Cat Breeds: The Unusual Devon Rex

The Devon Rex is a unique cat, both in its appearance and temperament. Its highly unusual appearance will always attract attention, which is fortunate, since Rexes thrive on affection and stimulation.

The Devon Rex breed has its own quirky history. In 1959, a lady called Beryl Cox had noticed a male cat with a curly coat living wild next to a disused tin mine near to her home in Devon, England. Because of the proximity to Cornwall, and since the Cornish Rex breed had been discovered a decade previously, she assumed that he was a wild Cornish Rex. Around the same time, she took in a pregnant female tortoiseshell cat. In the litter of kittens was a single, male, curly-coated kitten, whom she called “Kirlee”.

Since she thought that Kirlee probably had a Cornish Rex gene, when he was old enough she contacted a Rex breeder in Cornwall to arrange a pairing. However, the litter produced only straight-coated kittens, and so it became apparent that something was different about Kirlee. In subsequent matings with British Shorthair queens, half the litter had curly hair, and half straight. Now certain that Kirlee was a new breed, genetically different from the Cornish Rex, Miss Cox named the new breed “Devon Rex”.

by Nickolas Titkov on Flickr

All Devon Rexes alive today can trace their ancestry to Kirlee, and carry elements of his characteristics. Devon Rexes are fairly small cats, and are stocky and muscular. Their coats come in a variety of colours, but all are short and wavy, and vary from sparse and downy to dense and soft. Contrary to popular belief, Devons do shed their coats, but the shed is hardly noticeable around the house as the fur is so fine. Because the coat does not contain the long, outer hairs of other breeds, people who are normally allergic to cat hair are often untroubled by Devon Rexes.

Devon Rexes have wide, elfin looking faces, with large ears set well apart, and enormous, wide eyes. This, and their athletic physique, gives an excellent clue to the Devon Rex personality. Highly active, mischievous and inquisitive, they are very good at jumping and running, and the Devon Rex kitten is hardly ever still. All eyes and ears, they are always looking for the next adventure or challenge.

The short coat means that Devon Rexes are very sensitive to the cold, and may be happier indoors than out. They are very affectionate little cats, and will snuggle inside a sweater with their favourite person. They purr intensely, and often like to get close to their owner’s face, sometimes affectionately nipping their nose. Because they are so sociable, a Devon Rex may not be happy if left alone for long periods of time, and so it may be best to have two Rexes if this is the case. It is very unusual for the Devon Rex to wander far from the people it trusts, and if one is missing it is most likely to be found in a clothes cupboard, or somewhere else warm where it can snuggle up. It is a good idea to provide a warm bed in the house just for the Rex, perhaps an old duvet, to save hours of panic looking for a cat that has curled up innocently fast asleep in a closet.

People who have not encountered Devon Rexes before are often intimidated by the constantly wagging tail. This is not a sign of anger, in fact they often wag their tails when they are happy.

by Elena Pleskevich on Flickr

Devon Rex cats and kittens are often very vocal, with a large range of sounds, from little growls and chirrups to squeaks and strange clicking noises, especially when they are able to watch birds from a favourite window seat. They are playful and will often retrieve objects thrown for them. Loyal and obedient, they come when called and in some ways behave more like dogs than cats.

Owning a Devon Rex is tremendously rewarding for the right owner. It is not a breed to consider for owners who do not want to spend time with their cat. The Devon Rex is a constant companion, and a source of new delight every day. A cat that is charming, captivating, fascinating and alluring, this is a breed that will delight cat-lovers and dog-lovers alike.