The mother of all Selkirk Rexes is Miss DePesto. She was born in a Livingston shelter in Montana, USA in 1987, and was the only kitten in the nest with a curly coat, her siblings and their mother all had a normal smooth-haired coat.
She was given to the Persian breeder Jeri Newman, who was so fond of this weird fur. Miss DePesto was mated with a black Persian boy, PhotoFinish of Deekay and she gave birth to both smooth and curly kittens from him, which showed that this fur mutation was a dominant one.
Jeri Newman decided to breed further with this new Rex mutation. A new breed originated: the Selkirk Rex, in addition to Persians crossbreeders were used, from American Shorthair cats, Exotics and British shorthair and British longhair cats. These combinations were still allowed until 2015. In Europe this was mostly done with British. Then the breed had to survive. The Selkirk Rex was recognized in 1994 by TICA and in 2000 by the CFA. At the time of this writing (November 2016) there are already 4 generations of Selkirk rexen to be admired.
The Selkirk Rex is a fairly large, muscular cat. The head is round with a pronounced twist. The fur is fluffy and curly, some people call the animal “the cat in sheep’s clothing”. The slight downhill, down hair and undercoat are the result of a spontaneous mutation, it is said. The mustache hairs are curled, but are fragile (brittle) and break through playing and wrinkles. Kittens are born with curly hair. You’ll see this immediately because they also have curled mustache. The difference between short and long hair is not very good at first. Homozygous kittens (that is, in this case, say: pure for curls) are often recognized as the appearance of an alien creature, the faint fur (or even bare spots) and the slightly elevated temperature.
Heterozygous shorthaires usually lose their curls, probably because they become fertile. In rest periods, so when they are piled or castrated, the curls return. The first cat was wearing a longhair gene, which made the developing of long and shorthair variations possible. Judges and the public have a balanced taste: 50% is short-haired and the other 50% find the long-haired more beautiful! Judges always look at the phenotype so it’s useful to know that heterozygous fur is a little less curly than the homozygous nephews and nieces. In addition to curly kittens, kittens are born in many nests without curls: the so-called Selkirk Straights. These kittens are far from British. Straights may be bred, but on shows they belong in the domestic cat category. Especially very handy to preserve the type once you have a nice type of Selkirk.
The 6 varieties of a Selkirk Rex:
Heterozygote Selkirk Rex long hair curl:
These kittens have a fuller fur and long hair. Until their 2nd year of life, they regularly lose their curly coat. Castrates will also curl heavier because of the hormone fluctuations in open cats.
Heterozygote Selkirk Rex Shorthair Curl:
These kittens are the same as the heterozygote long hair but with the short coat. If they lose their curls, partly until the age of 2 years, this will be more visible than with a long hair. Even in open cats, this curl will be considerably smaller but more on their backs.
Selkirk Straight Long Hair:
Weird but true … A pair of heterozygote, both curled, can make a straighthaired kitten.
These kittens do not posess the curling gene and are therefore not recognized in some countries. Thus, on some shows they are not judged as race. They are well suited to continue the breed. They have a bit of the appearance of a British long hair but you see clearly differences when you put them next to each other. A selkirk straight can not go back to the British breed !!
Selkirk Straight Shorthair:
Just like the longhair variant, there is also a short-haired Selkirk straight. In appearance, they look very similar to a British shorthair. From the combination of straight and heterozygote kittens can be born whit a straight and curly fur. If you would use a homozygous as stud (or Sire), you will only get curly kittens. Like the long hair, this short-haired variant cannot return to the British breed!
Homozygous selkirk rex long hair:
From the combination of 2 heterozygotes, a homozygous can also be born. These kittens become partially or fully bald, shortly after their birth and this change of fur can be repeated until the age of 2 years. Their curl is thicker and fuller and shorter. Their coat is often less full than a heterozygote. A homozygote does not meet the standard of a Selkirk rex because their ears are larger and their head is spotted. They are also not such shubby built types. They always give the curling gene to their ofspring, so all kittens will be curling what makes them very wanted by breeders.
Homozygous selkirk rex shorthair:
As with the long hair, a homozygous can also be short-haired. This depends, of course, on the parent’s fur. Their fur is heavier curled than with a heterozygote, but they can also change from fur till 2 years of age.
Breeding is done with a heterozygous or with an authorized crossing. It would not be good for the breed standard and health to cross 2 homozygous. Their kittens will always be curly, heterozygous or homozygous. You can also test if you don’t know if you have homozygous or heterozygous at UC Davis
Thanks to Cattery Nisha’s Wonderland for making the varieties.
The Selkirk Rex is a happy cat with a sweet, gentle and sympathetic character. She is patient, loving and tolerant. The Selkirk Rexes are active cats who love to play and climb. A good climbingpole and enough toys are therefore advisable. They love human company. The relationship with companions is excellent and with dogs also very good. Due to their sometimes somewhat messy appearance and funny, sweet glanse and their funny behavior, they often make their owners laugh. To see it is a real hugging bear. The Selkrk is a relaxed and calm cat.
This breed has a soft-feeling fur that consists of non-sloping, loose curls. Both fur varieties require relatively little fur care. Unlike the Devon and Cornish Rex cats, the Selkirk Rex sheds normal.
Some people argue that brushing / combing is out of the question because you pull the curls out, but this is nonsense. The curls jump in again after the “polish”. The shorthair brushing once a week is more than sufficient. The fur of a long hair must be combed to prevent ticks in the undercoat.
When the cat goes to the show, the fur will be washed. For a Selkirk Rex I would choose a local treatment. This does not have to be done with water, a dry shampoo can also do a good job. If you want to wash the cat, do it about a week before the exhibition day. This way the coat can be restored in time. A trick: To activate the curl, the coat can be mildly sprayed with water or with a special spray before the cat goes to the judge. The curls can then be kneaded in.
Health problems may be inherited from the outcross breeds used, including Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) from Persians and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) from British Shorthairs. Responsible breeders screen their breeding cats for these conditions to minimise their impact on the breed. Any cat for breeding should have at least two genetically tested parents.
The Selkirk Rex has a full, plush-like, closely implanted soft coat. All hair types are represented. The cover hair can be a little stiffer. Kittens are born with a curly fur but within 6 months the curls disappear from the fur. From 8 to 10 months a curled coat again develops. This is allowed until 2 years of age. Kittens are therefore judged on type. Coat length: the shorthair the hair is no longer than 2.5 cm, the long hair between 2.5 and 5 cm. On the long hair it is long and wavy. All patterns, colors and markings are allowed, including white spots.
According to Selkirk Rex owners, the castrated cats generally have the best fur because they are not subject to hormones and hormone fluctuations.