Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
The Selkirk Rex is memorable for a number of reasons: Curls. Talking. Loving disposition. Being hypoallergenic? Here’s the story about how the Selkirk Rex came to be, how the breed got its name, and the truth about being hypoallergenic.
Right? It makes us swoon, too — and for good reason. Nicknamed the “cat in sheep’s clothing,” the Selkirk Rex has a plush, curly coat that gives him the look of a real-life stuffed animal with soft-to-the-touch strands and corkscrew whiskers.
Believe it or not, the naturally curly cat derived from a house cat found in a Montana shelter in 1987. Named Miss DePesto “Pest”of Noface, she was bred to a black Persian named Photofinish of Deekay by Persian breeder Jeri Newman. Of the litter of six kittens, three had curly coats, proving that Pest’s genes were dominant, and a new breed was on the cusp of hitting the cat scene.
Given the fact that the curly-coat gene is dominant in the Selkirk Rex, curly and straight-haired kittens can be born in the same litter, with short- and long-hair varieties being possibile. The difference between curly- and straight-hair kittens is evident upon birth, as the curly kittens have curled whiskers.
The truth: lambswool. At about six months of age, Selkirk Rex kittens lose their curls, growing sparse, straight fur in its place for their adolescence. Upon maturation, at about two years of age, a thick, soft coat that feels like lambswool develops.
You’ll want to — and so will everyone else. Though sometimes referred to as the “cat
with the bad hair day,” the Selkirk Rex has been bred to have a patient and loving personality — two traits that are clearly essential, as everyone he encounters (and we do mean everyone) wants to run their hands through his fur.
If the thought of grooming a Selkirk Rex’s coat frightens you, toss your fears away. That curly coat is not high maintenance. In fact, brushing too often runs the risk of stretching out those beautiful curls. So, brush the coat no more than a couple of times a week to prevent matting and tangles and to remove dead hair.
Breeder Jeri Newman named the breed Selkirk after her stepfather, making the Selkirk Rex the only cat ever to be named after an individual.
The Selkirk Rex, who features a mix of British and Exotic Shorthair in her bloodline, has been developed to have the same type of large, big-boned physique as the British Shorthair, with a round head, semi-cobby shape, muscular build, and a weight of six to 16 pounds. More to love, as they say.
Often described as a clownish cat, the Selkirk is known for having a giddy personality, and he’s always ready to make you laugh with his antics.
While playful and laid-back, the Selkirk is quite the smarty-pants, with the ability to quickly learn how to open doors and drawers to retrieve treats or toys.
The Selkirk Rex makes a good family cat. His mellow persona and penchant for cuddles and hugs makes him a great companion for children or households with multiple pets (including dogs). He also thrives in smaller areas such as apartments.
Like his sweet and affectionate temperament, the Selkirk has a gentle, small, quiet voice that she’ll use to chat with you. The Selkirk, while not demanding, will let you know when she feels unappreciated via verbal cues.
The Selkirk shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. The Selkirk is a social kitty; she needs a healthy dose of stimulation and companionship to thrive.
Well, not exactly. Contrary to popular belief, this is a myth. Our resident vet Dr. Eric Barchas has pointed out that people allergic to cats can react more or less to certain individual cats depending upon the ratios of the allergens produced by the cats, but no cat is totally hypoallergenic. Although the coat of the Selkirk Rex is different from that of other cats, the breed still sheds a certain amount of allergy-causing dander.
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About the author: Writer and blogger Erika Sorocco fuses her love for felines and fashion in the blog Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans. She shares with her cats Minky and Gypsy. Follow Erika on Twitter at @cateyesskinnies.