American Curl cat breed: the special cat whose ears curl back

László Enikő

2023. June 13 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

This special breed is easy to recognize even for the layman: its small ears curl back charmingly, hence the name the Amrican Curl.


Of course, every kitty is unique in its own way, but this breed can boast a special feature that others do not: its ears curl backwards. A genetic mutation is responsible for the strange and at the same time charming characteristic, and although many people have been interested in the American Curl because of this, it is still rare.


The American Curl is one of the youngest cat breeds. It was born of a natural genetic mutation that first appeared (at least as far as we know) in Shulamith, a stray black kitten with long, silky fur and oddly curled-back ears. In 1981, the stray kitten found its way to the door of Joe and Grace Ruga in Lakewood, California. The couple named him Shulamith.

No one ever suspected that this simple meeting and the birth of some kittens 6 months later would lead to a worldwide debate about the genetics behind unusually curled ears. When selective breeding began in 1983, breeders considered it important to deal with the American Curl in order to develop a show breed. Analyzing data from 81 litters (383 kittens), famed cat geneticist Roy Robinson confirmed that the curly ear gene is autosomal dominant, meaning that all cats with even one such gene exhibit the trait. In the December 1989 issue of the Journal of Heredity, Robinson reported that he found no defects in any of the crosses he analyzed. This information led to a new and healthy breed… and a kitten with an outstanding temperament.

The breed was registered by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1986. It was recognized by the International Cat Federation in 1987 and fully recognized by the CFA in 1993. With an almost unheard of speed, it took only six years to go from being a stray to becoming registered. The breed also has the distinction of being the first unique breed to have two coat lengths recognized by the CFA.

All American Curls ears are descendants of Shulamith. The cats can be bred with other breeds, or with straight-eared domestic cats that otherwise meet the American Curl breed standard. This helps ensure a large gene pool and genetic diversity. Straight-eared kittens from American Curl litters can be used in breeding programs or kept as pets. There are about 10-20 individuals living in Hungary, and the first American Curl cat arrived in Hungary was called Mr. Binx.

Breed standard

The American Curl is medium-sized, about 2.5-5 kg. Its body structure is proportionate, slim and elegant. Its limbs are moderately long, its paws are oval. The tail is thicker at the base, tapering towards the end. Its head is wedge-shaped, more elongated than wide. The face is round, its nose is straight. Its ears are always rounded, medium-sized and broad-based. Kittens are born with straight ears, which begin to curl back when they are 3-5 days old. Its eyes are large, walnut-shaped, slightly slanted. The silky, soft fur can be long or short. It has minimal or no undercoat. Its color is very diverse, almost every cat color and pattern can be found.The expected lifespan is 10-16 years.


Friendly and gentle, the American Curl is known for its people-loving personality. These cats even love children, which is not always the case with cats, and is known to seek their company. A moderately active, curious and smart cat. It likes to follow the owner around to see what’s happening, but he’s not talkative or bossy like some other breeds. When in need, it quietly asks for attention, food, or anything else. When its owner returns home from work, greets it with joy and almost always welcomes family guests.

The American Curl is often called the “Peter Pan” of the cat world. It is not unusual to see older individuals just as happy to be active around the house as younger ones. Males and females are equally active.

The breed likes to play and even learn fetching. It can also open door handles, so the owner should be careful, put everything in a lockable cabinet that you don’t want your cat to touch. And when this lovely cat is ready to rest, it happily curls up in the lap of the beloved two-legged friend.

Ideal environment

Alert and adaptable, it fits well into any home, especially families with children, as the American Curl likes the company of the little ones. An ideal playmate, of course, only if the children treat it gently and respectfully. Since it is very people-oriented and requires regular physical contact, it finds loneliness difficult. It is recommended for owners who can spend a lot of time with their pet. It also gets along great with other cats and dogs.


It is worth combing the coat once a week to keep it shiny and healthy. The long-haired American Curl needs to be brushed twice a week to prevent tangles. Its claws should be trimmed if they grow too long. Check its ears weekly for redness or bad smell, which could indicate infection. If they look dirty, clean them. Use a gentle, vet-recommended cleaner. Never fold or force the ear into another position, as this can damage the cartilage.

Common health problems

American Curls are generally healthy, but some bloodlines have problems with narrow ear canals, which can lead to ear infections due to the build-up of earwax.

(Literature: Laura Aceti – Viola Autieri: Our best friend, the cat; Jean-Luc Renck: The cat)

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