Learn about the Selkirk Rex Cat Breed
The Selkirk Rex is a one of the most recent natural additions to the purebred cat fancy. This breed is known for its extremely soft curly hair and its curly whiskers, yet it is distinct from all other curly-coated breeds. Unlike the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, the coat of the Selkirk Rex is thick and dense, and there are longhaired and shorthaired varieties. This breed comes in a rainbow of colors, with the quality of its coat being of the utmost importance in the show ring. The curly coat of the Selkirk Rex must be plush, with a woolly feel and look, sometimes referred to as being in tousled disarray or resembling a “bad hair day.” The loose, unstructured curls are most prominent on the cat’s flanks, belly and around the neck. They are least prominent on top of the back. The dramatic curled locks on longhaired Selkirks are more noticeable than those on the shorthaired variety. Straight-haired Selkirks can be born in the same purebred litter as curly-haired kittens. The littermates can be distinguished at birth, because curly-coated kittens will also have curly whiskers.
The Selkirk Rex – sometimes referred to as a cat in sheep’s clothing - is a medium-to-large, muscular, solidly built cat somewhat similar in type to the British Shorthair. It has stocky legs, big paws and a heavy, rectangular body. Selkirk’s have rounded heads with no flat planes or harsh angles. Their large, prominent round eyes can be any color. They have medium-sized, widely-spaced ears, chubby cheeks and a distinctly short, square muzzle. An extreme break, or stop, in the nose - like that so highly prized in the Persian - is a fault in this breed.
The temperament of the Selkirk Rex reflects that of the breeds used in its development: a purebred Persian and a non-pedigreed, short-haired, mixed-breed housecat that probably derived in part from American, British and/or Exotic Shorthairs. Selkirks are incredibly loving, patient and kind. These are important traits for these cats, because their unusual teddy-bear appearance makes them intriguing and practically irresistible to all who meet them. They have many of the laid-back, gentle qualities of the American and British Shorthair. They also carry the cuddly nature of the Persian and the playfulness of the Exotic Shorthair. They are tolerant of children and other pets and make affectionate, affable companions.
Selkirks are not extremely active cats. They are not especially known for their climbing or jumping abilities, nor are they one of the breeds that enjoy resting in high places. As a rule, the Selkirk Rex is calmer than it is active. Of course, Selkirks can have a mischievous streak and be as playful as any other breed.
The Selkirk does not have any particularly distinguishing behavioral traits. Its unique coat is by far its most recognizable characteristic.
In 1987, in Bozeman Montana, Peggy Voorhees of the Bozeman Humane Society saw an unusual tortoiseshell and white female kitten in a non-pedigreed litter of five that had been born to a feral blue tortie and white mother in a shelter in Wyoming. What made this kitten so intriguing were her noticeably curly hair and whiskers, striking green eyes and ear furnishings that resembled steel wool, or a “Brillo pad.” When this kitten was about 9 weeks of age, she was acquired by Jeri Newman, a Persian breeder. She named the kitten Miss DePesto of Noface, because she apparently was always pestering for attention. “Pest” (as she affectionately came to be known) had prominent cheekbones, slanted eyes, large wide-set ears and a narrow muzzle. Her body was stocky, but her legs were long and she was fairly fine-boned.
Ms. Newman determined that all of Pest’s littermates had normal straight haircoats. Because she could find no reports of any other curly-coated cats in the general vicinity, she suspected that Miss DePesto might be the source of a new, spontaneous curly-coated (Rex) genetic mutation. When Pest turned 14 months of age, Jeri bred her to her lovely black Persian male, CH Photo Finish of Deekay. Out of the resulting litter of six kittens, three definitely had curly coats and curly whiskers like those of their mother. This established that, unlike the genetic mutation in the Cornish Rex and the Devon Rex, the mutation causing the curly coats in Pest and her offspring was dominant. As a result, litters of Selkirk Rex can contain curly-coated and straight-haired littermates. All Selkirk Rex trace their ancestry back to Miss DePesto.
The International Cat Association (TICA) accepted the Selkirk Rex into its New Breed program in 1990 and recognized it for championship competition in February of 1994. The American Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) accepted the Selkirk for registration in 1992. Great Britain’s purebred cat registry accepted the Selkirk for registration in 2004. The Selkirk Rex Breed Club has taken the position that Selkirks should not be out-crossed to any other Rex breeds, so that the pedigree retains its purity.
There are no known health problems specific to the Selkirk Rex breed. They are generally healthy and robust. Breeding towards proper head structure is important to prevent kinking of the tear ducts or muzzle creases that can result in facial fold dermatitis. Like other Rex breeds, irritation of the ear by curly hairs can occur and may increase the production and accumulation of ear wax.
Homozygous cats (with two copies of the dominant Selkirk Rex gene) may have a tendency towards excessive greasiness of the coat, requiring increased frequency of bathing. Other health problems may be inherited from the outcross breeds used, including polycystic kidney disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Responsible Selkirk breeders may screen their breeding animals for these conditions, to minimize their future impact on the breed.