Selkirk Rex: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

selkirk rex cat

Krister Parmstrand / EyeEm / Getty Images

The Selkirk Rex, a breed native to the United States, has a curly coat shared by only three other cat breeds: the Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, and LaPerm. The tousled appearance of the Selkirk Rex, coupled with its laid-back attitude, brings new meaning to the saying, “Curly hair, don’t care.” This cat's easygoing personality makes it as charming as it is beautiful.

Breed Overview

Personality: Laid-back, friendly, affectionate, medium-energy

Weight: Up to 16 pounds

Length: Up to 30 inches

Coat Length: Short or long hair

Coat Colors: Any genetically possible color or combination

Coat Patterns: Tabby, shaded, tortoiseshell, chinchilla, smoke, calico, bicolor, tricolor, pointed, mink, sepia

Eye Color: Any color

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

Selkirk Cat Characteristics

While the Selkirk Rex has a very mellow temperament, it is also warm and affectionate; it tends to get along with everyone. This medium to large-sized feline is exceptionally tolerant and friendly, making it a great pet for families with kids or other pets.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Vocalize Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium
Selkirk Rex cat
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Selkirk Rex Cat
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White Selkirk Rex kittens
 Belikart / Getty Images

History of the Selkirk Rex

In the late 1980s, a Persian breeder in Montana named Jeri Newman discovered an unusual mixed-breed kitten born to a feral cat. This kitten was the only one in its litter that had a wavy coat and curly whiskers. Newman pounced on this genetic anomaly and adopted the kitten, naming her DePesto. She later bred DePesto to a black Persian male named PhotoFinish of Deekay. Three of the resulting six kittens had wavy coats, and Newman used them to launch the Selkirk Rex breed.

To build genetic diversity in this new breed, the Cat Fanciers’ Association breed standard will allow outcrosses with British shorthairs or exotic shorthairs until January 1, 2025. Thereafter, only kittens from two Selkirk Rex parents will qualify as part of the breed.

Selkirk Rex Care

The Selkirk Cat’s coat doesn't shed much, but it requires unique care because any loose hairs tend to stay trapped in the coat rather than drop off onto your clothes and furniture. When loose hairs stay in the coat, they may cause the coat to become matted. 

Over-brushing the coat is discouraged as it tends to loosen up the curls. Instead, combing with a wide-toothed comb will help prevent mats while maintaining the coat’s curls.

In addition to combing, regular baths can also help avoid matting. The Selkirk Rex’s coat looks best when washed with light shampoos that don’t weigh the coat down. Ask your breeder or a professional groomer for a shampoo recommendation.

Avoid using conditioners or conditioning sprays, which may loosen the curls. After a bath, towel dry to remove most of the water, then allow the coat to air dry. Hair dryers can result in frizz or a flat coat rather than crisp curls.

Trim the nails short and inspect the ears weekly. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or square of gauze and a pet-safe ear cleaner. 

Common Health Problems

Like many purebred cats, the Selkirk Rex is prone to certain hereditary genetic conditions. Some congenital diseases that might be seen in the Selkirk Rex include:

Polycystic kidney disease is a condition in which cysts on the kidneys that are present at birth cause problems with kidney function and eventually, kidney failure. PKD is common in Persian cats and exotic shorthairs. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes thickening of the heart muscle, is common in Persian cats and British shorthairs. Hip dysplasia is common in Persians.

All of these breeds are part of the Selkirk Rex’s background. A genetic test is available for PKD, and screenings may be performed to determine if a cat is likely to be free from HCM and hip dysplasia.

Reputable Selkirk Rex breeders screen their adult cats before breeding them to avoid passing on these conditions and to preserve the health of the breed as a whole.


The Selkirk Rex may have short hair or long hair. Both coat lengths display curls, but curling is more dramatic in long-haired Selkirk Rexes. Even the Selkirk’s whiskers are curly. The coat is soft and plush, with a luxurious feel.

In a litter of Selkirk Rex kittens, some will have curly hair and some will have straight hair. Straight-haired Selkirk Rex kittens make wonderful pets, although you won’t see them competing in the show ring.

This breed is solidly built, with substantial muscle and boning. 

Diet and Nutrition

Due to the Selkirk Rex’s larger frame, it’s especially important not to overfeed. Staying lean helps to prevent health issues like diabetes and arthritis, as well as heart disease and hip dysplasia, which are known to affect the breed.

Ask your veterinarian or breeder about the best food and amounts to feed your Selkirk Rex, and feed measured meals two or three times a day to ensure proper portions. Free feeding (leaving food out all day) can lead to overeating, which can contribute to weight gain.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Selkirk Rex Cat

If you’re longing to bring home a Selkirk Rex kitten, consider attending a cat show, where you can meet local cat breeders. Cat shows are lots of fun and a wonderful way to learn about all the different cat breeds.

To find a cat show in your area, do an internet search for “cat show near me” or visit Although rare, some Selkirk Rex or Selkirk mix cats, usually adults, might occasionally end up in rescue. Check with local cat-specific rescue groups or even local shelters.

Selkirk Rex Overview

The Selkirk Rex initially catches the eye because of its uniquely curly hair, but breed enthusiasts know that this cat's charm is as attractive as its coat. The Selkirk is relaxed and friendly, and it doesn't need a lot of special attention (besides the occasional grooming session). It is not a high-energy cat but enjoys the company of kids, other cats, and dogs. Overall, the Selkirk Rex makes a great companion for just about everyone.

  • Uniquely curly coat

  • Mellow, friendly personality

  • Gets along well with kids and other pets

  • Requires regular grooming

  • Predisposed to certain health issues

  • Rare; may be hard to find

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

  • Does the Selkirk Rex's hair curl naturally?

    The Selkirk's coat is naturally curly, and careful grooming will help preserve the quality of the curls.

  • How much does a Selkirk Rex cost?

    A Selkirk Rex kitten may cost between $500 and $1,500.

  • Are Selkirk Rex cats friendly?

    Yes! Selkirks get along with friendly people and other pets.