Selkirk Rex Cat Breed: Origin, Features, and Pompous Albert
The Selkirk Rex and Albert the Sheep Cat
The Selkirk Rex cat has a curly and interesting coat that often looks as though it needs a good brush. Representatives of the breed are typically friendly and even cuddly cats. They are generally calm animals that are playful without being hyperactive. Their unique coats and pleasant personality make the cats attractive as both pets and show cats.
Pompous Albert is a Selkirk Rex cat with an unusual feature. He's light grey in colour and has the curly hair of his breed, which is why he's sometimes known as a sheep cat. He also has an almost permanent scowl on his face and looks very angry. His untidy grey hair reminded his owners of Albert Einstein, so they named him after the famous scientist. Pompous Albert is an Instagram star and currently has 248K followers. The number of followers is increasing rapidly.
Origin of the Selkirk Rex Cat
The Selkirk Rex breed arose from a kitten born in a Montana animal shelter in 1987. The kitten had curly hair. She was adopted by Jeri Newman, a lady who bred Persian cats. The adopted cat was given the interesting name of "Miss DePesto of Noface", or Pest for short, because she was always pestering for attention.
Pest was the only kitten in her litter who had curly hair. Her mother also had straight hair. Since the identity of her father was a mystery, it was unknown whether he had straight or curly hair. Still, Jeri suspected that a new rex mutation had arisen in the curly kitten. A mutation is a change in a gene. Rex mutations produce curly hair in animals.
When Pest reached adulthood, she and Jeri's black Persian male (PhotoFinish of Deekay) were mated. Three of the six kittens that were produced had curly hair like their mother. The existence of the Selkirk Rex gene had been confirmed. The breed of cats with the mutation is known as a "Selkirk" Rex after the family name of Jeri's stepfather.
In a very rapid progression of events after the breed's first appearance, TICA (The International Cat Association) accepted the Selkirk Rex as a new breed in 1990 and declared that it was eligible for competition in 1994.
The Selkirk Rex is a medium to large cat with a soft coat. The breed has a stocky and muscular body with big bones and large paws. Its coat has a wide variety of colours and patterns. The hair may be long or short.
The curls are more obvious in the cats with long hair. The short-haired varieties have a plush coat. The long-haired varieties typically have an untidy appearance. TICA likens the short-haired cats to teddy bears and the long-haired ones to sheep.
In both forms of the breed, the curls or waves are loose and appear to be arranged in random clumps instead of in an orderly and regular fashion. All three hair types in the coat—guard, down, and awn hairs—curl. Even the whiskers are curly. While the overall impression of the cat is that it has a curly coat, the curl is stronger in some parts of the body than others.
The lifespan of a Selkirk Rex is ten to fifteen years. Many representatives of the breed live for thirteen years or more if they are well cared for.
The cats are often said to be sweet, affectionate, and easygoing in nature. Although they are usually calm animals, this doesn't mean that they are passive. They are curious about what is happening around them and like to explore their surroundings.
The breed is tolerant and generally gets on well with children and with dogs. Of course, as in any other cat breed, these relationships depend on the cat being treated gently by the children and dogs. There is a limit to any cat's tolerance.
A gene is a segment of a DNA molecule that controls a particular characteristic of an organism. A single DNA molecule contains many genes. The DNA of an organism is located in the nucleus of its cells.
Genes, Alleles, and the Rex Characteristic
The gene for a particular characteristic comes in different varieties that are technically known as alleles. For example, one allele of a gene that controls hair appearance causes a cat to have curly (rex) hair while the other causes it to have straight hair.
Dominant and Recessive Alleles
Alleles may be dominant or recessive. Dominant alleles are active even when a recessive allele is present. Recessive alleles are active only when no dominant allele is present. In the Selkirk Rex, the allele for curly hair is dominant while the allele for straight hair is recessive.
Homozygous and Heterozygous Selkirk Rex Cats
If a Selkirk Rex cat has two dominant alleles for the rex feature, it's said to be homozygous. If it has one dominant allele for the rex feature and one recessive allele for straight hair it's said to be heterozygous. In both of these conditions, the cat will have curly hair. A cat with two recessive alleles for straight hair won't have the rex feature.
Owners can order a DNA test from a cheek and gum swab of their Selkirk Rex to determine whether it's homozygous or heterozygous. Although it might seem that being homozygous is the better condition, heterozygous cats have some desirable body features compared to homozygous ones. This observation is due to the fact that genes and alleles don't work in isolation in the body and can indirectly produce unexpected effects.
Inheritance of the Rex Characteristic
Each egg or sperm cell is given only one allele for hair appearance. When an egg and sperm join to make the first cell of the new kitten, that cell and the ones that it produces to make the kitten's body will have two alleles for hair appearance.
If either the egg or the sperm that make a kitten contain the rex allele—or if they both do—the kitten will have curly hair. If the egg and sperm cells both contain the recessive allele for hair appearance, the kitten will have straight hair.
In everyday language, the word allele is often dropped and is replaced by "gene". People involved with cats frequently talk about the rex gene instead of the rex allele.
Rejected show cat, but I'll show them.— Pompous Albert's Instagram profile
Pompous Albert the Sheep Cat
It often seems to me that Selkirk Rex cats have a sad and serious expression on their faces, despite their genial personality. Pompous Albert's expression goes a step further, however.
At times, Albert opens his eyes wide as though he's surprised by something, but generally his eyes glower, apparently very suspiciously. For some people, his expression has a suggestion of evil. His owners report that he has the intimidating habit of glaring in apparent anger at someone without moving. In reality, Albert has the typically pleasant personality of a Selkirk Rex.
Albert is from Salt Lake City in Utah and is owned by Mike and Susan Singleton. An article by Sage Singleton (referenced below) indicates that he has had some commercial success in addition to being a social media star.
Albert spends his days as an office cat at his family's business. His fame is due not only to his expression but also to the humorous, creative, and often sarcastic captions created by whoever posts his photos on Instagram. The captions are written as quotes from Albert and match his expression very well. Albert occasionally makes a serious comment about an important real-life issue, which is nice to see.
Pompous Albert really is a rejected show cat. His owners (or perhaps his office coworkers) post daily photos or videos of him on Instagram accompanied by amusing captions. Albert also has a Facebook and a Twitter account.
Buying or Adopting a Selkirk Rex Cat
If you decide to bring a Selkirk Rex into your family, do some research to make sure that you visit a reputable breeder. Also investigate the health background of a kitten's parents and grandparents. The breeder should be able to offer advice about feeding and other aspects of cat care. The breeder and the cat's veterinarian can both be valuable sources of information.
Before you actually buy a Selkirk Rex, I urge you to check with your local animal shelter. It's possible—though not very likely—that you'll find a representative of the breed there. Even if you don't discover a Selkirk Rex who has lost his or her home, you may find a cat that attracts you. The cat will almost certainly appreciate being adopted.
If the plan is practical for you, you could buy a purebred cat such as a Selkirk Rex and also bring an adopted or rescued cat into your home. My family contains two purebred cats and one rescued cat. They are all wonderful additions to the family.
© 2016 Linda Crampton