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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!). You can find long-haired and short-haired Selkirk rex cats, and both are equally treasured by cat fanciers.
This cat breed is intelligent, loving, easygoing, and gets along well with people and other animals. Because the breed was just developed in the 1980s, the Selkirk rex is not yet as common as some other breeds, but their one-of-a-kind looks and personality are definitely worth seeking out.
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.
As one of four curly-haired cat breeds (the others are the Devon rex, the Cornish rex, and the LaPerm), some Selkirk rex cats have short hair with tight curls and others have long, more wavy coats. You'd think their coats take a lot of work to maintain, but if you brush this curly cutie too often, you might make his fur frizzy, says Chyrle Bonk, DVM, veterinary writer with Hepper. You do, however, have to comb them at least once a week to prevent any mats or felting from happening.
Selkirk rex cats are medium to large in size—some can weigh as much as 16 pounds—and come in almost every color and pattern. Their rounded heads, large eyes, and pointed ears make these kitties hard to resist.
Their curly coats aren't the only thing that makes the Selkirk rex special. These fuzzy beauties are also prized for their curious, upbeat, and friendly dispositions.
"Selkirk rexes are typically a very loving cat with lots of personality," Bonk says. "They are affectionate and sometimes needy, but not overly pushy. They love to cuddle in your lap but also have a fun-loving side that may cause them to do some hilarious antics when the mood strikes."
As an intelligent breed, Selkirk rex cats can get bored easily if they aren't mentally stimulated. So as a pet parent, you need to make sure your cat has access to plenty of toys and quality play sessions. Their wavy coats make them extra huggable, but don't expect them to be lazy lap cats—these felines like to keep busy.
Because they are so easygoing, Selkirk rex cats are happy as clams wherever they live, whether it be a one-bedroom apartment or a palatial estate. Their main requirement? Love and attention.
"To be happy, a Selkirk rex needs people," Bonk says. "While they don't require constant attention, they do love to be with their family, either following them around or cuddling on the couch. They don't like a lot of alone time, especially if they don't have anything to occupy their minds."
Because of their friendly and affectionate nature, Selkirk rex cats can make especially good pets for seniors and children. And with proper socialization and introductions, these cats can get along well with other furry friendly members.
Like most cat breeds, a Selkirk rex will enjoy a cat tree to climb on and at least one padded window seat they can use to look outside and chatter at birds. Other than that, a Selkirk rex will enjoy all the usual cat toys: felt mice, plastic balls, interactive games, and feather teasers.
Along with giving your cat lots of love, regular grooming is an 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 free of tangles and mats, she recommends using a comb with longer tines for the body and shorter tines for the face and legs. Keep in mind: This cat's unusual curly coat means that over-grooming may turn those gorgeous curls into a frizzy mess.
Other than a weekly bush, a Selkirk rex needs an occasional bath whenever he's smelling less than his best. And, like with every cat, you need to keep his claws trimmed, his teeth brushed, and his litter box clean.
Selkirk rex cats have few health issues, but because, over time, the breed was crossbred with Persian and British shorthair cats, they can be susceptible to a few conditions, Bonk says.
They carry the 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 Selkirk rex breeder. Hip dysplasia is also possible.
Like other cats, the Selkirk rex requires routine vaccinations and physical exams from your veterinarian. These kitties should also be spayed and neutered and kept indoors for safety. A happy, healthy Selkirk rex can live 10–15 years.
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 the 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.
- 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 "Selkirk" after her stepfather. A mutant gene caused the little kitten's coat to be wavy instead of straight like her littermates.
- A gray Selkirk rex cat from Salt Lake City named Pompous Albert is probably the most famous representative of the breed. With more than 300,000 followers on Instagram, 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.