Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim

It’s not their hair that’s curled – it’s their ears!

American Curls are distinguishable by their ears gracefully curled backward with tufts of hair fanning out. Because of their ears, American Curls maintain a happy, perky look.

American Curls are also distinguishable by their attitude. Although cats are known for being indifferent towards their human companions, American Curls are quite the affectionate, people-oriented charming furballs. They’re also known for being the Peter Pan of Cats. Read on to know why!

History

The first known American Curl was a stray cat found by the Rugas in Lakewood, California in 1981. The Rugas took the American Curl in and named her Shulamith after the “black and comely” princess in the Old Testament book the Song of Solomon. The curl on the cat’s ears was a result of natural genetic mutation later identified by a geneticist as caused by a dominant gene.

By 1987, American Curls have already been recognized by The International Cat Association, and by 1993 by Cat Fanciers Association.

Oliver, an American Curl in the Philippines

We learned about an American Curl living in the Philippines, Oliver, and got to know him through his guardian Irene Chia!

Oliver is five years old, the only white kitten in his litter. Irene was impressed by his look and demeanor, and it seemed to be a great match from the start. The first time they met, Irene and Oliver already cuddled.

Let’s get to know American Curls and Oliver!

Personality

The Peter Pan of Cats, American Curls retain their kitten-like personality until adulthood. They’re playful, highly curious, and great with kids.

They also love getting attention, and are generally friendly with both human, canine, and feline friends. Peter Pan or the dog of felines?

Irene gives us a peek at how it’s like to live with an American Curl: “I sometimes have a hard time sleeping, so when he’s at his sleepiest, I get him and put him beside me. He won’t go away unless I’m asleep already and while he’s asleep, he sleeps pretty soundly, I can sleep better because he is beside me. He’s also like my quiet little white shadow; he likes being in the same floor or room as me.”

American Curls have also been observed to be quite smart!

Oliver, for one, “is also super smart. He managed to learn [commands, such as] ‘sit down,’ ‘bless,’ ‘high five,’ ‘jump through a hoop,’ ‘jump over my hand,’ and even ‘kiss.’ He’s also super curious. Every time I open a package or eat chips, he runs towards me for inspection, always willing to give anything a sniff.”

Physical appearance

American Curls can come in varied physical forms. They can be short-haired or long-haired, or different colors such as tortoiseshell, and of different builds.

While their looks can be varied, they generally have some characteristics in common: big walnut-shaped eyes, silky coat, minimal undercoat, and the most distinguishable: curled ears.

The curl of their ears vary, with some reaching an angle of 180 degrees!

Caring for an American Curl

Environment

American Curls can quickly adjust to new surroundings and companions. They tend to understand that other furry friends might need time to adjust, however, and American Curls give them space.

Look how Oliver responded to having a new cat playmate: “…Supposedly when you let two cats meet each other for the first time, it’s mayhem. It usually takes about a month or longer to transition so that they’ll become friends. But with the new cat, I saw that they got along at around the third day, and I could leave them unsupervised after just one week.”

American Curls love high perches and ample space for their play. Give these Peter Pans enough toys, too!

As this breed enjoys companionship, don’t leave them alone for too long to avoid separation anxiety.

Grooming

American Curls can come in varied physical forms. They can be short-haired or long haired, which would require different grooming needs. A short-shaired one has to be combed at least twice a week to prevent and remove mats and tangles.

There’s no special grooming required for an American Curl. Like with any other breed, trim their nails regularly, brush their teeth as per your veterinarian’s advice, and clean their ears as necessary. Remember to be very gentle with American Curl’s ears – you don’t want to damage their ear cartilage.

Irene gives Oliver the proper grooming he needs: “I think generally, for American Curls, they need a lot of cleaning in the ears, but one to two times a week. Because of the hard cartilage of their ear (similar to our nose), they can’t shake their ears as much to dislodge the debris. When vets first see [Oliver’s] ears, they usually think he has ear mites. Because his ears are a bit sensitive, I don’t let anyone else clean them. Also, when handling [their] ears, be careful not to bend them too much [because] when they break, [they might need surgery]. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just Oliver or it’s the same across all American Curls, but he needs teeth cleaning about once every two years.”

Other needs

“American Curls are actually a very easy first cat,” shared Irene.

American Curls generally don’t require a diet different from other cats. Avoid obesity and heart diseases by feeding cats – including American Curls – the right amount of high-quality food. The prescribed intake varies on your American Curl’s size, activities, age, and sex. It’s best to ask your veterinarian about the recommended diet for your cat.

Here’s a look at Oliver’s diet: “Cats need a lot of wet food so that they don’t get UTIs, so I usually have a batch of boiled chicken (70%), boiled beef (20%), and chicken innards (10%) cooked for my 3 pets every week. Sometimes, the canned food feels like junk food: too fragrant, too processed. I do sometimes still give him canned food about three to four times a year, only on special occasions. He also loved the occasional dry treats and liquid tube treats.”

Cats also need exercise, and American Curls aren’t an exception! Guardians of this breed wouldn’t have a difficult time, however, as American Curls are typically active and playful. Dedicate some quality time with your American Curl and their favorite toy, and boost your and your cat’s health.

Irene shared with us one activity Oliver loves. “He loves water balloons! When I open a packet of balloons, he comes running. And when I fill it up with water, you’ll see him standing up trying to sneak a peek at the balloon. He’ll play with it, puncture it, carry it around and basically just make a wet mess all over the floor.”

Also, Oliver has a bunch of toys. “Just the usual toys – cat tree, tunnels, feather toys, and he loves the occasional robotic bug. He has two toys that are his favorite: a white owl stuffed toy and a plastic bird on a string that he bring with him all around the room.”

Tips for American Curl guardians

We asked Irene for her top tips to hoomans of American Curls. Here they are:

  1. Adopt more than one
    “If you have the budget, consider getting more than one cat (spay or neuter them, of course). I do see that [Oliver and his cat friend] are both happier [after neutering] and they love each other’s company. I sometimes see them cuddling in a yin-yang position or just sleeping close to each other, or trying to catch each other when one passes by.”
  2. Go big with litter boxes
    “Since American Curls are big-ish breed, get big litter boxes. Since Oliver is a male, [I considered] getting a high-back litter box as well – sometimes, he raised his butt when peeing, which makes a mess with the low-back one.”
  3. Watch out for odd behavior
    “Lastly, as with most cats, American Curls are pretty low maintenance. So just make sure to be a keen observer, because something like a missed meal, unusual clinginess, or hiding for long periods of time can mean they are in pain. Bring them to the vet ASAP. Oliver once missed a day a half’s meal, and when I took him to the vet it was because he had a toothache and needed cleaning. There was also this one time that [his paw was swollen] under all his fur, and it was because his cuticles hot excessively thin because of play and they got infected.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s March 2020 issue.

You might want to read:
– Cat plays on tiny piano to let his owner know when he’s hungry
– Family with cats adopts pit bull from the shelter, now he thinks he’s a feline, too
– Meet the world’s deadliest super cat: The black-footed cat