Selkirk Rex

Prized for its unusual curly coat, the Selkirk Rex cat is one of only four breeds of cat with wavy fur. This curly-haired cat has a warm, loving disposition and comes in both short- and long-haired versions.
By Doug Jimerson
August 24, 2020
Selkirk Rex
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament
All filters

Selkirk Rex

height
  • 9 to 11 inches
weight
  • 6 to 16 pounds
life span
  • 15 to 20 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
intelligence
  • medium
shedding amount
  • normal
playfulness
  • medium
activity level
  • calm
vocalness
  • infrequent
coat length
  • short
  • long
colors
  • chocolate / brown / sable
  • cinnamon
  • lavender / silver
  • fawn
  • blue / gray
  • black / ebony
  • cream / beige / tan
  • lilac
  • white
  • red / orange
patterns
  • bi-color
  • solid
  • tabby
  • calico / tri-color
  • color point
other traits
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • tolerates being alone
  • low prey drive
  • good for first-time pet owners
  • strong loyalty tendencies
  • good lap cat
  • tolerates being picked up

If you’ve always dreamed of owning a live Teddy bear, a Selkirk Rex cat may be for you. These large, huggable kitties have round heads, big eyes, and a plush, curly coat that comes in a host of colors and patterns (even their whiskers are curled!). Both long-haired and short-haired Selkirk Rex cats are available and equally treasured. This cat breed is intelligent, loving, easy-going, and gets along well with people and other animals. Developed in the 1980s, Selkirk Rex is not yet as common as some other breeds, but it’s definitely worth seeking out. 

Appearance

Selkirk Rex cats have occasionally been called “the cat in sheep’s clothing.” That’s because their dense, curly coats could almost be mistaken for wool, especially if they’re white or cream-colored. You’d think their coats take a lot of work to maintain, but actually, if you brush this pet too often, you might straighten their curls. You do, however, have to comb them at least once a week to prevent any mats or felting from happening. Some Selkirk Rex cats have short hair with tight curls, and others have long, more wavy coats.

Selkirk Rex cats are medium to large in size, can weigh as much as 16 pounds, and come in almost every color and pattern. Their rounded heads, large eyes, and pointed ears are hard to resist. All eye colors are acceptable.

Temperament

Their curly coats aren’t the only thing that makes Selkirk Rex cats special. These fuzzy beauties are also prized for their curious, upbeat, and friendly dispositions. Selkirk Rex cats are an intelligent breed that loves to play games and/or just hang out with their owners. Their wavy coats make them extra huggable, but don’t expect them to be lazy lap cats, as these felines like to keep busy. Selkirk cats will also happily share their homes with other cats or dogs with proper introductions. Overall, Selkirk Rex cats have a loving, even keel personality.

Living Needs

Because they are so easy-going, Selkirk Rex cats are happy as clams wherever they live, whether it be a one-bedroom apartment or a palatial estate. Their main requirement is love and attention, but don’t worry, they won’t become cloying and annoying. Selkirk Rex cats make especially good pets for seniors and children because they are so easy to handle. Like other breeds, a Selkirk Rex will enjoy a cat tower to climb on and at least one padded window seat they can use to watch the outside world go by. Other than that, a Selkirk Rex will enjoy all the usual cat toys: felt mice, plastic balls, interactive games, and feather teasers. They can live the single life, or be part of a bigger pack—it won’t matter to them one bit as long as you’re around for them to admire.

Care

Regular grooming is the most important part of caring for a Selkirk Rex. “They are a wash-and-wear cat,” says Mary Jones, Selkirk Rex breeder and co-owner of Nite Wind Cattery. But they need regular combing. “I recommend combing at least once a week,” she says. In order to keep this breed’s coat tangle- and mat-free, she recommends using a comb with longer tines (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in length) for the body, and shorter tines for the face and legs. Grooming can be a fun experience for you and your cat. Keep in mind that this cat’s unusual curly coat means that overgrooming may flatten the curls. And undergrooming may result in snarls or tangles. 

The Selkirk Rex is not hypoallergenic. (Actually no cats are.)  Most allergies are caused by cat dander, not by the type of fur a cat has. However, because Selkirk Rex has a tendency to shed less than some other breeds, you may be exposed to fewer of the proteins that cause allergies to flare up. 

Regular bathing is necessary as well because Selkirk Rex coats can get greasy if left unattended. Both short- and long-haired Selkirk Rex cats need regular home salon treatments.

Beyond coat care, these curly cats are a cinch to live with. They are generally not fussy about their diets and they use their litter boxes religiously once trained.

Health

Selkirk Rex cats have few health issues, but because over time the breed once had infusions of Persian and British shorthair, it does carry their same capacity to develop polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) later in life. But these issues are not particularly common, especially if you buy your kitten or cat from a reputable breeder. Hip dysplasia is also possible, but again, Selkirk Rex is considered to be a very healthy breed for the most part.

Like other cats, Selkirk Rex requires regular dental and nail care as well as vaccinations and physical exams at your veterinarian. They should also be spayed and neutered and kept indoors for safety. Selkirk Rex cats can happily live 10 to 15 years, according to Jones. “Selkrik Rex cats are generally very long-lived,” she says. 

History

Unlike some of the more aristocratic cat breeds, the Selkirk Rex didn’t start out padding around castles and monasteries. Instead, this curly-haired cat breed comes from humble beginnings—an animal shelter in Montana. Yes, that’s right, an animal shelter where a fuzzy little kitten was discovered in 1987. Named Miss DePesto, this little furball was adopted by Jeri Newman and soon became the “mother cat”of the Selkirk Rex breed. Over the years, other breeds such as Persian, Exotic shorthair, and British shorthair were incorporated into the gene pool to create the amazing breed we have now. Both long- and short-haired versions of Selkirk Rex cats can trace their ancestry back to Miss DePesto.

Fun Facts

  • The Selkirk Rex is the only breed of cat named for a real person. Jeri Newman, who discovered Miss DePesto at the animal shelter, named the breed after her stepfather and the nearby Selkirk mountains. A mutant gene caused the little kitten’s coat to be wavy instead of straight like its littermates.
  • A gray male Selkirk Rex cat from Salt Lake City named Pompous Albert is probably the most famous representative of the breed. With hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, Pompous Albert (named after Albert Einstein) has also been seen in car commercials and in People Magazine. His signature scowl continues to win him admirers and followers from around the world.
  • The Selkirk Rex cats are prized for their unusual curly coat, but they also have curly whiskers that add to their charm. Curly coated kittens and those with straight hair can occur in the same litter.