Selkirk Rex: Surprisingly Low-Maintenance Despite Their Curly Hair

Image of a Selkirk Rex cat in a studio
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Cats with curly hair are all the rage these days. There’s something about those tight, little curls that just calls out to us; once you’ve sunk your fingers into that plush coat, you will be hard-pressed to take them back out. But one thing that makes people hesitant about adopting a cat with curly hair is their maintenance. Logically, those curls ought to be very difficult to brush, right? Surprisingly, that’s not true, especially with the Selkirk Rex.

Also fondly referred to as the cat in a sheep’s clothing, the Selkirk Rex stands out with their plush and curly coat. They look like real-life stuffed animals who are very patient and tolerant. They won’t mind if you run your hands through their fur all day long, and you will be tempted to do it often—trust us. Not only is their plush coat a pleasure to touch, but simply by running your fingers through their hair, you will be doing them a favor grooming-wise. Yes, it doesn’t take much more than that and a twice-weekly brushing to get those curls all sorted out.

White Selkirk Rex cat and kitten in a studio

The Selkirk Rex is really an intriguing cat breed. Do you want to know more about them? Continue reading so you can appreciate this cute, loving, and patient feline. In this article, you will find lots of information about how healthy these cats generally are, how to properly care for them, and why you should choose to adopt one.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Good; potential kidney and hip joint issues

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; friendly but not clingy

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate

Cat Breed GroupSemi Long-Haired, Mixed Breed
SizeMedium to Large, a height of 9 to 11 inches
Weight9 to 16 pounds
Lifespan15 years

The Selkirk Rex’s plush and curly coat is arguably their most notable physical trait. In fact, these cats are also referred to as “the cat with the bad hair day.” Contrary to popular belief, those curls don’t require a lot of grooming; this makes the Selkirk Rex an ideal pet for busy cat lovers. You can even get away with brushing their hair just twice a week. Brushing their hair too often can stretch out those cute little curls.

Aside from their looks, the Selkirk Rex personality is another distinguishing trait. This is one patient cat who won’t mind if you pet and feel their soft, plush coat all day long. They are even tolerant of your guests who won’t be able to resist holding and run their hands through your cat’s hair.

close-up of a Brown Selkirk Rex cat

The Selkirk Rex is an active, playful, and smart cat who loves to play around as much as they like to sleep. With their long legs, they can’t help but jump and leap around. You may need to get them a cat condo or cat shelves to keep them engaged.

These smart cats pick up on things very quickly so you would love training them. They quickly learn how to retrieve toys and even how to open drawers and doors. Their giddy personality and numerous antics will make you smile even during a stressful day.

Image of a white Selkirk Rex cat lying on the floor

The amiable personality of the Selkirk makes them a very good addition to any household. They also love playing with small children. They are tolerant of other pets, too. The Selkirk can also thrive in smaller environments like apartments.

These cats are quite vocal but not noisy. They have a small and cute voice that they will use to communicate with you. They are not overly demanding and can go unattended for hours, but they will use verbal cues to let you know that they want your attention. This is a generally healthy cat with no known genetic disorder. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are not susceptible to common cat health problems.

Main Highlights

  • Selkirk is the only cat breed to have been named after a human. The name was given by breeder Jeri Newman partly in tribute to her stepfather.

  • Selkirk originated from a house cat found in Montana sometime in 1987. Newman, a Persian breeder, bred the mixed breed house cat to a black Persian cat. By the 1990s, the Selkirk had successfully been recognized by the International Cat Association while other cat registries like the Cat Fanciers Association soon followed suit.

  • Selkirk Rex cats are often described by their masters to be patient, loving, playful, and smart. They are generally laid-back pets who wouldn’t mind being handled and held by their owners. They can demand attention, too, though not in an annoying way since they have a cute voice.

  • Called “the cat with the bad hair day,” the Selkirk doesn’t need to be brushed every day. In fact, the Cat Fanciers Association doesn’t recommend daily brushing to maintain the curly coat of the cat. However, you still need to perform routine grooming tasks like cleaning the ears and trimming the nails.

  • Since these cats like to be hugged and cuddled, the Selkirk can be a good companion for children. They also get along well with most pets, including canines.

  • Selkirk cats are generally healthy cats who can live for up to 15 years. They are free from genetic health disorders. However, they are not impervious to common cat ailments like kidney troubles.

Breed History

This cat breed traces their origins back to Montana, USA. The first recorded cat of this kind was born in 1987. She was one of a litter of six kittens found in an animal shelter. She had a curly coat, unlike her other siblings that had the straight coat typical of domestic short-haired cats.

Her unique looks caught the attention of Jeri Newman, a local Persian breeder. Newman adopted her and named her Miss DePesto. Why such a name? It is said that the cat was a pest for attention—a trait that she has passed on to her descendants. Newman then bred her to a black Persian. Miss DePesto produced six kittens—three of which had the curly coats she was best known for.

selkirk-rex-longhair-chocolate-tortie-white-cat sitting in a corner of the room

Newman named the new breed after her stepfather. She added the word ‘Rex’ to specify that the breed has a curly coat. The kittens were then outcrossed with other breeds like the American Shorthair, the British Shorthair, and the Exotics. In 1990, the International Cat Association accepted the breed for registration. Four years later, the Selkirk was recognized by the said registry. The Cat Fanciers Association did the same in 2000.


The Selkirk Rex is a medium to large breed with a rectangular and muscular body. They have long legs and round heads. There is a flat space just between their ears. Their big and round eyes are almost impossible to ignore. The weight of a male Selkirk can range from 11 to 16 pounds. Female cats of this breed weigh less—ranging from 6 to 12 pounds.

Personality and Character

Selkirk cats have a gentle character that reminds you of Persian cats. They are also playful like the American and Exotic Shorthairs—two breeds used in the early breeding procedures of this breed. Their affectionate personality is undeniably the standout trait of Selkirk cats. They just love being around people. They enjoy being the center of attention, and especially their masters’ attention.

They are not clingy, but that doesn’t mean that they should be left alone for a greater part of the day. When they feel ignored or neglected, they will let you know through their gentle, quiet, and small voice. Their vocal behavior, though, is very tolerable and won’t be disturbing or distracting to most people.

Selkirk cats are considered to be social cats who will require their owner to invest some time in stimulating their senses and providing companionship. Naturally curious and intelligent, they love playing with toys and puzzles. You can also play fetch with them. With their smarts, they can even be taught dog tricks and how to use the toilet.

Studio image of a Selkirk Rex kitten

They are also fun-loving. They have a giddy personality and are always ready to make the people around them laugh at their silly antics. And we haven’t even mentioned how funny these cats look on almost any given day. There’s a reason why they have been given the humorous reference of “the feline with the bad hair.”

They are gifted with agility despite their size. You’ll be surprised at how quickly these cats can chase after a peacock feather. They have long, powerful legs designed for jumping. You might have to invest in cat shelves to indulge this trait of theirs, but Selkirks are not really fond of being off the ground for a long time. They like to have their fours on the floor much of the time.

Health and Potential Problems

These are generally healthy cats with no known genetic health disorders. When properly taken care of, they can live for up to 15 years. Yet, because these cats were outcrossed to other breeds during the early days of their breeding program for genetic diversity, they are vulnerable to some health problems like polycystic kidney disease and hip dysplasia. If you’re to buy or adopt a kitten, it’s better to ask the breeder first as to whether the cat has been screened for certain illnesses or not. One of the most dangerous diseases that often threaten the wellbeing of these cats is the PKD.

Selkirk_rex_longhair cat beeing measured at a contest

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a hereditary condition that afflicts Persian cats. British Shorthairs and Exotics are also prone to this progressive and irreversible disease. Signs of PKD won’t appear until the cat is about 3 to 10 years old. It is possible, though, for PKD to cause severely affected cats to die before reaching the age of 2 months.

In PKD, cysts with clear fluid appear in the kidneys of the cats. In some cases, the cysts may contain blood. As the Selkirk cat ages, those cysts can grow in number as well as in size. Eventually, the normal kidney tissues would be affected, and the kidneys would be unable to function properly. Kidney failure will likely follow—especially when the kidneys fail to keep up with the demands of the cat’s body. You’ll know that the Selkirk Rex has suffered from kidney failure when they exhibit the following symptoms:

Of course, the safest bet would be to bring the cat to a veterinarian who can determine whether they really have kidney failure due to PKD or not. The vet would diagnose their condition through urinalysis and blood chemistry panel.

an orange Selkirk+Rex cat sitting on the snow

Another health problem that Selkirk cats are prone to is hip dysplasia. Compared to PKD, hip dysplasia is not as common. In fact, it is more common in dogs. It involves the abnormal development of the hip joint, resulting in its degeneration later on in life.  Like PKD, hip dysplasia is common in Persian cats. Some of the signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia to look for are:

  • Swaying gait or bunny-hopping

  • Weakness in the rear caused by one or both hind legs

  • Reluctance to jump or run

  • Difficulty in rising

  • Decreased activity level

  • Loss of muscle mass in the thigh area

  • Unwillingness to move around

The good news is that hip dysplasia can be treated by incorporating lifestyle changes. You must ensure that their diet will promote a healthy weight. Overfeeding is a no-no, and you must encourage them to exercise regularly. In some cases, surgical options may have to be considered especially if the cat is not responding to the lifestyle changes.

Care Features

Some Selkirk Rex cats can be excessively attached to their masters. It’s possible that they will become anxious or bored whenever their human counterparts are not around. When they do, they will develop destructive behaviors like paper shredding and litter box amnesia.

a beautiful-selkirk-rex-kittens-available lying down

The feline also won’t be shy to voice out their frustration whenever they sense that their owners are about to leave the house. To prevent them from getting bored, make sure they have enough toys or puzzles. It would be even more ideal if there were someone else that could keep them company, be it other family members or other pets.

Feeding Schedule

Here’s the truth about Selkirk Rex cats: they don’t turn down food. They love to eat and won’t say no to any food that is in front of them.But being overweight is dangerous to them especially because they might develop hip dysplasia.

Selkirk Rex kitten sitting and looking up

Thus, you might want to manage their feeding schedule. Don’t overfill your feline’s bowl with food. Instead, follow the feeding guide as indicated on the food package, and depending on your cat’s life stage, size, etc. It’s also important to feed them with a high-quality cat diet as recommended or approved by your vet.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Short-haired Selkirk Rex cats are gifted with a ruff that’s about the same length as the fur on their body. They also have plush curls on their tail. Meanwhile, long-haired Selkirks have a longer ruff.

Selkirk cats have coats that come in many color combinations. Some of the more common colors for their coat are chocolate, silver, and lilac. Patterns may range from bi-color, marbled, colorpoint, spotted, ticked, and tri-color.

Beautiful Selkirk Rex cat sitting on a wooden table in the garden

The quality of the coat is more striking and important than the colors or patterns. Ideally, the curly coat should be plush and sports a wooly feel that would remind you of lambs. Don’t be intimidated by their coat because the Selkirk is generally considered to be a low maintenance cat. This is a wash and wear cat who rarely needs a bath.

There’s no need to carry around a brush, too, because you can keep their coat looking its best simply by gently running your fingers through it. This way, you can also remove dead hair and prevent hairballs from developing. Although, aside from simply running your fingers through their coat, it is recommended that you brush them two times a week.

In case you want to bathe them, all you need is a moisturizing shampoo. You don’t have to use a coat conditioner.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Selkirks can match up with the activity level and energy of small children, especially those who are five years of age and above. They can also be very affectionate with seniors. They are a great household cat who can also live with other pets. In fact, we recommend that you don’t keep them as a solo cat in the household, especially if you’re away for business often.

Wrap Up

Selkirk Rex cats are cute with their curly coat. They can bear the brunt of jokes, but they won’t mind these at all. After all, Selkirk Rex cats like to be the center of attention. They also won’t get angry if you hold them and run your hands through their coat.

These cats may have a curly coat, but they aren’t high maintenance cats by any definition. In fact, you don’t need to get a high-quality comb or brush for them. They also don’t need to be bathed regularly.

Selkirk Rex kitten lying on the floor

You’ll have to be vigilant with their diet, though, as they tend to overeat, especially when you fill their bowl with food. They won’t just get overweight but may also be more prone to developing health problems—particularly hip dysplasia. Generally speaking, the Selkirk Rex is a cute, affectionate, funny, and low maintenance cat who can make you laugh any time of the day!

Are you attracted to the Selkirk Rex’s unique appearance and surprisingly easy maintenance? If you love unusual-looking cats so much that you don’t mind having to put more effort into their maintenance, how about checking out another breed that looks like a werewolf? You can’t get any more unique than that. Share with us your thoughts and experiences by writing in the comments section below.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.