. Tavi & Friends- This rescue group focuses on rehoming American Curls that have been surrendered or abandoned. They also take in homeless curls in the hopes that an ideal family can foster and ultimately adopt them. They also help with treatments for the cats, as well as training for both the cats and their prospective owners.