The UK LaPerm Breeding Programme
The committee of the LaPerm Cat Club has decided that we would like to write something for all people involved in the UK LaPerm breeding programme in order to provide people with more information about breeding LaPerms in the UK. This will hopefully give you all more of an idea of how your own litters fit in to the greater UK breeding programme.
The UK breeding programme fits into the world wide LaPerm breeding programme but has its own particular characteristics, such as the foundation cats used to establish the breed in the UK, the variety of outcrossing that has been carried out here in order to ensure good genetic diversity and the GCCF regulations that the majority of us here bred to.
Many of you will be familiar with the early history of the LaPerm in the UK, but for those of you who are not here it is again! The first LaPerms were imported here by Anthony Nichols on 23rd May 2002. He had obtained a Lilac Tortie and White female LH LaPerm called Uluru BC Omaste Po of Quincunx from American Breeder Anne D. “Andy” Lawrence This was before the Pets Passport scheme was expanded to include the USA, so Omaste went to Holland along with three other LaPerms imported there by Dutch breeder Corine Judkins. She had to wait seven months in order to qualify for her passport and then Anthony drove over and picked her up. Corine had cunningly and kindly arranged for Omaste to be mated by her Red and White LH LaPerm Woodlandacre BC Windfire of Crearwy, so Omaste arrived in the UK pregnant and her litter of five kittens was imported in utero. These were Quincunx Rexray Spex, a cream tabby boy who went on to be a prolific stud for Judy Whiteford and Louise Malone, Quincunx Sid Luscious, a Red tabby and white boy who was a successful show neuter and one of the ‘famous first fifteen’ preliminary qualifiers, Quincunx Nancy Spongecake, a tortie tabby female breeding queen for Judy Whiteford, Quincunx Evrythg ButheCurl, a red tabby and white variant breeding girl for Kate Munslow and Quincunx Siouxsie Banshee a cream tabby and white van pattern breeding girl who stayed with Anthony Nichols. These foundation cats were born on Sunday 2nd June 2002 and are present in a great many LaPerm pedigrees in the UK.
In November 2002 the GCCF Executive Committee approved the LaPerm for registration status only and the first LaPerms were registered with the breed name but as of yet no breed number. Also in 2002 LaPerms made their GCCF show debut at the Colourpoint, Rex-coated and AOV Cat Club’s show, and were then also on exhibition at the Supreme.
In June 2003 the first two outcross litters were born: Quincunx Siouxsie Banshee had a litter from a Somali outcross, including Quincunx Chinook, Quincunx Cherokee and Quincunx Cycada Lakota, all of whom went on to be used in the breeding programme and are seen in pedigrees today. In the same month Omaste had her second UK-born litter, an outcross to a Tiffanie male which included Quincunx Cumulonimbus who is also seen in UK pedigrees today.
The LaPerm Cat Club had its inaugural meeting on 16th May 2004 in Banbury after a seminar for people interested in getting hands-on experience of the breed. The people present at that meeting were Anthony Nichols, Penni Cragg, June Gillies, Donna Golby, Naomi Johnson, Corine Judkins, Kate Munslow, Marie Munslow, Sally Plummer, Sue Pyrke, Edwina Sipos and Judy Whiteford.
In June 2004 LaPerms were granted preliminary status in the UK and after this approval was given show managers were permitted to include assessment classes for LaPerms to be shown and compete against the SOP to win merit certificates. The breed number granted was 80, followed by L for LH and S for SH. The first LaPerm to win a merit was June Gillies’ Ballego Grandmasterflash, who is also seen in pedigrees as he was a successful breeding boy.
With GCCF recognition came officially sanctioned Breeding and Registration policies. The policies for the breed allow for outcrossing to a small list of selected breeds and this practise is in line with the existing policies for other rex breeding programmes in the GCCF, as both the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex also have outcross lists and relied on outcrossing to establish a viable gene pool and to continue to bring new blood into the breeds. In other registries non-pedigree, or domestic, cats have been used as outcrosses for LaPerms, but in the GCCF no cat can be shown with unknown ancestors leaving gaps in their pedigrees. Although at that time we were unable to use new domestic cat as an official outcross in the GCCF breeding programme we were able to use pedigree breeds. Several pedigree breeds had been used as outcrosses for the LaPerm in advance of the UK breeding programme being established so if we wanted to be able to use cats from these lines we needed to have these breeds on our outcross list in order to legitimise their pedigrees.
In the CFA breeding programme the Ocicat and Somali had been recommended as the official pedigree outcrosses. In order for the recommendations to come into force the Ocicat and Somali breed sections had to give their approval and only the Ocicat breeders agreed. Some breeders did still carry out Somali outcrosses, but the official CFA outcross was the Ocicat. Most Ocicats used by USA breeders were AOV Ocicats, which means Ocicats with non-standard patterns, such as ticked tabbies, classic tabbies or non-agoutis. The reason for this was to reassure the Ocicat breeders that the LaPerm would not become a curly Ocicat. The Ocicat has its own outcross breed in the Abyssinian and several of the ticked tabby AOV Ocicats which were used for LaPerm breeding had Abyssinians behind them. Therefore it was necessary for the GCCF outcross list to include the Ocicat, Abyssinian and Somali, and in fact without them on our list we would have had difficulties working with any LaPerms from these lines.
It was very important at the beginning of the UK LaPerm breeding programme to take into consideration which breeds we would encounter in import pedigrees and whether we wanted these to be acceptable. As time went on further imports came into the country and were key cats in the breeding programme. These included Uluru BS Kimimi La, an American-bred cat imported by Edwina Sipos, Coiffurr BC Cappuchino, a chocolate self boy imported from New Zealand by Judy Whiteford and Coiffurr BC Qui-Oui, also from NZ and imported by Kate Munslow; both were bred by Twink McCabe. LaPerm breeding in NZ had made use of other outcrosses, in particular the Tiffanie, so it was important to add this to the GCCF outcross list and for the Asian SH and Burmese to be included as these all belong to the same breed grouping and pedigrees with Tiffanie outcrosses would automatically have these others in later generations.
Good results had been obtained by using these outcrosses and they all had an important place on the GCCF list, not only to legitimise the import pedigrees we wanted to use, but also to allow us to continue outcrossing and building our breeding programme.
At the time that the outcross list was put together it was decided that the list lacked an option for breeders to use in order to increase head length, especially if overuse of Asian group cats as outcrosses in breeding lines resulted in overly short or rounded head type. In order to solve this problem the Siamese/Balinese/Oriental breed group was added, but it was thought that these should only be temporarily on the list as they had a much more markedly different type from the other breeds on the outcross list. These breeds came off the list when we moved up to Provisional recognition. There was a logic to using them as a Siamese had contributed its genes to the very early LaPerm colony living on Linda Koehl’s farm and would appear to be the source of the chocolates and colourpoints in the early days of LaPerms. However, a recommendation was made to only use ‘old-fashioned type’ and to avoid extreme Oriental type. Also some Orientals were present in the NZ pedigrees and we did not want this to prevent the cats from being able to be shown or registered with LaPerm breed numbers. Only a small number of these cats were used during the short period that they were permitted, but they helped to balance out some of the early outcross lines.
The last breed on the outcross list is the Tonkinese. It had not been used in any LaPerm breeding programme at the time but it was thought that it was only logical to include the Tonkinese if its parent breeds, the Siamese and the Burmese were also included. Also comparisons between the LaPerm and the Tonkinese breeds showed that it would be a useful breed to outcross to as it offered an option that is similar in type in several ways.
After the LaPerm had been established in the UK for several years the club and BAC were able to gain approval for some limited use of Domestic Longhair and Shorthair outcrossing in GCCF pedigrees. LaPerms with Domestic parents or grandparents cannot be shown and remain on the reference register, but these outcross lines can be used and developed. This made it easier for people to add LaPerms to their breeding programmes from registries where Domestic outcrossing is preferred. The Domestic cat population is very diverse and therefore the offspring from a Domestic outcross line often vary more in type and coat and can yield less predictable results, but good results are more likely if the Domestic cats used are carefully selected for qualities that would benefit the LaPerm breeding programme.
Currently in the UK breeding programme all of the outcross breeds have been used to some extent and the UK gene pool is diverse with a great range of colours and patterns. There is an article called Guidance Notes on Outcrossing, which is available as an appendix to the Breeding Policy. This details the different kinds of results that may be expected from outcrossing to all of the different breeds on the GCCF LaPerm outcross list. However, it is fair to say that a LaPerm with a parent from an outcross breed may have a more intermediate type with some similarities to the non-LaPerm parent, although some of these do have excellent LaPerm type. The article goes into greater detail, but for example, outcrosses to Asian/Tiffanie can give a softer coat, although it may be a finer, frizzier texture, and care is needed to select individuals to outcross to which do not have head type which is too short or round. Equally the Somali/Abyssinian head type is slightly different in that the muzzle is smaller.
A range of different breeding lines with different outcrosses behind them has been developed both in the UK and elsewhere in the world and breeders need to focus on wisely combining these different lines in order to best complement each other and preserve the best attributes from each one. Breeders are getting excellent results from these matings where different outcross lines are present on either side of the pedigree. It was our initial aim in outcrossing widely in the first two or three years of the UK breeding programme that the broad range of outcrosses used could be bred down from. There would be no use in outcrossing merely to produce a litter; outcrossing should be done to introduce a new line that can be bred down from and combined with other lines.
It is by breeding down these outcross lines that we get generational progression. This means that we build up a greater number of preceding generations of LaPerm to LaPerm matings. This is important because it gives us greater consistency in our breeding results as we are breeding like to like.
Many of us have LaPerms with outcrosses behind them in their pedigrees, including the original crosses to non-pedigree cats undertaken by American breeders. We all need to plan our matings carefully in order to maximise the benefits of the outcrosses by building upon the foundations and moving the generations forward. This will give better type and cats that breed more consistently for type. Focusing on LaPerm to LaPerm matings will also give us more curly kittens.
The GCCF LaPerm registration policy is designed to encourage people to breed on from outcrosses and not to continue outcrossing in subsequent generations. LaPerms are normally either registered on the full register or the supplementary register. There is an important difference between the two registers, even though it may appear to some to be an insignificant difference because both are considered to be proper LaPerms and are eligible to be shown. However, the full register is only for LaPerms whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents are all LaPerms. Outcrosses from the list are only permitted in the fourth and fifth generations. LaPerms with outcross breeds in the earlier generations are placed on the Supplementary register, indicating that they have outcross breeds within their first three generations. This encourages us all to breed towards the full register, and if you have a LaPerm on the Supplementary register you should think carefully about what sort of mating will be appropriate as the best for the breed is to have the majority of LaPerms on the supplementary register involved in LaPerm to LaPerm matings.
This also has a bearing on how GCCF registered LaPerms can be transferred to other registries which recognise the breed. The full register LaPerms with three preceding generations of LaPerm ancestors can be shown in all other registries, while those on the supplementary register may not depending on the registry. It is good for the breed to have cats that can be transferred between breeders in different registries and countries so a focus on breeding these cats will be beneficial.
While breeders need to focus on consolidating the LaPerm lines we have and breeding LaPerm to LaPerm to get generational progression and increase consistency, there is also still an ongoing need to outcross. This is to ensure that there is a steady trickle of new blood into the breed and we keep our cats as healthy and robust as possible. If you have a LaPerm of good type from a LaPerm to LaPerm mating and have access to a suitable cat of an outcross breed then do consider undertaking an outcross mating, but if you do this then do try to ensure that a kitten from the new line will be able to be mated back to a LaPerm. Unlike in the earlier phases of establishing the breed; we no longer need to undertake a broad range of matings to establish the foundations for our breeding programmes. Outcrossing in the LaPerm breed should be similar to outcrossing in fellow Rex breeds such as the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex where new lines are brought in from time to time and preferably always with some sort of plan of how those new lines will be used and bred down from.
Breeders should focus on breeding excellent LaPerm type. People should ensure that they are familiar with the LaPerm SOP and feel confident that they have an understanding of the correct LaPerm look. It is helpful to pay close attention to open class placings and consider what the reasons are that one cat is placed above another. In fact, people should think about whether they agree with the judge’s placings and why.
We should all consider carefully what we feel to be the strengths and weaknesses of a LaPerm’s type before selecting a mate that will complement it well and hopefully produce better kittens so that each generation sees an improvement in the breed. Breeders should look at body type and ensure they are selecting for long legs and long necks and a lean, muscular, athletic-looking, semi-foreign body type which is moderate with medium fine boning. LaPerms which are too delicate or overly stocky should only be bred with if they are paired with cats that will balance out these faults. Also check the topline of your LaPerms- it should not be level, as is seen in many Somalis, but should rise towards the rear lifted slightly by the long, muscular hind legs.
One important focus for improving head type is to breed for a strong muzzle, especially if you are breeding with lines that include outcrosses to Asian group cats. While we are working to breed down from Asian, Aby and Somali outcross lines we need to make sure that we do not get left with the shorter muzzle or ones which lack definition. The muzzle gives the characteristic LaPerm look and should be broad, with prominent whisker pads making it wider than the lines of the cat’s wedge shaped head and giving a whisker break. It should be slightly squared looking as the whisker pads are full enough to give a straightish line across the front of the muzzle. Whisker pads which recede and slope away from the nose are not desirable. Outcrossing to an Ocicat will normally produce good strong muzzles and it is interesting to compare the muzzles of Ocicats with LaPerms as they should be rather similar in shape.
Also look at the shape and length of your LaPerms’ heads bearing in mind their pedigrees and the attributes they may be more likely to have as a result of the outcrosses behind them. We need to ensure that the head doesn’t look round, but has the correct wedge-shaped appearance. A fault seen in some LaPerms is a head that is too round so that it looks as though the length and width of the head are about the same. A rule of thumb is that the head should be slightly longer than its width.
The other fault with head type that can also detract from the LaPerm look is incorrect ear set. The natural lines of a LaPerm’s wedge-shaped head should be followed by the line of the ears. There should be a seamless straight line with no change of direction at the point where the ear joins the head. Higher ear set, as seen in Russians, is incorrect and gives a LaPerm a bunny rabbit look. This is sometimes linked with narrower heads and there should be room for a space between the ears about the same as the width of the base of one ear. Earlier on in LaPerm breeding we were more likely to see ears set too high, but now overly low ear set is also sometimes seen and can come in from outcrosses. Breeders should focus on setting correct ear position. If you decide to breed from a cat with less than perfect ear set then breed to a cat with good ear set, not to a cat whose ears are set too much in the other direction.
Some of the earlier UK-bred LaPerms had harder coats and when outcrosses were undertaken both the stability and the softness of the coats was greatly improved. There is still quite a range of coat types in the breed here and we need to focus on continuing to bring together those lines in order to ensure that we standardise a soft, fine coat and select against coarse or wiry coats. Combining the different outcross lines has good results. Some of the cats from Asian/Tiffanie outcrosses have good coat length and very soft texture but less defined curl. Putting these cats to other lines helps to increase the curl and retain the texture so combining the different lines and observing the coat texture is important. Also some of the LaPerms with the Asian/Tiffanie lines behind them can have denser and longer coats. While this improves on those lines which need more coat (including some of the original foundation LaPerms) we need to take care not to double up on these lines and get cats whose coats are too dense and thick and therefore do not meet the SOP’s description of a loose, bouncy coat which is light and airy with minimal undercoat.
It is wonderful that many breeders are breeding Shorthaired LaPerms and that they are not just an off shoot of the breed but a unique variety in its own right. The short coats can be crisper in texture and although the SOP makes an allowance for this we do need to breed for softer coats. The short coat may only be wavy and not as curly as the LH, but it still needs defined shape and should not just be fuzzy looking with no definition to the waves. Again we can work toward this by combining the old lines and the different outcross lines.
The last observation on coat is that we do need to allow the LaPerm coats time to mature and they really do seem to get better as the cats get older.
Another focus for the UK breeding programme is health, and this is true of all breeding programmes at all times. We have outcrossed to a handful of breeds and we need to ensure that the cats used for outcrossing are as healthy as possible and if tests are available that they are screened for any genetic diseases. PK Def testing in Ocicats, Somalis and Abys is standard and this allows us to ensure that no affected cats are included in our breeding programme. Also we know that tail faults have been seen in some of our cats so this should be avoided where possible. Check all kittens for tail faults before deciding whether they should go on the active register or not. Palpate the tail tips carefully as small bony excrescences at the tip may be difficult to feel in small kittens.
LaPerms have no points for their colours and patterns but decisions about breeding certain colours are still important to most of us. The genetics of colour and pattern are fascinating and breeding a variety is fun. Working with some of the rarer colours is also an enjoyable challenge. Although none of us should make a decision to breed from a cat with bad type just because of its colour there are certainly some challenges for us all to work on. Unusual varieties such as colourpoint and darker points LaPerms are very popular. It will be interesting to see more smokes and silver shadeds bred, especially in darker colours. We also have the cinnamon gene in our gene pool and can test cats to see if cats carry it, so it will be interesting to see if more of these are bred.
Our broader goals for the breeding programme are to promote good ethics among breeders and to ensure that the welfare of cats comes first in all considerations. We also want to continually strengthen the LaPerm Cat Club by signing up more new members in the UK and elsewhere and encouraging existing members to retain their memberships. It is important for the club to participate in BAC and Council meetings in order to give the breed a voice. The club should also continue to have a social aspect and we hope that many more friendships will come into being as a result of people’s shared interest in LaPerms. Finally the club must continue to facilitate good quality mentoring relationships to ensure that any breeders who still have something to learn (that’s all of us) have good support.
LaPerm Cat Club Committee
Quincunx Sid Luscious
Woodlandacre BC Windfire of Crearwy
Coiffurr BC Qui-Oui
Coiffurr BC Cappuchino