Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Cornish Rex is perhaps one of the most unique breeds in catdom. The result of a true mutation, between his beautiful curly coat and his non-stop playful personality, this breed was won many fans.
The Cornish Rex is a small to medium sized cat, generally weighing between 6 and 10 pounds. This is a very fine-boned cat that is often compared to a greyhound or whippet. Like those two canine breeds, the Cornish Rex is racy in build with a long and deep body that is very slight. The back curves with a corresponding tuck-up underneath the body. The long legs and long, tapered tail further add to its racy appearance. The toes are slightly longer than normal and the breed is known for using their paws in a manner a bit like that of hands, picking up and throwing items with them. Although it may appear delicate, the Cornish Rex is actually well muscled and quite hardy.
The head is egg-shaped with large, slightly pointed ears that sit relatively high on the head although not so high as to suggest a donkey. The eyes are medium-sized and slant slightly upwards. The colour matches the coat colour. The Roman nose further adds to the unique shape and appearance of the head.
The most unique feature of the Cornish Rex though is its coat which is ideally marcel curls from nose to tail tip. Even the whiskers curl. The coat curls form a wave-like pattern and are extremely fine and soft to the touch. All colours are permissible. Although no cat is truly hypoallergenic, the curly coat of the Cornish Rex offends fewer allergy sufferers than most other feline coats.
Grooming is minimal although the coat on the ears and toes can become greasy and may occasionally need washing. They may feel warmer to the touch than many other breeds of cat and, in fact, their body temperature is slightly higher than normal.
The first recorded appearance of the mutation that produces the Cornish Rex appeared in a litter of domestic cats in Britain in the 1950s. A tortoiseshell cat named Serena, owned by Nina Ennismore, had a litter of five kittens, one of which had the curly coat. He was named Kallibunker. On the advice of feline geneticist A. C. Jude, Kallibunker was bred back to his mother to produce more kittens with the mutation. This was the beginning of the Cornish Rex breed although the mutation is said to have cropped up in a few unrelated litters in Germany as well.
They first came to the United States in 1956 when Frances Blanchieri imported Lamorna Cove, a pregnant granddaughter of Kallibunker who had been bred to her father Poldhu, a Kallibunker son.
Because the gene pool was so tiny at first, outcrosses to other breeds including the British Shorthair, Havana Brown, American Shorthairs, Siamese and Russian Blues were permitted to expand the gene pool. Today outcrosses to American, European and British Shorthairs are still permitted by some registries.
The Cornish Rex has become a popular breed, particularly with allergy sufferers who seem to find his coat less irritating than that of most other feline breeds.
Although generally healthy, the Cornish Rex is the product of a small gene pool and there are some health issues that are associated with the breed. Congenital hypotrichosis is a condition in which the cat has areas of baldness. Even with a normal coat, the coat is very fine and offer little protection from the elements. As a result, care should be taken to avoid allowing the cat to become chilled or spend too long basking in the sun.
Another known issue in the breed is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This cardiac issue involves a thickening of the heart muscles reducing the heart’s ability to pump blood and relax between contractions. If eventually leads to heart failure but can be managed with medication in milder cases for many years. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is one of the most common forms of heart disease in cats and is known to be inherited in several feline breeds. Although it has not yet been proven to be inherited in the Cornish Rex, it is a safe assumption that affected cats should not be bred.
The Cornish Rex is a perpetual kitten and loves to play well into old age. They are naturally athletic and agile and enjoy acrobatics. The Cornish Rex loves toys but will gladly make their own if none are available. They use their paws to pick up and toss items which they then bat around with glee for hours. Tossed items are fetched and thrown again.
This is a breed that wants to be in the thick of things at all times. They love to be at the centre of attention and can be demanding when they feel they are not getting enough of your time. They can also be quite vocal about it although not to the extreme of the Siamese. Suffice it to say that they are opinionated. They express that opinion vocally but also through gestures such as a pat from a paw or head butt.
The Cornish Rex is also quite active. Although they love to curl up in a lap, they tend to spend a lot of time playing and romping around the house. When they do settle down they are extremely affectionate and do not play favourites. Any lap is a welcome one.
The Cornish Rex does well with children and other pets, particularly if they are willing to play with them. What they do not do well at is being alone. They are gregarious by nature and prefer to have company whether it is another cat or a dog that is cat-friendly when you are not home. If the family is away for extended periods during the day, company is a must for this breed.
They are naturally inquisitive and like high places. The slightly longer toes mean they are quite adept at learning to do things like open doors and cupboards. Breakables should not be left out where they can be knocked over.
Overall, the Cornish Rex is an excellent choice as a family pet provided that the home has someone around most of the time or he shares it with another pet such as another cat or a cat-friendly dog. Under these circumstances, he is a delightful clown to share your home with you.