Selkirk Rex

Selkirk Rex
One of the newest natural breeds, this naturally curly cat originated from a housecat, Miss DePesto of Noface, found in a shelter in Montana. Given to Persian breeder, Jeri Newman of Montana, who bred her to PhotoFinish of Deekay, a black Persian. "Pest" produced three curly kittens out of six - proving that unlike the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, Pest's mutation was dominant. Because the gene is dominant, curly kittens can be born in the same litter with straight haired kittens.

The Selkirk Rex is being developed as a large, heavy boned cat rather like the British Shorthair in conformation. The head is round with no flat planes. The curl is plush and loosely curled, showing up more dramatically on the longhair. Selkirks are healthy and sturdy. They are an incredibly patient, loving, and tolerant cats. From the moment of birth, curly kittens can be distinguished from their straight haired littermates by their curly whiskers. The whiskers are brittle and may break as they grow longer. The whiskers and hair do not change as the cat grows older; if they are curly at birth, they are curly as an adult. Even if the coat later shows less curl, the cat has the curly gene and retains the curly whiskers.

Exquisitely plush with cascades of colorful curls, the Selkirk rex is perfect if you like the permed look. Mother Nature is the Selkirk's hairdresser, however; no hot rollers touch this cat's naturally curly locks. Often described as a cat in sheep's clothing, the Selkirk has won friends and influenced people with her cute curls and loving personality.

As a breed, the Selkirk rex is barely a teenager, a mere 14 years old, but has already rocketed into the cat fancy spotlight at warp speed. To date, the Selkirk has earned championship status with seven of the ten North American cat associations. While still a rare breed - in 2000 the cat placed 29th out of 40 breeds, according to CFA's registration totals - a unique coat and personality have assured this breed a place in the hearts and homes of cat lovers everywhere.

A mature male or spayed female will have the best coat. In the best examples, the curling is strongest on the flanks, tummy and around the neck, with some curl on the back. The back of a Selkirk has the least amount of curl.

Selkirk Rexes come in two coat lengths: short and long. Each length has a separate division within the judging process. The care of the two different lengths of coats is similar to that of either a short or longhair coat. Brushing in either case should not be as frequent if the curly coat is to be maintained. Shampoos that do not coat the hair but leave the cat feeling silky and clean are the best to allow the hairs to curl.

This breed is not for the uptight organized pet owner. These cats' humans must be prepared to take all kinds of hair jokes such as: "The cat with the bad hair day." "Why don't you groom your cat," or "This cat is our dip and dry variety." Such comments lead to the hidden secret: they make you laugh. Although they may not always win the beauty pageant, they always win the title of Miss Congeniality.

Selkirk Rex owners are consistently stopped by people with anxious hands wanting to pet and feel this soft, plush pet. The fortunate humans are those who can take these live teddy cats home for cuddles and hugs.

Selkirk Rex - Current - Rounded stocky body type (bred with Exotics to increase cobbiness). Longhaired and shorthaired, dominant rex gene. Tailless Selkirk Rexes have also occurred, but were all neutered. 

Selkirk Rex cats are healthy and sturdy. They are incredibly patient, loving and tolerant. From the moment they are born, curly kittens can be distinguished from their straight haired littermates by their curly whiskers. Selkirk Rex kittens with their curly coats and inquisitive playfulness are irresistible to watch. As they grow, the curl varies, but is always there. As they get older, the curly whiskers that are so cute on a kitten can become brittle and break off - leaving them with whiskers that are barely there.

Maintaining the curl and coat in the Selkirk Rex cat is the same as with any longhair cat - combing and brushing before bathing. However, too much combing and brushing after the bath will straighten the hairs and the curl is not as obvious. Shampoos that don't coat the hair but leave it silky and clean are the best to allow the hairs to curl.

Currently there are not many curly pets available - most curly cats, especially females, are in breeding programs. Males are usually more readily available and make wonderful, affectionate pets.

If you get a chance to see a Selkirk Rex, ask if you can touch it. Most exhibitors of Selkirk Rex cats will allow a touch, since to feel the coat is to appreciate the breed.


The Selkirk is the newest Rex breed to be recognized by the U.S. cat associations and has been around only a short time compared with the Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex. The Selkirk's development and promotion were due primarily to the efforts of breeder Jeri Newman of Livington, Montana, although other dedicated breeders have lent a hand in furthering the breed.

Newman, a Persian breeder for many years, had always been fascinated by cat genetics and asked friends and family to be on the lookout for any cat that was "out of the ordinary." In 1987 a woman who had bought one of Newman's Persians noticed an unusual, curly kitten at the animal shelter where she worked and took the kitten to Newman.

Newman named the kitten Miss DePesto for her tendency to pester Newman for attention. Entranced by Miss DePesto's personality and curly coat, Newman bred her to a Persian male. This mating subsequently produced a litter of six, three of whom had the distinctive curls.

Newman went on to combine the qualities of the British Shorthair, American Shorthair, and Exotic Shorthair into the Selkirk bloodline and to show and promote the breed in the associations. At first progress was slow, but with the help of Newman's small clan of breeders the Selkirk gained recognition.

The breed was presented to TICA's board of directors in 1990 and was accepted into the New Breed and Color class. The CFA accepted the breed for registration in the Miscellaneous class in February of 1992. The breed now has Championship status with ACA, TICA, and UFO.


Selkirks are fun-loving, mellow cats with a generous measure of love and affection for their human companions. Very people-oriented, they stay playful and kittenish even as adults. They're very social and don't do well in isolation.


The Selkirk's head is round, broad and full-cheeked with round underlying bone structure. Well-padded whisker pads give the muzzle a square appearance. The medium-sized, tapering ears are broad at the base and set well apart on the head. Large, rounded eyes, set well apart, give the cat an alert, inquisitive expression.

The medium to large body is well balanced with a muscular torso and a straight back that rises slightly toward the hindquarters. The tail is medium length and heavy at the base.

Of course, what really sets the breed apart is the coat, which is curly, soft and plush. The Selkirk possesses all three hair types - guard, down and awn - and all are curly, with the curl more pronounced around the neck and tail. Even the whiskers curl, giving the face a whimsical appearance.

The Selkirk comes in both shorthair and longhair varieties, and considerable difference exists between the two. The coat of the shorthaired Selkirk is plush, medium in length, and curls over the entire body. In the longhair, the dense, semi-long coat hangs in loose individual ringlets and has a more dramatic look - you can't miss those curly locks. The curls are particularly prominent around the neck and on the tail. In both hair lengths, the fur is soft and dense. The Selkirk rex is accepted in all colors and patterns, including colorpoint.


The Devon and the Cornish Rex have coats governed by recessive genes. In order for a cat to display a recessive characteristic, the kitten must inherit the gene from both parents. The Selkirk's gene is dominant, meaning that only one parent need possess the gene for the curly coat to be expressed in the offspring. A cat that has received the Rex gene from one parent will produce Rex kittens at an approximate ratio of one Rex to one straight-coated kitten. The kittens born with straight coats do not carry the Rex gene at all. A cat receiving the gene for the Rex coat from both parents (homozygous) is a great boon for breeders, since the cat can be bred with an outcrossing and all the resulting kittens will have the Rex coat. Also, the fur of homozygous cats is curlier and softer than the coats of cats that possess only one copy of the gene.

The coat goes through several stages as the cat develops. A Selkirk is curly at birth, then loses its curliness and slowly acquires it again at 8 to 10 months of age. The coat doesn't fully develop until the cat is two years old. Climate, season, and hormones (particularly in the females) can also influence the coat curl. Unlike the Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex, the Selkirk Rex comes in both long and short hair.

GeneralThe Selkirk Rex is the result of a dominant, spontaneous mutation that causes each hair (guard, down and awn) to have a gentle curl giving the coat a soft feel. This is a medium to large cat with heavy boning that gives the cat surprising weight and an impression of power. Females may be less massive than males but not dainty in appearance. The Selkirk Rex is an active cat with a sweet and endearing personality. Balance and substance are the essence of the breed, where all parts come together in harmonious whole with neither too much nor too little consideration given to any one feature.
Torso: medium to large and well-balanced. The substantial muscular torso is more rectangular than square, but not long. Back is straight with a slight rise to the hindquarters. Shoulders and hip should appear to be the same width. Legs: medium to long. Substantial boning. Should be in proportion to the body. Feet: large, round, and firm. Toes: five in front, four behind. Tail: medium length, proportionate to body. Heavy at base, neither blunt nor pointed at tip.
HeadSkull: round, broad and full-cheeked in both males and females. Skull structure to be smooth and round to the touch from the stop to the back of the head as well as across the breadth of the forehead and between the ears. Muzzle: the muzzle is medium width. The underlying bone structure is rounded with well-padded whisker pads to give the impression of squareness. The length is equal to 1/2 the width. Profile shows a muzzle, clearly visible beyond the curve of the cheek. The tip of the chin lines up with the tip of the nose and the upper lip in the same vertical plane. Profile reveals a nose stop. The nose has a downward slant with a convex curve and is set below the eye line. Chin: firm and well-developed, balanced in proportion to the rest of the head and should be neither receding, protruding, nor excessively massive. Either level or scissors bite is considered correct (level bite - top and bottom front teeth meet evenly. Scissors bite - inside edge of top front teeth touch outside edge of lower front teeth). Ears: medium in size, broad at the base, tapering, set well apart. Should fit into (without distorting) the rounded contour of the head. Furnishings, if present, are curly. Eyes: large, rounded, set well apart. The eyes should not appear almond or oval-shaped. The outside corner is set very slightly higher than the inner corner, giving a sweet open expression to the face.
EarsRounded with a pointed tip; size medium; set well apart.
EyesRound; size large; placement wide apart. Color no correlation to coat color; points awarded for intensity of color.
TailTapers slightly to rounded tip; length medium.
CoatCoat length: two lengths - short and long. The differences in coat length are most obviously seen on the tail and ruff. On the shorthairs the tail hair is the same length as the coat (approximately 1"-2") and tail curls are plush and lie compactly around the tail. The ruff is the same length as the coat fur. On the longhairs, the tail curls are plumy and stand out away from the tail. The ruff hairs are also longer and frame the face.
ColorSHORTHAIR- Texture: the coat texture is soft, plushy, full and obviously curly. Density: the coat is dense and full with no bald or thinly covered areas of the body. The coat stands out from the body and should not appear flat or close-lying. Curl: this is a random, unstructured coat, arranged in loose, individual curls. The curls appear to be in "clumps" rather than as an all over wave. Although curl varies by hair length, sex and age in an individual, the entire coat should show the effect of the rex gene. Curliness may be evident more around the neck, on the tail and the belly. Allowance should be made for less curl on younger adults and kittens.
LONGHAIR - Texture: the coat texture is soft, full, and obviously curly. It does not feel or appear to be as plush as the shorthair coat, however, should not appear to be thin. Density: the coat is dense and full with no bald or thinly covered areas of the body. The coat may stand out from the body but may appear and feel less than plush, but not close-lying. Curl: this is a random, unstructured coat, arranged in loose, individual curls. The curls appear to be in "clumps" or "ringlets" rather than as an all over wave. Although curl vaires by hair length, sex and age in an individual, entire coat should show the effect of the rex gene. Curliness may be evident more around the neck, on the tail and the belly. Allowance should be made for less curl on younger adults and kittens.
PenalizeExcessive cobbiness or sleek oriental appearance.
DisqualifyExtreme nose break, lack of visible muzzle, malocclusion, tail kinks, crossed eyes, obvious physical deformities, including polydactl feet, no evidence of curl.
Allowable OutcrossesNone