Cat With a Perm? Nope, It’s a Poodle Cat!

selkirk rex cat on sky blue background

Key Points

  • Poodle cats are known for their curly fur.

  • They need more maintenance, attention, time, and cost than many other breeds.

  • There are several breeds in this category, but the most popular is the Selkirk rex.

  • While no animal is completely allergy-safe, poodle cats release fewer allergens than others.

  • With personalities to match their looks, they are affectionate, playful, and friendly.

What's the fluffiest and curliest cat you've ever seen? It's probably a poodle cat.

Many say the poodle cat's fur looks, feels, and acts like the cat spent the day at the salon getting a perm. Others say the curly cat looks like a living stuffed animal, earning them the moniker of "teddy bear cats."

The poodle cat hasn't been around as long as cartoon favorites Garfield or Sylvester. This relative newcomer is popular because of their unique looks and playful and loving personalities.

The Poodle Cat Difference

What makes poodle cats different? Short answer: curls. A bit longer answer: absurd curls.

Newborn poodle kittens stand out from their non-rex siblings because of their thick, curly fur. This is especially clear around their necks and tummies. Even their whiskers and eyebrows are curly.

Poodle cat coats are a variety of colors and bi-colors and can be long- or short-haired. Their coats are soft and have a wooly look and feel with loose, unstructured curls. They have round heads, large round eyes, and medium-sized ears. The breed has a distinct muzzle with a length half its width.

So how did poodle cats attain those luscious curls?

Two white poodle cats

Origin of the Poodle Cat

As entertaining — or disturbing — as it might be to imagine a poodle and Persian putting their differences aside to create new life, that is not how you get poodle cats.

The first Selkirk rex cat was born in 1987 in Montana and adopted by Persian cat breeder Jeri Newman. She named the curly cat Miss DiPesto, after the curly-haired receptionist (played by Allyce Beasley) on the 1980s Moonlighting TV series.

Newman bred Miss Pest with PhotoFinish of Deekay, a black Persian. Three of the six kittens were curly-haired.

Newman dubbed the new breed "Selkirk rex," after her stepfather. The Selkirk is the only cat breed named after a human. Newman chose this name over another option — American rex.

Different Breeds of Poodle Cats

Poodle cats are not one breed. There are several different varieties of poodle cats. The thick-coated Selkirk is the most common.

The International Cat Association recognized Selkirk Rex as a new breed in 1994. The Cat Fanciers Association and other cat registries followed suit.

The official stamp of approval came in 2012 when the National Institutes of Health confirmed Selkirk was genetically a separate breed.

Other curly-coat breeds include Devon rex, Cornish rex, and LaPerm. While these curly breeds are prone to fur-related issues like alopecia and skin problems, the Selkirk is not.

Because the Selkirk fur gene is dominant, it only takes one rex parent to produce a poodle cat. Cross-breed mating between a poodle cat breed and another breed maintains genetic diversity.

Besides the labels of poodle cat and teddy bear cat, people call these felines "a cat in sheep's clothing," "bad hair day cats," and "drip and dry cats." The French call them chat mouton (sheep cat).

A kitten poodle cat with different fur colors

My Goodness, Those Curls

What is the secret to those cascading curls? The simple one-word answer is genetics.

Some call it a "genetic quirk." Scientists use the term "spontaneous/sporadic genetic mutation." Whatever you call it, it is a dominant gene in the mating game.

Less Risk of Allergy

Poodle cats are hypoallergenic. That means they are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction than other breeds. It does not mean there is no risk of an allergic reaction, though.

No animal is completely risk-free of allergens. Even bald animals produce proteins from the eye, skin, and saliva glands that cause allergic reactions. Nothing eradicates all possible allergens.

This breed's curly coat traps dander which releases fewer allergens into the air. Poodle cats typically shed less than other breeds, which reduces allergic reactions as well.

Another allergy factor to consider is your cat's family tree. If your poodle cat is a mix of a rex and a high-shedding breed, you may not get the full "poodle-ness" effect.

Allergens concentrate on soft furniture, bedding, and carpets. Cleaning your home controls allergies, but is no guarantee against possible allergic reactions.

Spend time with the poodle cat before you bring them home to see if they trigger your allergies.

Poodle Cats as Roommates

If you're looking for an engaging, entertaining, and affectionate companion wrapped in a curly fur coat, a poodle cat is a good candidate for a roommate.

Poodle cats are kid-friendly and child-safe. Their laid-back attitude is a defining trait of the breed. Cat professionals say these cats are so cool they should remain indoors to avoid being stolen.

While any cat can have a bad day, poodle cats are not known as territorial toughs terrorizing you or your guests.

A poodle cat kitten

They adjust well to their family’s lifestyle and other pets in the house. As with most cats, they like to keep busy and stimulated, so have plenty of toys, time, and attention available for your roomy.

Poodle cats are generally healthy with robust immune systems, which means they are less likely to get sick and better able to fight infections. They have an average lifespan of 15 years.

Underneath all that “sheep’s clothing” is a muscular, heavy-boned cat. They weigh between six and 16 pounds, despite looking like frazzled cotton balls.

Poodle Cats Are Affectionate

The Selkirk rex is one of those "velcro cat breeds" — they stick to their people wherever they go. Poodle cats are generally friendly and playful with other cats.

The temperament of the Selkirk rex reflects its lineage. They are laid-back and reserved like a British shorthair, have the cuddly nature of a Persian, and have the playfulness of an exotic shorthair. They are typically tolerant and mellow with quick wits and lovable personalities. They are not known to be irritable and enjoy ample attention and playtime.


If you think all that fur requires some intense maintenance, you are correct.

Poodle cats need consistent grooming. You must brush and trim the coats to avoid matting. Too-little grooming leads to challenging knots and tangles. Over-grooming can brush out those luscious curls.

Long-haired poodle cats need more grooming than those with short fur. Brush gently to work out knots. Pulling on hair tangles is as painful for your poodle cat as it is for you.

To be ready for action, have cat shampoo, a slicker brush, a de-matting comb and/or a wide-tooth comb to gently tease out tangles and other trouble spots.

To save more time — but spend more money — consider professional grooming as an option.

A grey poodle cat

When it's time for brushing, be sure your cat is comfortable. Stop brushing if the cat shows irritation or stress.

Schedule regular brushings to prevent large mats from forming before the next session.

Check to make sure their curly fur is not irritating the inside of the ear.

Long-haired felines sometimes have irritating fur sprouting between their tiny toes. If your cat licks their paws incessantly, this could be why. As part of grooming, trim the fur near their toes.

Don't skimp when it comes to cat litter. You don't want clumps of litter getting caught in their luxurious locks.

Finding a Poodle Cat

The first Selkirk was a shelter cat. The best places to look for a new addition to your home are your local animal shelters and rescue programs.

"Adopt, Don't Shop" is a good motto for many reasons.

This not only gives you a loving pet, but you very well may save that animal's life. The number of dogs and cats in need of a shelter far outstrips the space available in shelters. Many of these facilities cannot keep animals until they are adopted or die of natural causes.

Nobody likes to say the "E" word, but it is a painful fact of animal life except in the no-kill shelters.

Online sites like are good places to look, especially if you have a special breed in mind.

When considering a shelter cat, try to learn as much about the animal as possible. That is more difficult with a shelter animal than with a breeder who has the family history of both parents.

Knowing if the cat is a purebred rex breed or mixed breed provides important information. It reveals the possibility of other breed traits — such as a "talkative" Siamese. It also lets you know if the cat might shed more than other rex mix cats.

Knowing why the animal came to the shelter is also good info to have. Were they abused or neglected? Do they have obvious health issues, such as worms?

Poodle cat face

When you meet your potential new pet, conduct an at-home cat health examination, recommended by the Humane Society of the U.S. Check the cat’s skin, in their ears, their eyes, their mouth and gums, their nose, under their tail, and their feet.

"Regular visits to the veterinarian are essential to keeping your cat healthy," the Humane Society notes. "You can keep tabs on how your cat is doing between vet visits with nose-to-tail checkups at home.

"Get in the habit of running your hands all over your cat's body whenever they are cuddling with you or you're grooming them," the organization continues. "This is the best way to discover problems before they become serious. Call your veterinarian if you find any that concerns you."


Another advantage to the adoption option is cost. As of early 2023, a price check for poodle cats found breeders charging between $500 and $1,500 for a kitten. The cost depends on factors such as location, local demand, and specific breed.

Add to that the routine medical costs associated with new pet ownership and it is an expensive proposition.

Adoption from a shelter is considerably cheaper. Adoption fees are usually around $100. This may or may not include initial medical costs such as vaccinations and a spay/neuter operation.

If such costs are not included, local vets usually offer those services for adopted animals at a discount.

For this breed, figure in the extra grooming costs — either for supplies and your time if you plan to do it yourself or for a professional groomer if you don't.

Then there are the traditional cat costs that include but are not limited to: food, bowls, a crate/carrier, toys, treats, a litter box, litter, routine and unexpected vet visits, and a few comforting items to welcome the new family member to their home.

Poodle cat sits on a wall-mounted shelf

End of a Purrrfect Day

They caught your eye with those awesome curls. They captured your heart with their endearing personality. Congratulations! You are adopted by a poodle cat — and you couldn't be happier.

Those curls don't come cheap. Pay attention to the care and management of your pet's coat to avoid painful tangles and unsightly matting. Either pay more for supplies and utensils to do the job right or pay a professional to do it.

After a rough day at work dealing with the stress of modern life, what do you have waiting at home if you have a poodle cat? A feline companion that loves to be cuddled, has super-soft fur to pet, and is not prone to suddenly biting or scratching you while you pet them.

That sounds like a win-win-win proposition.

The cat's chill. You're chill. As Catwoman says, "It's just purrrrrfect."

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