Last updated: February 18, 2017
He may look like he is having a bad hair day but the Selkirk Rex knows the joke is on people who discount him because of his unique curly hair. He’s a clown with a silly streak and a coat that makes you want to cuddle him like a teddy bear.
The Selkirk Rex is a medium to large sized cat, typically weighing 10 to 15 pounds. Like many larger breeds, they can be slow to mature and may not reach full size until they are two or more years old. The body is well-muscled, somewhat cobby and rises slightly from the shoulder to the rear. They have substantial bone with moderate length legs and tail. The latter tapers from a thick base to a tip.
The head sits atop a short and thick neck. It is round in shape with full cheeks and a broad forehead. The whiskers of the Selkirk Rex are curly. The ears are medium sized and wide set with rounded tips. The eyes are also round, large and wide set. They can be any color.
The coat comes in both medium and semi-long lengths. In all lengths, it is dense, soft and plush in texture with a thick undercoat. Like all the Rex breeds, it is a curly coat. The curls are most noticeable on the neck and tail but the coat is curly all over. Unlike the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, the gene that regulates the curls in the Selkirk Rex is a dominant gene and only one copy needs to be present for the coat to be curly. Kittens are born with curls but they may go through a period where it appears straighter as they shed their kitten coat and the adult coat grows in. All colors and patterns of coat are permissible. The coat should be gently combed on a weekly basis for short coated cats and twice weekly for longcoats.
The Selkirk Rex is one of the newest breeds and was first discovered in the late 1980s in Montana. In 1987, a kitten with an unusual curly coat came to the attention of Persian cat breeder, Jeri Newman. She acquired the cat and named her Miss DePesto. She learned that the feral cat which had given birth to Miss DePesto also had an unusual coat. Newman went on to breed Miss Depesto to one of her Persians and there were three curly coated kittens in the litter of six. This clearly established that the gene responsible for Miss DePesto’s coat could not be the same as that of either the Cornish Rex or Devon Rex as both of those curly coats are inherited through recessive genes. Miss DePesto’s curly coat came from a dominant gene that could be expressed even when bred to a cat that did not carry any genes for a curly coat, such as Newman’s Persians. Further breedings would demonstrate that Miss DePesto also carried the genes for longhair and a pointed coat. Newman decided to name the breed after her father, Selkirk with Rex added to indicate the curly coat.
This is a fairly young breed with much work still to be done. Today they are outcrossed with Persians, Persian related breeds such as the Himalayan and Exotics, American Shorthairs, British Longhairs, and British Shorthairs as breeders work to expand the gene pool.
Thus far, the Selkirk Rex would seem to be a relatively healthy breed. The problems that can accompany Persians, Exotics, American Shorthairs, British Shorthairs and British Longhairs can show up as a result of the outcross breedings being done to expand the gene pool. These include polycystic kidney disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and hip dysplasia.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) leads to the development of cysts on the kidneys that will eventually interfere with proper renal function, leading to organ failure. It is particularly well known in Persians and there is a gene test available for the disease. Cats with Persians in their background should be screened for the gene and the breeder should be able to provide proof of the cat being certified clear.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a heart disease that involves a thickening of the muscles of the heart wall. All breeding cats, regardless of breed, should be screened by a veterinary cardiologist for HCM prior to being bred. As with PKD, the breeder of your cat should be able to provide proof of clearance.
Hip dysplasia is a term more commonly associated with dogs than cats but it does occur in cats and breeding animals should be x-rayed and certified clear prior to being used in a breeding program.
The Selkirk Rex takes the best from all his background breeds. He is cuddly like a Persian, laid back and easy going like a British Shorthair, and playful like an Exotic. He fits into any situation easily and will adapt to most homes with little fuss.
The Selkirk Rex is patient with the many people who will just have to touch his plush coat to feel it for themselves and is happy to cuddle with children and adults alike. Owners should be prepared for others to make “bad hair day” jokes about their pet’s coat. The breed’s unique appearance tends to raise questions and curiosity in people who are unfamiliar with the breed.
They enjoy games and toys and remain quite playful into adulthood. They enjoy affection and are quite sociable but not as demanding as some other breeds. The Selkirk Rex gets along well with other pets including other cats and cat friendly dogs. What they don’t handle well is being left alone for extended periods of time. If the family is absent during the day at work or at school, it is best to have a companion such as another cat to keep your Selkirk Rex company.
This is an ideal cat for those who are interested in a curly coated breed but want something a little quieter and more laid back than the Cornish Rex or Devon Rex. They are very adaptable to different home situations provided that they have some company in the form of people being around or other pets.