Vital Stats:Life Span: 10 to 15 years
With a thick coat of woolly looking curls, the Selkirk is sometimes nicknamed the cat in sheep’s clothing. Like his curly-coated cousins the Cornish and Devon Rexes, the Selkirk is the result of a natural genetic mutation, but he has a very different look, thanks to his dense coat and heavy-set body.
The Selkirk originated in Montana, where the first known cat of this type was born in 1987, one of a litter of six kittens found in an animal shelter. The others had the typical straight coat of a domestic shorthaired cat, but the curly-coated female was so unusual that she was brought to the attention of a local Persian breeder, Jeri Newman, who adopted her. Newman named her Miss DePesto and, out of curiosity, bred her when she was grown to a black Persian. Of the six kittens Miss DePesto produced, three had curly coats, indicating that the gene for the characteristic was dominant. That was not the case with the Cornish or Devon Rexes, which owe their wavy coats to a recessive gene. She also carried genes for long hair and a pointed coat, and both traits made an appearance in her descendants.
Newman called the new breed Selkirk, after her stepfather, making it unique among cat breeds in being named for a person. She added Rex to indicate that the coat was curly.
To maintain genetic diversity and to give the cats a more pleasing appearance, she and other breeders outcrossed them not only to Persians but also to Exotics, American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs. The cats were recognized by The International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers Association in the 1990s and by the Cat Fanciers Association in 2000, although the CFA began registering the cats in 1992.
These cats weigh 10 to 15 pounds.
The Selkirk is the relaxed Rex. His Persian and British Shorthair ancestors give him a placid, cuddly nature, but he is more active than those breeds and likes to play. People who live with him describe him as sweet and endearing, with a bit of a silly streak.
Tolerant and affectionate, the Selkirk is not always a lap cat, but he likes people and other animals. With his sociable nature, he dislikes being left alone for long periods. Keep this fun-loving cat entertained with a fishing-pole toy or flashlight beam, and he will be thrilled. Ignore him at your peril. He won’t hesitate to demand attention in a small, quiet voice if he feels that he’s not getting his due.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Selkirk Rex are generally healthy, but be sure to ask a breeder about the incidence of any health problems in her lines and what testing has been done for those that are genetic in nature.
The Selkirk Rex has a dense coat that should be combed a couple of times a week to prevent or remove tangles. Selkirks do shed, so regular combing also removes dead hair that would otherwise end up on your clothing or furniture or hacked up as hairballs. Gently running your fingers through his coat will help fluff up the curls, just about the easiest styling you can do.
A bath is rarely necessary, but if your Selkirk gets dirty, use a moisturizing shampoo and let him air dry for a few hours in a warm, draft-free place. Using a blow dryer will give him an appearance more like that of a Poodle.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Wipe the corners of the eyes daily with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Like all cats, Selkirk Rex are very particular about bathroom hygiene.
It’s a good idea to keep a Selkirk Rex as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Selkirk Rex who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such an unusual cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
Imagine a medium-size to large cat with a heavy-boned but muscular body, a rounded head, and a soft, woolly coat of loose curls that can be short or long in any of a multitude of colors. That’s the Selkirk Rex. Kittens come out curly, go through a straight stage during adolescence, then mature into plush, dense clumps of curls when they are about two years old.
The Selkirk’s facial characteristics include full cheeks—males are downright jowly—broad-based medium-size ears, sometimes with curly furnishings, and large rounded eyes that give a sweet expression.
The difference in coat length may not be immediately obvious without first observing the ruff and tail. Shorthairs have a ruff that is the same length as the fur on the rest of the body and plush curls on the tail that lie compactly. A longhaired Selkirk has a longer ruff that frames the face and plumy curls on the tail that stand out rather than lying demurely in place. With either length, the coat may appear most curly around the neck and on the belly and tail.
The coat comes in any genetically possible color or combination of colors. If it’s possible for a cat to be purple polka-dotted, you will find a Selkirk in that pattern. The eyes, too, can be any color.
Children And Other Pets
The gentle but social Selkirk Rex is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect. Introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.