Poodle cats, or Selkirk Rex, is the newest breed of feline recognized by scientists. With long, curly fur, these friendly, playful and gentle cats can come in a wide range of colors.
Although known for two-and-a-half decades, these fuzzy animals are their own breed, according to researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. Their three layers of fur make for a highly-furry feline.
Selkirk Rex cats are all descended from a single mother, Miss DiPesto, who gave birth to a litter which included the first member of the new breed, in 1987. This tiny female kitten, marked by an unusually curly coat, had a unique genetic mutation that led to her unusual appearance. The mutation causing the curly coat is carried on a dominant gene, meaning that the trait can often be passed down to its offspring.
The new breed even has its own nickname already, with many people referring to the breed as "the cat in sheep's clothing," due to their curly fur. These cats have been a topic of discussion on the internet for years, with the term "poodle cat" often being applied to animals which have characteristics of both poodles and cats. Not until now that such animals were recognized as belonging to their own breed. Although other cats, including Cornish and Devon Rex breeds also have curly fur, the mutation that gives poodle cats their distinctive curls is unique to the animals. The gene which encodes for curly fur in these other species are recessive, unlike those in the body of Selkirk Rex.
Study of "31 cats that represent the future breeding stock [of poodle cats] supported the close relationship of the Selkirk Rex to the British Shorthair, Scottish Fold, Persian, and Exotic Shorthair, suggesting the Selkirk as part of the Persian breed family," according to the article announcing the results through The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Because the new breed has such long fur, they are not appropriate for people with allergies to cat fur.
Miss Dipesto, who gave birth to the first member of the new breed, was originally a feral cat, living on Montana. The cat was owned by Jeri Newman, who raised Persian cats. She is the one who gave Selkirk Rex its name, in honor of her stepfather. That makes this cat species the only one in the world named after a person.
The mother of the first of the species, Miss DiPesto, was named after Agnes DiPesto, a receptionist on the television show Moonlighting who always talked in rhymes. That show introduced Bruce Willis and Sybil Shepard to the world at large, and the feline Miss DiPesto has given us a new breed of cat.