Dreaming of life with a Selkirk Rex cat?
Shannon Cutts arms you with everything you need to know about this inimitable woolly cat breed.
Imagine a cat with curly hair.
Do you have the picture in your mind?
You have just pictured a Selkirk Rex cat!
The Selkirk Rex is a newly popular cat which only became an officially recognized natural breed in 1990.
Introducing the striking Selkirk Rex
Selkirk Rex cats may be new to the show ring, but they haven’t wasted any time generating new nicknames.
“Dip and dry cat,” “cat in sheep’s clothing,” “poodle cat” and “bad hair day cat” are just a few of the nicknames Selkirk Rex owners hear regularly.
As a Selkirk Rex owner, you will need to be okay with other people wanting to pet your cat.
The soft, curly, plush, thick fur of these cats is not only unusual but is also nearly irresistible!
So what exactly is a Selkirk Rex cat? Is the breed Selkirk Rex hypoallergenic? Where can you get Selkirk Rex kittens?
We will answer each of these questions and many more in this article!
What is a Selkirk Rex?
The Selkirk Rex cat got its unlikely start in 1987, when a Persiancat breeder named Jeri Newman got a call from a local feline rescue organization.
The shelter had received an unusual kitten who had softly kinked (wavy) hair.
Ms. Newman adopted the kitten and bred her to a purebred Persian from her own line.
A few breeding litters later, curly-haired kittens began to emerge.
Future generations revealed the new natural breed, which was named Selkirk Rex.
Spotting a Selkirk Rex cat
The Selkirk Rex’s signature coat can be shorthair or longhair.
The shorthair Selkirk Rex cat is often described as a “teddy bear cat,” whereas the longhair Selkirk Rex often gets likened to a “woolly sheep.”
This cat has a strong, stocky body and a round head with round eyes and a sweet-natured gaze.
The name “Selkirk Rex” gives a nod to this cat breed’s birthplace in Montana and a nearby mountain range, the Selkirk Mountains.
Selkirk Rex fur
The fur that is so remarkable in the Selkirk Rex cat is a dominant gene.
What this means is that only one parent cat needs to pass along the gene for a kitten to be born with curly fur.
Also, both straight hair and curly fur kittens can be born in the same litter.
What is most amazing about this is that the original mutation in Ms. Newman’s stray kitty was new, and less than nine generations later, this mutation has been developed into a popular new breed of curly fur cat!
Selkirk Rex shorthair vs Selkirk Rex longhair
The Selkirk Rex shorthair and the Selkirk Rex longhair cats both came out of the same genetic line.
The hair length difference partly reflects the original shelter kitty’s own DNA, which Ms. Newman determined to include a longhair gene.
Hair length is also determined by subsequent breeding between the new Selkirk Rex cats and British Shorthair, American Shorthair and Persian cats.
So today’s Selkirk Rex cat remains an ever-evolving genetic line.
Research has identified that there is also a straight hair Selkirk Rex – this is a relatively rare phenomenon, however (if you are curious, this journal study includes pictures of the difference between a curly fur and straight hair Selkirk Rex cat).
Selkirk Rex grooming
The Selkirk Rex cat’s unique curly coat means it can be more labor-intensive to maintain than either typical shorthair or longhair cat breeds.
Brush it too often and vigorously and you will brush out the curl.
Don’t brush it enough and you will likely encounter snarls, tangles and mats when you next get around to it.
Similarly, bathe your Selkirk Rex cat too frequently and you will wash out the natural oils that help keep the coat feeling soft and plush.
Don’t bathe your cat enough, however, and the coat is liable to get greasy.
The Selkirk Rex’s coat is also unique in another way: it is triple layer!
Tools for Selkirk Rex grooming
To strike the right balance, it will help to invest in special grooming tool.
These include a wide mouth comb with long tines that can penetrate through all three layers. You may also want to keep a de-greaser handy for times when you have gone too long without bathing.
However, if you plan to show your Selkirk Rex, show breeders say this cat breed is actually easier to get ready for the show ring, because the curls are “wash and wear.”
In other words, you can bathe your Selkirk Rex cat the night before and towel dry – no blow drying or extra styling required.
Then the next morning, just lightly spritz the curls and “scrunch” them with your hands to refresh the coat’s natural curl.
Voila – your cat is ready for the show ring!
Selkirk Rex cat personality
The Selkirk Rex cat has garnered a reputation as a very sweet-tempered, calm, friendly and cuddly cat.
This is a plus, since this is a cat that will naturally draw attention!
The Persian influence is largely responsible for this cat’s enjoyment of a good cuddle.
The British shorthair influence gives the Selkirk Rex an easy-going, calm personality.
And the American/Exotic shorthair has contributed a playful quality to the Selkirk Rex’s temperament.
Selkirk Rex cat lifespan
The Selkirk Rex cat typically lives anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
As with all cat breeds, your Selkirk Rex cat’s diet, level of activity, enrichment, overall health and genetic makeup can all contribute to how long your cat may live.
Is a Selkirk Rex hypoallergenic?
There is a happy myth circulating about the “Selkirk Rex hypoallergenic cat.”
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat.
Similarly, there is no cat that doesn’t shed at all – not even the hairless cat breeds, since they typically have some fine downy hair as well.
And in fact, shedding is a secondary issue to the production of proteins which are the real culprits for cat allergy sufferers.
These proteins are called Fel d1, Fel d2, Fel d3 and Fel d4.
Fel d1 is the allergen that tends to provoke the most symptoms.
All cats produce these allergens, because they come from the salivary (mouth) and lacrimal (eye) glands as well as from the sebaceous (skin) glands.
Some cats produce less of these allergens than others, however.
Selkirk Rex cats and allergies
Curly coat cats such as the Selkirk Rex will shed less than many straight hair cat breeds, which means you may come in contact with less of the irritating proteins.
So while choosing a Selkirk Rex cat may mean your cat allergy symptoms are reduced, there is no guarantee.
NOTE: We’ve written more about hypoallergenic cat breeds and the Selkirk Rex cat here.
Selkirk Rex health
The Selkirk Rex cat breed is still sufficiently new that there is less of a genetic health history database built up for this breed.
However, since the genetic contributions from the British shorthair, Persian and Exotic/American shorthair are well known, it is possible to look ahead to some potential genetically transmitted health concerns.
These are the major heritable health conditions associated with the Selkirk Rex cat breed:
Polycystic kidney disease
This congenital disease is common to the Persian breed, which explains why it can show up in Selkirk Rex cats as well.
Small, fluid-filled sacs (cysts) form inside the kidney and continue to grow until they take up more room than the remaining kidney tissue, causing renal failure.
A cat with this condition will have the cysts inside the kidneys even at birth.
But because not all affected cats show symptoms, sometimes it isn’t detected until the condition has already seriously compromised the kidneys.
Treatment basically focuses on keeping the kidneys functional for as long as possible.
There is a genetic test that can determine whether a kitten has the cysts or not, but only an ultrasound can indicate how serious the condition may be.
The genetic test is good for determining whether a pair of cats could pass the condition to their kittens, so breeders should have their breeding cats tested.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
This complicated term can be translated to mean “thickened heart walls (ventricles).”
When the heart walls thicken, it is harder for your cat’s heart to support their body.
While there are some medications, this is a very difficult condition to treat and will progress to heart failure in time.
There is a genetic blood test that can determine the likelihood that a kitten may develop HCM.
The Selkirk Rex is considered a medium to large cat breed.
The larger the cat, the more pressure on the hip socket.
Hip dysplasia is a heritable condition where the socket is badly formed, and this can cause pain while running and jumping.
Typically, only surgery can correct hip dysplasia.
There is no genetic test for kittens to determine the likelihood of hip dysplasia in the future, the responsibility lies with Selkirk Rex breeders to not breed affected cats.
An X-ray can make a definitive diagnosis once symptoms appear.
Selkirk Rex health – overview
While the three genetic health conditions mentioned here are each serious and can sound daunting, overall the Selkirk Rex cat breed is considered to be mostly healthy.
Hopefully it will remain this way if breeders commit to maintaining sufficient genetic diversity via crossbreeding to minimize the risk of serious congenital health issues.
You can play a part too, by choosing a Selkirk Rex breeder to work with who is taking the health of the breed seriously.
Selkirk Rex kittens
Selkirk Rex kittens are in demand and you may need to get on a waiting list to get a kitten.
As an alternative, you may want to adopt a Selkirk Rex cat from a rescue organization or shelter.
You may not be able to learn as much about the health history of an adopted Selkirk Rex cat, but you can still opt to have the cat genetically tested for polycystic kidney disease and hyptropic cardiomyopathy before making a commitment.
Some rescue organizations will even pay for genetic testing to facilitate faster placement of desirable cats in good homes.
Selkirk Rex price
Since this cat breed is still relatively new and happens to be quite popular right now, you can expect the Selkirk Rex kittens price to put a dent in your wallet.
For general purposes, expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $800 for a healthy pedigreed Selkirk Rex kitten.
The Selkirk Rex price for a kitten can vary depending on coat color, gender, birth order, size, lineage, championship show status and other factors.
Selkirk Rex cat breeders
Choosing among Selkirk Rex breeders to find the breeder you want to work with is an important part of bringing home a healthy kitten.
In general, look for a breeder that is up-front about their operation and takes pride in the health of their lineage.
Any breeder worth working with should offer you each of the following:
- Proof that their breeding line has been genetically tested and shown to be free from polycystic kidney disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
- Evidence that the parent cats have been X-rayed and shown to be free from the signs of hip dysplasia.
- An initial health guarantee for your new kitten (typically this may run anywhere from six to 12 months).
- A take-back offer if your new kitten does not work out.
- Pedigree papers.
- Proof that your new kitten has received all required vaccinations.
- Willingness to allow you to visit the cattery in person and see that the operation is clean, sanitary and healthy.
- Enthusiasm to let you meet and interact with both parent cats and with your kitten before you make the commitment.
- Permission you to have a kitten you are interested in genetically tested for polycystic kidney disease and hypertropic cardiomyopathy if you desire.
Is a Selkirk Rex right for me?
The Selkirk Rex cat has a lot going for it, and it is no surprise this cat breed is rapidly gaining popularity!
The unique curly coat means these cats are cute as can be. Who wouldn’t want a snuggly-soft kitty to curl up with?
The Selkirk Rex’s personality is also a major plus. This cat is all about being petted and loved as part of your family.
Could a Selkirk Rex cat be the right breed for you?
Do drop us a comment and let us know what you think!
CFA, “Breed Profile: The Selkirk Rex,” The Cat Fanciers Association, 2017.
TICA Selkirk Rex Committee, “Selkirk Rex Breed Seminar: Grooming,” The International Cat Association, 2018.
Newman, J., “History of Selkirk Rex,” The Selkirk Rex Cat Club, 2018.
Gandolfi, B., et al, “A splice variant in KRT71 is associated with curly coat phenotype of Selkirk Rex cats,” Nature Scientific Reports, 2013.
Freeman. L.M., “Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: A Spontaneous Large Animal Model of Human HCM,” Cardiology Research, 2017.
Scherk, M., DVM, DABVP (Feline Medicine), “Feline Polycystic Kidney Disease,” Clinician’s Brief: Feline Medicine/Nephrology, 2014.
Kornreich, B., DVM, “Hip Dysplasia,” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 2016.
Filler, S., et al, “New cat breed, Selkirk Rex, genetically different from other curly-haired cats,” Science News: University of Vienna, 2012.
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