Selkirk Rex Cats

Curly-Haired Breed Has Unique Qualities

Very few cat breeds have a curly fur coat. When an unusually curly-haired cat was spotted by chance at a shelter, she was quickly adopted and then cross-bred, thereby creating a new cat breed named the Selkirk rex.

Characterized by owners as an affectionate, playful and social, this relatively new breed has quickly made its way into the hearts and homes of cat lovers across the nation.

Selkirk rex cat

In 1987, a curly-haired kitten was spotted at a local Montana shelter. Adopted by Jeri Newman, a Montana cat breeder who ultimately paired “Miss DePesto,” named after the curly-headed secretary in the then popular TV show Moonlighting, with a Persian male.

The ensuing litter produced three curly-haired kittens and three straight-haired kittens, indicating that the curly hair gene was autosomal dominant, meaning that only one parent needs to possess the gene for the curly coat to be expressed in the offspring.

Kittens in a litter can take after the mother or the father, hence the difference between the six kittens in the first-born litter to Miss DePesto. Kittens born with straight hair will not carry the dominant rex gene.

The curly-haired kittens were named Selkirk rex. Rex cat breeds—such as the Devon rex and the Cornish rex, typically have wavy, curly hair. The breeder crossbred the Selkirk rex with a variety of other cats, including the American shorthair, Persian, Himalayan, exotic and British shorthair in order to create two different types of fur coats: long and short.

In 1992, the Selkirk rex was accepted into The International Cat Association (TICA); the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) in 1998 and and the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA). By CFA regulations, the Selkirk rex will no longer be crossbred with any other cat breed by 2015.

All Selkirk rex cats can trace its lineage back to Miss DePesto.

Due to the excessive crossbreeding, the Selkirk rex’s personality may vary from one cat to the other, depending on the cat breeds from which it was bred.

For instance, if a litter was produced from crossbreeding a Selkirk rex and a British shorthair, the kittens may have the temperament of a British shorthair…or the personality of the Persian that was crossbred with the kitten’s “grandmother.”

The good news is that the cat breeds used in the crossbreeding tend to have gentle, playful and affectionate personalities. The distinct personality of a Selkirk rex will reveal itself once several successful generations of purebred Selkirks have been born post-2015.

Selkirk rex cat

Unlike other rex cat breeds, the Selkirk rex has “normal” length fur that covers its entire body. The cat’s coat is also very thick and soft to the touch.

The breed, due to its genetic predisposition, can be born with a fuller coat or one with tighter curls that are soft to touch. Kittens born with the curly fur will lose the curls after birth, then slowly regain them as they approach one year of age; the coat will reach full maturity by age two.

A large-sized cat, the Selkirk rex may be born in a variety of colors including chocolate, lilac, white, black, red, bicolor combinations and those with a pointed coat. The cat’s dense coat has a tendency to shed quite a bit, so the breed isn’t usually recommended for those who have severe allergies to cat dander.

Selkirk rex cat

While these may be common medical conditions, your Selkirk rex—a breed considered robustly healthy—will not necessarily develop any of those listed below.

  • Polycystic kidney disease is a congenital kidney disease where cysts form in the kidneys and gradually increase in size as the cat ages. The disease can be managed by special diets that help reduce the workload of the kidneys; however, progression of the disorder may lead to terminal kidney failure.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a serious enlargement of the heart muscle that may cause heart failure in cats.

As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.