The Selkirk Rex is a breed of cat with highly curled hair, including the whiskers (vibrissae). Unlike the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, the hair is of normal length and not partly missing, and there are longhair and shorthair varieties.
Also unlike the other Rexes, the Selkirk gene is dominant. It differs from the LaPerm in that its coat is more plush and thick and although both have dominant Rex genes they behave in different ways.
While the LaPerm gene is a simple dominant, the Selkirk gene (Se) acts as an incomplete dominant; incompletely dominant allele pairs produce three possible genotypes and phenotypes: heterozygous cats (Sese) may have a fuller coat that is preferred in the show ring, while homozygous cats (SeSe) may have a tighter curl and less coat volume. (sese type cats have a normal coat.)
The Selkirk Rex originated in America in 1987, with a cat named Miss DePesto, who was bred to a Persian, producing three Selkirk Rexes and three straight-haired cats. It is a large and solidly built breed, similar to a British Shorthair but with a characteristic curled coat. The coat has a woolly look and feel.
The Selkirk Rex originated in Montana, America in 1987, with a litter born to a rescued cat. The only unusually coated kitten in the litter was ultimately placed with a Persian breeder, Jeri Newman, who named her Miss DePesto (after a curly-haired character in the TV series Moonlighting played by Allyce Beasley).
This foundation cat was bred to a black Persian male, producing three Selkirk Rex and three straight-haired kittens. This demonstrated that the gene had an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance. All Selkirk Rex trace their ancestry back to Miss DePesto.
Selkirk Rex Variations
The breed has been developed in two coat lengths, long and short (medium). It is a large and solidly built breed, similar to a British Shorthair.
The coat is very soft and has a woolly look and feel with loose, unstructured curls. The head is round, with large rounded eyes, medium sized ears, and a distinct muzzle, whose length is equal to half its width. An extreme break, like that of a Persian, is a disqualifiable fault.
The basis for the Selkirk Rex breed is a mutation that causes a curly coat. The foundation cat for this breed was a shorthaired, curly coated dilute calico female found in a litter of normal domestic cats born in 1987.
The straight coated mother and her family of five straight coated kittens and one curly kitten landed in an animal shelter. The unusual kitten was given to Jeri Newman, an experienced Persian breeder, and named Miss DePesto. When she reached maturity she was bred to Jeri’s champion black Persian, Photo Finish of DeeKay.
The resulting litter of six contained three curly coated kittens. This proved that the gene was dominant, unlike the recessive gene of the Devon or Cornish Rex.
Because there was only one kitten with the curly coat in Miss De Pesto’s litter, it is presumed that this was a spontaneous mutation that Miss DePesto then passed on to her offspring.
Jeri decided to name the breed after her stepfather, although she told people it was named after the Selkirk Mountains in Wyoming, (which are actually in Canada!) near to where the original cat was found.
The standard calls for a medium to large cat, with heavy boning.
The head type is similar to the British Shorthair, but with more roundness to the head.
The body is muscular and rectangular, with a slight rise to the hind quarters. Selkirks come in both “shorthaired” (a length similar to that of the Exotic) and longhaired varieties.
The original cat carried the longhair gene. The coat is thick and plush and falls in loose curls. The coat is soft in texture, unlike the stiffness of an American Wirehair.
Selkirks come in a rainbow of colors, including the “pointed” colors, as the original cat was carrying the pointed gene. Because Exotic Shorthairs (some of whom have Burmese cats in their background) are an allowed outcross, burmese and “mink” colored cats have also been produced.
Kittens appear very curly at birth, but then they go through an awkward “straight” stage. Upon full maturity, the coat comes into its full glory. This is a very slow developing breed, but with time, the full head development (with jowls) and body maturity, as well as the coat quality, will improve.
American Shorthairs, Persians, Himalayans, Exotics, and British Shorthairs have been used as outcrosses to develop this breed.
The American Shorthair has now been discontinued as an outcross. In CFA, outcrossing to Persians (including Himalayans) is scheduled to be discontinued in 2010, and all outcrosses stopped in 2015. In Australia, all outcrosses are scheduled to be discontinued in 2015.
The breed was accepted by The International Cat Association in 1992 and the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 2000. The breed is accepted in all colors, including the pointed, sepia, and mink varieties of albinism; bicolors; silver/smoke; and the chocolate and lilac series.
This breed has an extremely dense coat and high propensity for shedding. Unlike other Rex breeds with reduced amounts of hair, the Selkirk Rex is not recommended for those who might be allergic to cat allergens.
The temperament of the Selkirk Rex reflects that of the breeds used in its development. They have a lot of the laid-back, reserved qualities of the British Shorthair, the cuddly nature of the Persian, and the playfulness of the Exotic Shorthair. They are very patient, tolerant, and loving.
There are no known health problems specific to the Selkirk Rex breed. They are a healthy and robust breed. Breeding towards proper head structure is necessary to prevent kinking of the tear ducts, resulting in tear run down the front of the face, or muzzle creases that can result in dermatitis on the face.
Like other Rex breeds, irritation of the ear by curly fur can occur, increasing the production of ear wax.
Homozygous cats (with two copies of the dominant Selkirk Rex gene) may have a tendency towards excessive greasiness of the coat, requiring increased frequency of bathing.
Other health problems may be inherited from the outcross breeds used, including Polycystic Kidney Disease from Persians and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy from British Shorthairs. Responsible breeders screen their breeding cats for these diseases to minimize their impact on the breed.