The Selkirk Rex cat breed is considered one of the newest among cat breeds of natural mutation. It originated from a feral cat in Montana in 1987. It was born among a litter of five kittens, but stood out among them with its unusual coat of curly hairs. Jeri Newman, a breeder of Persian cats, spotted and acquired it with the thought that it might carry a Rex gene. Newman named it Miss DePesto to reflect its attention-seeking nature and bred it to a black Persian cat. From this mating, a litter of six kittens was produced, in which three had curly hairs. This has helped to determine that - unlike the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex - the gene responsible for the rexing of the Selkirk Rex’s coat is a dominant one. Thus, only one of the breeding pair needs to carry the gene for curly kittens to be born in the same litter.
Subsequent breeding between Pest and its offspring has proven that Pest was of a diverse genetic makeup. This was reflected in the succeeding production of progenies that come in a variety of coat colors, patterns and hair lengths. Newman decided that such curly-coated cats should be recognized in its own rights and started with writing the breed standards. Newman later named the breed Selkirk in honor of her stepfather’s family name.
To further develop the breed, Newman rope in the American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan and Persian breeds in order to combine the best qualities of each into her breeding program. She also recruited like-minded breeders who had helped in building up the new breed.
It did not take long when the Selkirk got accepted for registration and exhibition by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1990. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) extended the same privileges in 1992. Two years later, TICA granted the Selkirk Rex championship status.The CFA granted it the provisional status in 1998 before advancing it to the championship status in 2000. Many other associations caught on and in record time this striking Selkirk Rex has gained the championship status in all the cat associations of North America except for the Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF).
Physical appearance and attributes
The Selkirk Rex is a medium to large cat with the males weighing typically between 11 -16 pounds and females between 6 – 12 pounds. It has a body of a semi-cobby form supported by heavy boning. The torso is substantially well-muscled with a level back and a slight rise at the hindquarters. Its medium length legs extend well into large and rounded paws. It balances with a well-proportionate tail that is thick at the base with a slight taper.
Selkirk Rex has a broad and rounded head. The cheeks are full and blend well with the muzzle of medium width. Its puffy whisker pads make the muzzle appear slightly square. It has a short and broad nose, which tip is in an imaginary vertical alignment with the tip of its firm chin. A nose break is evident when viewed in profile. The pair of medium sized ears is set well apart. They are wide at the base and taper to a rounded tip. Selkirk Rex has wide-set eyes that are large and rounded with the outer corners and inner corners set on the same level plane. All eye colors are acceptable.
The Selkirk Rex wears a dense tri-layered coat, which includes the guard hair, the down hair and the awn hair. All three hair types are curled with a soft texture and they appear randomly either in clumps or ringlets over its entire body. The neck, tail and belly usually display more curliness. Such curly trait is extended to its whiskers and ear tufts. The degree of curliness is, however dependent on the number of copies of the Rex gene inherited, the cat’s age, the cat’s gender and the climate. The coat can come in either the longhair or Shorthair variety. What sets the longhair apart from the Shorthair – besides the length - are the generous ruff around the neck and the gorgeous plume on the tail. The coat can come in all genetically possible colors and patterns.
Personality and temperament
The Selkirk Rex is a people-oriented and gentle breed. It includes every member in the family into its love and would get along well with children and other friendly pets as long as they are introduced properly. It is a highly adaptable and easy-going breed with a composed disposition.
Even though it is calm, it loves having an interactive play with people and enjoys being held and cuddled; sometimes even riding on the shoulders. It does not like solitude and even though it seeks for your attention, it is not overly-demanding.
Having inherited the best qualities of all the cat breeds used in its development, the Selkirk Rex is intelligent and agile without being destructive. Also described as entertaining, this breed will win many hearts with its amusing antics.
Care and health issues
A healthy Selkirk Rex can have an average lifespan of about 15 years. General health concerns include Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) and hip dysplasia. PKD is a hereditary condition that would lead to the cystic degeneration of the either one or both kidneys and its eventual dysfunction. This usually occurs when the kitten is between 7 – 10 years of age or much earlier.
HCM is a common heart disease among cats and would cause the thickening of the heart muscle and its failure. Selkirk Rex with hip dysplasia, a hereditary defect at the hip socket, would experience mild pain that might lead to severe lameness. Weight loss, surgery or medication could help depending on the severity of the defect.
It is important obtain the cat that comes with a written health guarantee. This ensures that the qualified breeder has brought the cat through all the necessary health checks and that no genetic diseases are present.
Grooming the tri-layered coat would require slightly more effort than other typical cats. It needs to be combed twice weekly to remove dead hair and to reduce matte and tangles. Some Selkirk Rex would have greasy coat that requires an occasional bath.
Other basic grooming practice should include nail trimming whenever necessary. Also check the ears regularly for infections or even cleaning to prevent the build up of excessive ear wax. Wipe the eyes with a moist cloth to avoid tear stain on the under eye. The teeth should be brushed frequently with vet-approved products.
The ideal home
This adaptable breed is suited for both indoor and outdoor. Outdoor spaces should be escape-proof and safe. Selkirk Rex is an inclusive breed that would get along well with children and other equally friendly pets, making it an excellent pet for most homes.
Not suited to be left alone, adequate time should be set aside for the necessary care, attention and play. This comes with creating enough space equipped with cat toys, cat gym set and scratch poles to encourage a healthy and happy growth.
The Selkirk Rex returns love with double the affections and devotion. Bred to inherit the best qualities of all cat breeds in its bloodlines Selkirk Rex is certainly a well-balanced, delightful and a winsome cat to have around the home.