Last updated: October 7, 2017
With his unusual looks and clownish personality, people can be forgiven for thinking the Devon Rex a bit otherworldly when compared to many other cat breeds. Although the initial impression of the curly coat may be that he is related to the Cornish Rex, the two coats are caused by different gene mutations and breeding the two together will not produce coats of either type.
The slight but muscular Devon Rex is a small to medium sized cat, generally weighing 6 – 9 pounds. They are impish in appearance and are often referred to as the pixie cats. With slight but muscular bodies, a modified wedge shaped skull perched on a long, slender neck, big eyes and even bigger ears it is easy to see how the comparison came about.
The body is slight with a broad chest but is well muscled despite the appearance of being somewhat delicate. The legs are fine to medium boned and the rear legs are slightly longer than the forelegs which makes them excellent jumpers. The tail is also long and tapering.
The head is a modified wedge with a short muzzle. The eyes are large and wide set. They are oval in shape and slant towards the outer edge of the ears. All colours including two eyes of different colours are acceptable in the Devon Rex although eye colour usually conforms to coat colour. The ears are ridiculously large and low set which adds to his otherworldly appearance. They are wide at the base and taper to rounded tips.
Although the whole package tends toward the unique, the coat is what truly separates the Devon Rex from all other cat breeds. It is fine and curly but the curls are not the marcel curls of the Cornish Rex. The Devon Rex coat is dense and wavy. It can change in appearance with age and may even change seasonally. It requires little maintenance although the ears are prone to becoming waxy and should be cleaned regularly to avoid infections. All colours are acceptable.
The coat is not truly hypoallergenic but, like the coat of the Cornish Rex, is better tolerated by some individuals with cat allergies.
The first known Devon Rex appeared in a litter born to a calico female in Devonshire, England at the home of Beryl Cox in 1960. The father was not known for certain although Ms. Cox suspected that a curly-coated tom that lived in an abandoned tin mine was responsible. The female had a normal coat as did all but one of her kittens. The curly-coated kitten was a male and she named him Kirlee.
Ms. Cox had heard of the Cornish Rex which was still in its infancy as a breed and thought that Kirlee might be a Cornish Rex. Test matings and subsequent work by geneticists established that the gene causing Kirlee’s curls was not the same gene that produced the marcel curls of the Cornish Rex. The gene that results in the curls of the Cornish Rex is now referred to as Gene 1 and the gene responsible for the curls of the Devon Rex is called Gene 2.
Like the Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex can be traced by back to a single individual cat, Kirlee. So, multiple outcrossings to other breeds including the American Shorthair, British Shorthair,European Shorthair, Burmese, Bombay, Sphynx, and Siamese was permitted to give the breed a solid genetic base with enough diversity to keep the breed going. Today, outcross breedings to these breeds are still allowed by many registries.
The Devon Rex is a fairly healthy cat. They generally live into their teens. They are prone to patellar luxation (slipping knee caps resulting in a temporary dislocation), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and hip dysplasia all of which are common problems in many cat breeds.
Devon Rex are also susceptible to myopathy due to inbreeding and the use of the Sphinx cat as an outcross at various points in their history. Myopathy is a muscular disorder with no known cure. It usually appears between 3 weeks and 6 months of age. It can stabilise or slowly progress. It causes a weakness in the muscles leading to less activity, tremors and difficulty holding the head up. The latter is the most serious of the symptoms and the one that generally causes death in the end.
Cats that cannot hold their heads up properly are more susceptible to problems like megaoesophagus, which leads to regurgitation and sometimes aspiration pneumonia, and laryngospasm which can result after food obstructs the pharynx. Blockages of the throat and aspiration pneumonia are the most common causes of death in cats with myopathy.
The Devon Rex not only looks like an imp, it acts like on too. The personality of the Devon Rex is larger than life. They are active, inquisitive cats that need to be a part of everything that goes on in the household. They love to play and are willing to play with anyone that is willing to play with them. They particularly love games like fetch and tag. Like the Cornish Rex, their toes are slightly longer than normal and they use them to pick items up and toss them into the air.
The Devon Rex is a very affectionate feline and loves to curl up in your lap or your bed when playtime is over. Like other short coated breeds, they tend to gravitate towards warm places like sunny patches of sunlight.
They enjoy high places including your shoulders, door tops, and anything they can jump up to. Do not leave breakables out. They thrive on company in their adventures though and do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. As a result, they are best suited to homes where there is someone home, another cat or cat-friendly dog to keep them company.
The Devon Rex is known to be a food lover and they are always up for sharing your plate or stealing from it if you aren’t interested in sharing. Although they are not overly prone to obesity, it is important to avoid giving them too many treats. Also, be aware of what human foods are toxic to cats and keep them out of your Devon Rex’s reach.
They adapt well to homes with children and tend to get along well with pets of all types including birds and rabbits. They can be an excellent choice as a family pet provided that you want a cat that needs to be in the thick of things at all times and can ensure that they are seldom at home alone.