Breeds

Curly-Haired Cat Breeds

We love our felines for their personalities and companionship, but good looks never hurt! If you're in the market for a cat with a coat as interesting as their personality, consider a curly-haired cat. In this article, we look at four felines with wavy hair and give you an introduction to each.

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Last Updated: March 13, 2024 | 4 min read

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If you’re looking for a cat with luscious waves, you’re in luck—we’ve compiled a guide of the four curly-haired cat breeds. Yes, you read that right: Worldwide, there are only four recognized curly-haired breeds. Read on to learn more about each breed and how to care for their incredible coats.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA) recognize four curly-haired cat breeds officially:

  • LaPerm
  • Selkirk Rex
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex

While these cats share the characteristic of a curly coat, each breed is truly one-of-a-kind. Some cats—like the Selkirk Rex—have a dense, plush coat. Others—like the Cornish Rex—have fine, short curls.

The term “rex” refers to the genetic mutation across breeds that causes the wavy coat pattern. This mutation affects the hair’s structure and gives it a unique texture compared to your standard cat’s coat. All curly-haired breeds have this genetic mutation, regardless of their name.

LaPerm

In 1982, a litter of six cats was born on an Oregon farm. One kitten was born completely bald and shared no resemblance to her littermates. A few months down the line, this kitten—astutely named “Curly”—sported a full coat a soft, curly hair. During the next 10 years, the farm cats continued to roam and breed freely, with many sporting the same wavy coat as Curly. At this point, the farm’s owner realized how incredibly unique this genetic trait was for cats and started a breeding program. Thus, the LaPerm breed was born. 

Today, the LaPerm (pictured above) is still known as one of the few curly-coated cats. This medium-sized furball can have long or short hair, from wavy to tight ringlets and long, corkscrew curls. This breed comes in a variety of colors and coat patterns. Some LaPerms are born hairless, but most begin with hair, only to lose their coat at around two weeks and slowly grow into their final coat during the next four months. 

LaPerms are affectionate and gentle cats. While you can expect your LaPerm to be active, they also enjoy cuddling on the couch. This breed loves human companionship and will happily learn new tricks for attention and affection.

Selkirk Rex

Selkirk rex lying, looking at the camera, isolated on white
This cat is a moderate shedder and will require different levels of grooming based on coat length.

The Selkirk Rex is a natural breed that originated in Montana from a rescued housecat named Miss DePesto, who sported a curly coat. After a passerby discovered Miss DePesto in 1987, she met breeder Jeri Newman, who bred Miss DePesto with a Persian cat. Miss DePesto gave birth to a litter of six kittens—three with the same curly hair and three with a standard coat. Newman called the breed Selkirk Rex.

At birth, you can immediately distinguish a wavy-haired kitten from a straight-haired littermate based on their curly whiskers. The Selkirk Rex maintains the same coat throughout their life, whether long, short, wavy, curly, or straight.

This breed developed as a large, heavy-boned cat with a stocky body and a plush coat. The Selkirk Rex is a quiet cat that enjoys a busy household. While not demanding, this breed enjoys interacting with the humans of the house and needs regular playtime for mental and physical stimulation.

Cornish Rex

curly black and white cornish rex cat looking in the camera
Nina Ennismore discovered the Cornish Rex in Cornwall, England, in 1950.

A cream-colored male kitten, later named Kallibunker, was found to have tight, short curls. As Kallibunker aged, he developed distinct differences from his littermates, including a slender body, narrow head, large ears, and a long tail. Kallibunker was bred back to his mother to produce more wavy-coated kittens, who were then bred to Siamese, Burmese, and British domestic shorthair cats. 

While the Cornish Rex has a wide genetic background, this breed is known for their velvety-soft coat, thin frame, and bat-like ears. This short-haired breed comes in a variety of coat colors and patterns. The body of the Cornish Rex is often compared to that of a Whippet, with an arched back, a small waist, and long legs.

This cat may look delicate, but they’re anything but fragile. The Cornish Rex is a muscular feline that loves to play. They are extremely active and affectionate, making them a great fit for families and busy households.

Devon Rex

Portrait of a beautiful Devon Rex cat looking at the camera
The Devon Rex is another naturally occurring curly-haired breed.

In 1960, a curly-coated, brownish-black kitten was born in a litter of otherwise straight-haired cats. This cat was named Kirlee. After confirming that this cat was different from the already existing Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex was officially named a new breed.

This breed is small to medium-framed with a curly, short coat in various colors and patterns. Humans love the Devon Rex for their pixie-like appearance and personality. This cat has huge ears perched atop a small head and an equally small body. 

The Devon Rex is sociable, active, and mischievous, earning the nickname “Dennis the Menace.” This is a vocal breed that wags their tail when happy. The Devon Rex needs plenty of human interaction and daily play. This cat will easily learn tricks and is extremely athletic. Expect your Devon Rex never to leave your side, day or night.

Other Curly-Haired Cat Breeds

While only four curly-haired cat breeds are currently recognized by most associations, there are five other breeds currently in development:

  • Ural Rex
  • German Rex
  • Tasman Manx
  • Tennessee Rex
  • Skookum

Of all these cats, the Tennessee Rex is closest to officially being recognized by major associations. TICA is currently in the process of making the Tennessee Rex a registered championship cat.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Groom A Curly-Haired Cat?

Like all cats, our furry friends can benefit from regular brushing to keep their coats clear of debris and their skin healthy. The frequency of brushing will depend on your cat’s hair length and curl pattern. Cats with longer, wavy hair will usually need brushing a couple times a week to prevent matting. If your feline’s hair is shorter or without a heavy undercoat, you can get away with brushing less often.

Just like with curly hair on humans, brushing your cat’s hair will loosen the curl and can cause breakage if brushed too often. Cats with tight curls should be brushed less often but may require the occasional bath to keep their skin happy.

How Much Is A Curly-Haired Cat?

Because curly-haired cats a relatively rare, expect to pay a significant price for your new furry friend. Depending on the breed, a wavy-haired cat can cost between $600 to $1,500.

Are Curly-Haired Cats Hypoallergenic?

No cat is completely hypoallergenic, but if you’re looking for a low-shedding breed, consider the LaPerm, Cornish Rex, or Devon Rex. Experts consider the Selkirk Rex a moderate shedder, and their thick coat requires regular brushing to keep the loose hair controlled.

Final Thoughts

If you choose to purchase a curly-haired cat, it’s crucial to select a registered, responsible breeder that can ensure the health of your kitten. Talk to your breeder about the breed’s traits, including personality and activity level, so you know the cat aligns with your lifestyle.

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