What to Know About American Curls


In this Article

  • American Curl Characteristics
  • Caring for an American Curl
  • American Curl Health Issues
  • Special Considerations for American Curls
  • American Curl Cat Origin

American Curls are named for their famously curled ears, but they’ve got more than just good looks.

American Curls are the Peter Pan of cats. They’re filled with kitten-like energy that doesn’t fade with age. They love people and will stay by your side if you let them. Learn about why American Curls are perfect family cats. 

American Curl Characteristics

American Curl size. American Curls are slender cats. Females are smaller and typically weigh between 5 and 8 pounds. Males weigh between 7 and 10 pounds. 

American Curl appearance. American Curls display a lot of variation due to their large genetic pool. 

They can be shorthair or longhair. Curls can have any color and pattern. They have large, attentive eyes with shades of gold and green.

The American Curl’s most distinguishing feature is its ears. The ears curl slightly backward at the ends and fade into tufts of fur.

Kittens aren’t born with curled ears. They slowly curl for the first few months and eventually reach their final shape at about four months old.

American Curl lifespan. Curls have the same long lives as many cat breeds, living between 10 and 20 years. Thanks to their big gene pool, they live healthy lives. 

American Curl cat personality. American Curl cats are more than their looks. They have a loving and affectionate personality to back up their lovable appearance.

American Curls love people. They’ll want to be with you no matter what you’re doing. In fact, some American Curls have an attentiveness and friendliness similar to dogs.

American Curls are curious and outgoing, like kittens.

Caring for an American Curl

Coat care. American Curls have a low-maintenance coat regardless of whether they’re shorthair or longhair. They don’t have a dense undercoat, so they only need weekly brushing.

Dental care. Dental diseases are common issues for cats. They can lead to severe infections if left unattended, so dental hygiene is vital.

The best way to clean your American Curl’s teeth is with a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. Some alternatives include professional cleanings, dental chews, and oral rinses.

Nail care. You should trim your American Curl’s nails every 2 to 3 weeks. You, a groomer, or your vet can trim their nails.

Ear care. American Curls tend to have more wax build-up than other breeds. Their ears need to be cleaned regularly to prevent infections.

You can clean your cat’s ears using a high-quality ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls. Your vet can suggest an ear-cleaning solution that works for you and your American Curl.

Feeding and nutrition. There are many factors to consider when choosing cat food, including the type of food, portion size, and diet style.

The two most common types of commercially available food are wet and dry foods. Each one has pros and cons. 

Dry food is affordable and can last several months, but its low moisture content and bland flavors can make it unappealing to some cats.

Wet foods come in various flavors, making them a desirable option for picky eaters. Their high moisture content also makes them a good option for cats with difficulties staying hydrated.

Wet foods tend to be more expensive than dry foods, though, and they also don’t stay fresh for long once they’re opened.

Most high-quality foods have enough nutrients for your American Curl. Make sure they’re eating only the amount they need.

Feed your cat an amount of food appropriate for their size and how active they are. The best way to do this is to feed them well-portioned meals twice daily.

Some cats prefer having access to food all the time, a diet called free-feeding, but this diet can cause weight gain if not monitored.

If you decide to free-feed, only free-feed with dry food. Wet food left to sit out can attract pests and bacteria.

All cats need constant access to clean, fresh water.

Treats are like junk food for cats. They shouldn’t make up more than 10% to 15% of their daily caloric intake.

Your American Curl’s dietary needs will change as they get older. Always talk to your vet before making significant changes to your cat’s diet.

Exercise and activity requirements. American Curls have kitten-like energy and love to play. They’ll enjoy open access to various toys and things to climb on. 

As social cats, American Curls love to play games with you. Games like fetch are a great way to engage their playfulness. 

Indoor vs. outdoor lifestyles. Many cats love looking outside or going on walks, but you shouldn’t let them run freely outdoors.

Cats are natural predators and will hunt rodents and birds if they’re outside. Such hunting can damage ecosystems, endanger your cat, or introduce your cat to disease.

If you want to take your American Curl outside, always use a leash to keep them from running off. 

Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Even if your American Curl never goes outside, they still need protection from fleas, ticks, and heartworms. 

Fleas can easily get inside by hitching a ride on you and laying eggs somewhere indoors. You and your vet can determine which of the many flea preventatives is best for your cat. 

Ticks tend to be a problem for cats who go outdoors because ticks live in grass and grab onto passing hosts. Consider using a tick preventative if your cat spends any time outside.

Infected mosquitoes transmit heartworm larvae when they bite your cat. These heartworm larvae grow and lead to heartworm disease.

Feline heartworm disease isn’t well understood but can be fatal. There aren’t approved drug treatments for heartworm disease in cats, so prevention is the best method. 

Vet visits. American Curl kittens need several vet visits during their early months to monitor their development, vaccinate them, and spay or neuter them.

Adult American Curls need an annual visit to update their vaccines, identify diseases early, and manage their weight.

Senior American Curls need at least two visits each year. Frequent visits will give your vet a chance to catch diseases early and monitor symptoms of age.

American Curl Health Issues

American Curls have a large gene pool that protects them from hereditary diseases. They’re generally healthy, but there are health conditions that affect all cats. 

Ear infections. The American Curl’s unique ears make them more susceptible to ear infections. Keeping their ears clean can help prevent infection. 

Ear infections are uncommon, but the most obvious sign is that your American Curl will paw at their ear. Severe symptoms include colored discharge, swelling, and redness.

Most infections are treated with medications. Additional treatments may include trimming excess fur and more frequent ear cleaning.

Feline dental disease. More than 50% of cats four years old and older have a dental disease like gingivitis or periodontitis. Most dental diseases are preventable and treatable, though.

If your American Curl has a dental disease, they may stop eating because of the pain in their mouth. Most dental diseases begin with gingivitis and advance to periodontitis.

Good dental hygiene, though, can help protect your American Curl from dental diseases. Professional cleanings can relieve mild issues like gingivitis and periodontitis.

Professional cleanings or at-home hygiene won’t fix severe problems. Severe dental diseases like tooth resorption usually require tooth extractions.

Other common conditions. Most cats get core vaccinations against rabies, feline leukemia virus (FeLVn), feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), and feline caliciviral disease. 

Other common conditions that can result from the above disease include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Upper respiratory infections

Special Considerations for American Curls

Are they good with other pets? American Curls are great with animals that are cat-friendly. They tend to adapt to current dynamics, so they do well even when introduced to established pets in a household. 

Are they good with children? They do well with children, but always supervise your child around your cat. They may accidentally play too rough.

Are they allergenic? American Curls don’t shed much, so they may be a better choice than others for those with mild allergies. Someone with a cat allergy may still be bothered by an American Curl, though. 

American Curl Cat Origin

A couple named Grace and Joe Ruga found the first American Curls in Lakewood, California, in 1981. There were two kittens named Shulamith and Panda.

The two kittens had the genetic mutation that gave them curled ears. Shulamith went on to birth more kittens with the genetic mutation.

As cat breeding became more popular during the 1980s, breeders were fascinated with the strange genes behind the American Curl’s ears.

Roy Robinson, a feline geneticist from London, England, unlocked the secret of the curled-ear gene. This discovery allowed breeders to create a unique, healthy, and loving breed.

American Curls first competed in 1986 and became a champion breed by 1992. They have since solidified their legacy as a perfect family cat and competitive show cat.

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. eugenesergeev / Getty Images


American Humane: “Grooming Your Pet.”

Animals: “Uncontrolled Outdoor Access for Cats: An Assessment of Risks and Benefits.”

ASPCA: “Common Cat Diseases.”

CatCareforLife: “Frequency of veterinary check ups.”

The Cat Fanciers’ Association: “About the American Curl.”

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Feeding Your Cat,” “Feline Dental Disease.”

Countryside Veterinary Clinic: “How to Tell if Your Cat Has an Ear Infection.”

Europetnet: “American Curl.”

TICA: “The American Curl Breed.”

VCA Animal Hospitals: “Cat Dental Care and Hygiene,” “Flea Control in Cats,” “Heartworm Disease in Cats,” “Instructions for Ear Cleaning and Administering Ear Medication in Cats,” “Ticks in Cats,” “Vaccines for Cats.”

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