The Selkirk Rex looks a lot like the LaPerm. The only difference is that this Rex has a thicker and plusher coat. People call the Selkirk ‘sheep cat’ because of its unusual coat characteristics. Others call it the Poodle of the feline world. Selkirks are very attentive to their owners. They have a playful and affectionate personality, too. It’s not surprising why some people would love to bring a Selkirk Rex home. However, be forewarned that the Selkirk can have a really bad hair day.
History of the Selkirk Rex
Like the LaPerm, the Selkirk Rex is a new breed of cat. It first came into being in 1987 in Montana. Feline breeder Jeri Newman brought home a curly-haired kitten from the animal shelter. Newman named the kitten Miss DePesto. This is the curly-haired character that Allyce Beasley played in the television series ‘Moonlighting’.
Newman mated Miss DePesto to a black male Persian cat, producing 66 kittens. Three of the kittens had the curly fur of Miss DePesto, while the other three had the straight fur of the Persian father. This led Newman to believe that the curly fur gene in the Selkirk Rex follows an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. Miss DePesto became the foundation breed of all Selkirk Rex cats. Newman named the curly-haired kitties after her stepfather.
Breeders who saw the kittens of Miss DePesto began showing interest in developing the breed. They used several pedigreed domestic cats in the outcrossing of the Selkirk Rex. These included the British Shorthair, the American Shorthair, the Exotic Shorthair, the Himalayan, and the Persian cat. Today, only The International Cat Association allows the outcrossing of the Selkirk to all of the feline breeds mentioned. Other organizations of cat fanciers have already discontinued recognizing the American Shorthair as a suitable outcrossing breed for the Selkirk.
The TICA recognized the Selkirk Rex as a breed in 1992, about 5 years after its discovery. The US division of the Cat Fanciers’ Association recognized the Selkirk in 1998. Two years later, the Cat Fanciers’ Association gave the feline breed its due recognition. The CFA and CFA Australia have discontinued registering Selkirks that are outcrossed to any pedigreed cat. They only register Selkirks that come from both Selkirk Rex parents.
Quick Facts About the Selkirk Rex
There is not much information that we know about the Selkirk Rex. Other feline breeds have been around for many centuries. The Poodle cat has been around for only three decades. Breeders also used different pedigreed felines in the creation of Selkirks. This led to greater variation in the characteristics of the feline breed. Here are the things we know about the Selkirk Rex.
- Medium-Sized Kitty
Selkirks are medium-sized felines, often depending on the breed of cat that was used in the outcrossing process. In general, they can weigh about 11 to 16 pounds for males. Female Selkirks weigh less. They can be as light as 6 pounds or as heavy as 12 pounds. This cat has a broad and a round head. Its body is also muscular, somewhat cobby. They have long legs and an almost rectangular body. It has big, round eyes with an unmistakable sweet expression.
- The Signature Coat
The Selkirk Rex’s most distinguishing feature is its coat. It has an unusual curl to it that people have begun calling the Selkirk the Poodle cat. Unlike other cat breeds that only have one or two layers of coat, the Selkirk Rex has three. They can come in shorthaired or longhaired versions, depending on the coat characteristics of their non-Selkirk parent. The curls are more pronounced in the cat’s sides, neck, and abdomen. Selkirks can come in different colors and patterns. These can include chocolate, lilac, mink, sepia, smoke or silver, bicolor, and pointed.
- An Incomplete Dominant Gene
The curly hair of the LaPerm is the result of a dominant gene expressing itself. As such, only one LaPerm parent needs to carry the gene so that kittens will also have curly fur. On the other hand, the gene that codes for the curly hair of a Selkirk Rex is incomplete dominant. This can produce three different phenotypes and genotypes. If the Selkirk is heterozygous, then it will have a denser and fuller coat. This is the type of Selkirk that show judges and cat fanciers love to see in the show ring. Homozygous Selkirks will have a less dense coat. However, they will have a more pronounced curling of their fur.
- It Sheds a Lot
This is a fact that one has to understand before getting a Selkirk Rex. It is not like the Cornish Rex, Oriental Shorthair, and Russian Blue that do not shed in a storm. When the Selkirk Rex sheds its dense coat, you can expect pet hair to cover your furniture. It is for this reason that the Selkirk Rex is not ideal for families or households with allergic members.
- A Very Active Curly Persian
The very first Selkirk Rex kittens had a Persian for a father. As such, some people also call the Selkirk the Curly Persian. Unlike its Persian ancestor, however, the Selkirk has a more active personality. It loves to play and interact with children and other household pets. It does have a laid-back personality. However, do not expect the Selkirk to be as affectionate as its Persian forebear.
Things You Should Know
Despite our limited knowledge of the Selkirk Rex, it is safe to say that the cat is great for almost anyone. However, there are a few things that one should be familiar with before deciding to bring home this feline breed.
Selkirks have a life expectancy of about 15 years. One thing that is quite amazing about these cats is that they also do not have any significant diseases that are specific to them. Regardless, they are still vulnerable to the health conditions that are very common in domestic cats. These can include hip dysplasia, polycystic kidney disease, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The danger in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the resulting respiratory distress. This can be brought about by congestive heart failure. In some cases, a blood clot can block a major artery in the cat’s legs. This can lead to paralysis of the affected leg.
Polycystic kidney disease can produce hypertension, anemia, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weakness in the Selkirk Rex. These can have a negative effect on the cat’s activities. It is for this reason that Selkirk Rex cats should have a routine annual kidney function test the moment they reach 7 years of age.
This cat breed is also at risk of obesity if one is not careful about the cat’s feeding patterns. Skin problems and allergies are also health threats that cat owners have to prepare for. Intestinal parasitism, ticks, fleas, and ear mites also pose a problem to these cats.
Selkirk Rex cats thrive best on a diet that’s rich in animal-based proteins. If the cat owner is a Vegan, then supplementation is a must. There are certain amino acids that are not present in plant proteins. Cat owners should provide the Selkirk Rex with these essential amino acids if they want the cat to grow as healthy as possible.
Canned or wet cat food products are best. These have the protein-fat proportion that is almost similar to what cats eat in the wild. They also contain a higher percentage of moisture that can help address the low thirst drive nature of cats. However, it is crucial to choose only pet food products from reputable sources. There should be no fillers in the pet food formulation.
Most pet parents find combining wet and dry cat food to be useful. This helps improve the oral health of their cats, at the same time addressing the pet’s need for moisture. Mixing wet cat food in cat kibbles also improves the palatability of the food. Be sure to check the amount of calories that the Selkirk Rex is getting.
Since hip dysplasia is a health concern in Selkirk Rex cats, it would be wise to choose a pet food product that contains substances that promote joint health. These can include chondroitin and glucosamine, among others. Do not forget to teach the Selkirk how to drink from a pet water fountain or a cat water bowl. Water is very important for its survival.
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The Selkirk Rex has a very playful nature. It is also very curious. It requires interactive and engaging activities to keep it from getting bored. Cat toys are perfect tools in this regard. Playtime can also serve as the cat’s exercise. This can help prevent feline obesity as well as other health problems associated with insufficient physical activities.
Veterinary visits are a must for any cat. The Selkirk is no exception. It needs to receive its core vaccines before it reaches the age of 1. One can always opt out of the optional vaccinations. However, it would be best if the cat stays protected from these feline diseases, too. The cat should have a regular veterinary visit at least once a year. By the time they reach the age of 7 years, the frequency of vet visits can increase to twice a year. Screening tests are crucial at this stage. Veterinarians will want to know if the cat already has some of the risk factors of certain cat diseases.
Flea and tick treatments are also crucial to the care of the Selkirk. One has to work with a veterinarian to determine the best possible preventative for the pet.
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There are two schools of thought when it comes to grooming the Selkirk Rex. On one hand, there are those who recommend frequent brushing and combing of the cat’s dense coat. This will help minimize the tendency of the cat to shed. However, the downside to frequent brushing is that the Selkirk may lose the curly nature of its coat. One has to remember that the curly coat of the Selkirk is one of the most striking features of the cat breed. If it loses this curly appearance, then the Selkirk will look like any other cat.
On the other hand, there are those who say that brushing the Selkirk’s coat no more than once a week is enough. This will help retain the curly or wavy characteristic of the cat’s coat, while keeping it clean. The Cat Fanciers’ Association actually recommends less frequent brushing of the Selkirk’s coat. This will help retain its unique characteristics.
One very important part of a Selkirk’s grooming is bathing. Its dense, 3-layered coat can get greasy from time to time. As such, bathing should be a part of the Selkirk’s routine grooming. Also part of its routine is brushing the teeth once every 3 to 4 days and cleaning cat’s ears every week. The area surrounding the Selkirk’s eyes also needs frequent cleaning. This is especially true if you have a light-colored cat. The tear stains are more visible in cats with light colors. Clipping the Selkirk’s nails is also an important monthly routine.
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The Selkirk Rex can have different temperaments, depending on its non-Selkirk parent. It can have the Exotic Shorthair’s playfulness or the Persian’s cuddly nature. If its other parent is a British Shorthair, then you can expect the Selkirk Rex to have a more reserved, sometimes standoffish personality.
In general, Selkirk Rex cats have a laid-back personality. They are both loving, patient, and very tolerant. Selkirks love the attention they get from kids, other pets, and their owners. It will never demand attention, however. Its playfulness is perfect for older children who know how to handle such a cat. Its cuddly nature is ideal for seniors who want more peaceful afternoons.
Selkirks also have an outgoing personality. It is sweet and will not mind getting handled and picked up by different persons. After all, very few people will not admire the Poodle-like characteristics of the Selkirk’s coat.
The Selkirk Rex is a good pet for almost anyone. It can be affectionate and loving without demanding too much attention from its owners. However, if you have pet dander allergies, the Selkirk Rex is not for you.