The totally unique Selkirk Rex is one of the most unmistakable breeds in the feline world. They are a stocky cat with a curly coat that is reminiscent of a newborn lamb. They have a stocky, medium build and large appealing eyes. This breed is robust, suffers from few health conditions and can be expected to live for around 15 years.

Their wavy coat can be a variety of colors including sepia, several shades of mink, silver/smoke, chocolate and lilac. It has three layers and can be short or long. The curliest parts are at the stomach, neck and flanks. The Selkirk Rex is not just about looks. They make gorgeous family pets as they are calm and loving. They adore their human families and would prefer not to be left alone. This breed would be classed as a medium shedder and should not be confused with other feline Rex breeds that are suitable for people with allergies to cats. If you are looking for a curly clown who will be devoted to you, this could be the breed for you.

History of the Selkirk Rex

The Selkirk Rex is not an ancient breed. It has only been around since 1987 when it emerged in Montana, USA. Despite its lack of history, it has rapidly become very popular with pet lovers and has been acknowledged by cat associations.

The discovery of this distinctive breed was made by accident and the adorable curls are a result of a natural mutation. It was spotted in a litter of kittens who had a blue tortoise cat and a white cat as parents. There was just one kitten with curls in a litter of straight-haired cats. This kitten also had the curly whiskers which are the distinguishing feature of today’s Selkirk Rex breed.

This very special kitten was adopted by a local lady and was named Miss DePesto because she pestered her new owners a lot! Because the rest of the litter had straight fur, it was concluded that the curls were a result of a new mutation in a gene. Now we know that this gene is dominant and so all Selkirk Rex offspring will have a curly coat.

It didn’t take long for this distinctive breed to be recognized by the major cat associations and whilst it is still quite rare, the breed is growing in popularity around the world.

Quick Facts About The Selkirk Rex

  • They are a strong and stocky cat

A Selkirk Rex has a large and solidly built body that is very similar to their forebears the British Shorthair. They can weigh anything from six to 16 pounds and have a rectangular body with long legs. Their heads are round and there is a flat space between their ears. The characteristically sweet expression comes from their huge, round eyes.

  • They are not a good choice if you have allergies

Whilst some of the other Rex breeds have less hair than most cats, this is not true for the Selkirk Rex. Therefore, they are not a recommended breed if you or someone in your family suffers from a cat hair allergy.

  • The Selkirk Rex can have long or short hair

The same genetic line of Selkirk Rex produces both short-hair and long-hair individuals. This is because there was a gene for long hair length in the parent of the original Selkirk Rex kitten. The hair length that your cat has will be determined by the breeding that took place after the initial mutation.

There is still breeding between the Selkirk Rex breeds and British Shorthairs, American Shorthairs and Persians. This means that the genetic line is still very much changing and evolving.

The short-haired variety of the breed is quite rare and you are lucky if you have one! Some even have straight hair so it is a very diverse breed.

  • They are named after a mountain range!

The stunning Selkirk Mountain range is located in the northern part of the Idaho Panhandle but spans eastern Washington and a portion of southeastern British Columbia as well. They are part of a larger group of mountains called the Columbia Mountains.

This unusual breed emerged in Montana which is near the mountain range.

  • They can trace their history back to… a pet shelter!

Probably the only breed that can lay claim to originating in a pet shelter! It was in 1987 that Jeri Newman was contacted by a local feline rescue organization. She was a breeder of Persian cats and was told that there was an unusual kitten in the shelter who had a wavy coat. She decided to adopt the kitten and bred her with a purebred Persian of her own. It took a few litters but eventually, curly-haired kittens emerged.

It took several generations before the genetic mutation developed into a new breed and it was named the Selkirk Rex.

A Selkirk Rex cat in its cage

Things You Should Know About The Selkirk Rex

The Selkirk Rex is a unique and very lovely feline who will be a pleasure to have in your home.  However, taking on any sort of feline companion is a big step. It is vital that you understand the responsibility of what you doing and are prepared to acquire the skills and knowledge to keep your Selkirk Rex healthy and happy. Here’s a list of the main points that you need to know.

Health

On the whole, Selkirks are robust and healthy cats. They usually lead long and healthy lives but they can also be affected by some health issues.

  • Sensitive skin. Any cat that has a wire coat can suffer from brittle fur that can become sparse in patches. The natural skin oils may not be able to travel along the hair shafts and this can lead to oil collecting on the skin. As a result, their skin can become sensitive and itchy and they may get yeast infections. You will need to be very vigilant about this. If your cat has a pale coat, the sparse areas of fur will need to have a sunblock applied during the summer months.
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD). This is common in Persians and because this breed is present in the bloodline of the Selkirk Rex they can also suffer from this condition. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a common condition and affects up to 6% of all felines. As the name implies, it is a condition where several cysts form on the kidneys. However, many cats with the disease live long and happy lives. Sadly, others develop larger cysts and this can result in chronic renal disease and eventually to kidney failure. The sooner it is treated the better. Some cat registration bodies will insist that tests are carried out before breeding.
  • Tear duct issues. Sometimes, the head shape of the Selkirk Rex results in the kinking of the tear ducts. This can result in extensive tear production and dermatitis on the face.
  • Ear irritation. Many Rex breeds suffer from irritation of the inside of the ear and this is associated with curly fur. It can increase the production of ear wax. Also, Selkirk Rex cats tend to have a greasy coat which can make the situation worse.

Feeding

All cats thrive on a premium diet that will give them all of the nutrients that they need. Protein is especially important and must be derived from high quality animal sources such as lean chicken. Some cats can be fussy eaters but most cats of the Selkirk Rex breed are happy with whatever brand you choose.

You may want to pick a food that has omega oils as this helps with skin problems and could tackle the skin sensitivities that this breed is prone to. It is also a good idea to avoid allergens such as corn, wheat or soy which can cause skin irritation.

Care

There’s a lot more that you can do to help your kitty to look after their unusual coat. Because their hair is wiry, the natural oils can accumulate near the skin and cause irritation and infection. Your vet will be able to advise what you can do about that. It may be necessary to give your cat a regular bath and to use a special cat shampoo. It is wise to start this when your Selkirk Rex is a kitten so they get used to it at a young age.  You need a shampoo that is easy to wash out because their thick coat will retain it.

A regular claw trim is also needed. If your cat spends most of their time inside, their claws will not be worn down by scratching. A groomer can provide this service but you could invest in a good pair of pet nail clippers and do it yourself. Guillotine style pet nail trimmers are very popular with cat owners.

All breeds of cat can suffer from tooth decay and you can help to prevent this by brushing their teeth regularly. You will need a special cat toothpaste and it is best to start this when they are a young kitten.

Grooming

One of the most appealing features of the lovely Selkirk Rex is their totally unique coat. Each hair looks as if it has been crimped or bent and their whiskers are bent too!

However, this type of coat does require extra care and attention. Each hair can be very brittle and will break easily, even if you are very gentle with it. You need to invest in a soft bristled brush and take your time when you are grooming your cat. Also, do not groom them very often. Once a week will often suffice. Many experts recommend that you avoid brushing all together and instead simply comb the fur once a week. This should stop the fur from becoming frizzy. If you find that your kitty has patches of hair loss, consult your vet or a professional groomer that has experience with Rex breeds.

Selkirk Rex cats do shed their hair but it should not be excessive. They will lose most fur in the summer and this may be when you want to groom them to prevent it accumulating on your sofa!

Temperament

Your Selkirk Rex will love your company and adores spending time with their human family. They are an affectionate breed who do not hold back when it comes to showing you how much they love you. It thrives on lots of company and will do well in a large family. They are very easy going and will happily put up with family members of all ages. Because they are playful and very curious, it would be a good idea to have a range of toys and puzzles that will keep your kitty amused when you are busy. You will get plenty of laughs when you live with a Selkirk Rex who have been described as the clown of the cat world.

The only negative to their personality is that they don’t like to be left alone. They will follow you around and they will expect you to engage with them. It is unlikely that your kitty will be very demanding but they are patient. They will simply follow you from room to room until you give in and pet them. When you sit down on a sofa, they will jump up onto your lap and snuggle up. This is a vocal breed and they will communicate with you using quiet noises.

You will find that they are an intelligent cat that does not like to be left alone. There could be problems if they are left alone all day and would suit a house where at least one human works from home!

The Last Word…

You are a lucky human if you have one of these ‘teddy cats’ living in your home and cuddling up to you in the evenings. Your Selkirk will love it when you pay them attention and you will always smile when you look at their curly coat and whiskers. A bad hair day has never looked so cute!

More Pet Product Reviews

Heated Cat Beds
Cat Collars
Cat Costumes
Cat Doors
Laser Pointers for Cats
Cat Litter Boxes
Cat Condos for Kitties
Cat Window Perches
Cat Litter
Interactive Cat Toys

Sources:

  1. The Curly-Haired Cat Breed People are Going Nuts Over – Mercola Health Pets
  2. Selkirk Rex – PetMD
Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!