In 1959 Miss Beryl Cox became aware of a stray tomcat to be living in a deserted tin mine near Buckfastleigh in Devon. This tom had an unusual short curly coat. At this time, Miss Cox happened to take in a straight coated
tortoiseshell and white female stray who was pregnant. In September 1959 she delivered four kittens at the bottom of Miss Cox’s garden, one of which had the same curly coat as she’d observed in the stray tom. She named the male kitten Kirlee and planned to keep him as a pet.
In 1960, Miss Cox read a newspaper article which included a photo of a curly coated Cornish Rex (discovered 10 years previously). The article was for an up and coming cat show and included in the article was a photo of a curly coated kitten by the name Du-Bu Lambtex. It went on to say that she was the only curly coated cat in Britain. Miss Cox wrote to the breeder of the kitten, Agnes Watts explaining that she too had a curly-coated cat. It was presumed that Kirlee carried the same gene as that of the Cornish Rex.
Mr Brian Sterling-Webb who had been working on a breeding programme with the “Rex” cat purchased Kirlee from Miss Cox, feeling that Kirlee could be used as an outcross. Much to their surprise when mated with several Rex females all the offspring had straight coats. Repeated attempts to mate Kirlee to Cornish Rex queens continued to produce straight haired offspring and it was concluded that Kirlee’s genotype was different to that of the Cornish Rex. The two recessive genes were named: Gene 1 (Cornish Rex) and Gene 2 (Devon Rex).
Work began to establish both the Cornish Rex and the Devon Rex as unique breeds. Kirlee went to live with a member of the Cornish Rex group by the name of Mrs. P. Hughes. She mated Kirlee to one of the straight coated females by the name of Broughton Purley Queen. The litter comprised of three kittens, two were straight coated and one female (Broughton Golden Rain) was curly coated like her father. And so the Devon Rex breed began… All Devon Rexes can trace their ancestry back to Kirlee.
Sadly Kirlee was killed in a road accident in 1970.
Pixie-like in appearance, the Devon Rex is a small to medium-sized cat. The body is muscular, with hind legs longer than the forelegs. It has modified wedge-shaped head with large eyes, broad cheekbones, strong chin and a short muzzle. The ears large and low set. The coat is short, soft and curly and contains all three types of hair guard, awn and down. Whiskers and eyebrows are short and crinkled.
The Devon Rex is an intelligent, mischievous and active breed of cat. While they are a very busy breed they also thrive on human companionship and love to be close to their owners. They enjoy sitting on your lap, snuggling up with you in bed and even riding on your head or shoulders. They have been described as a “monkey in cat’s clothing“.
Devons aren’t particularly talkative cats but they do like to chirp. Although I have never had a Devon Rex personally, I have spent a lot of time with this breed, they are a happy, easygoing, energetic and funny breed of cat. They get along great with everybody.
The Devon Rex comes in all colours. A few examples include solid, bi-colour tortie, mink, pointed (known as Si-Rex), black, white, smoke.
Choosing a Devon Rex:
If you are looking to bring a Devon Rex into your home we recommend choosing a registered cat breeder. They are registered with a local or national cat council and have to abide by strict rules.
If possible, look for a breeder who raises their kittens underfoot, that is, inside the house, so they are used to lots of human interaction and the hustle and bustle that goes with most households.
Most breeders won’t let kittens go to their new home until they are at least 10 weeks, many Devon Rex breeders hold onto the kittens longer as they are quite a petite breed and many veterinarians won’t desex a kitten until it is at least 2 kg.
Kittens are usually desexed prior to going to their new home. This is because responsible breeders will only sell entire kittens to other registered breeders. If you do want a kitten to breed with, you should state this when you make contact with the breeder.
Devon Rexes can produce more ear wax than other breeds which may require cleaning. Their coats are more prone to picking up dirt, so bathing may be needed.
Due to their trusting nature and thin coat, Devon Rexes should be kept indoors, preferably with access to an outdoor enclosure.
As with all cats, a Devon’s teeth will need to be looked after to prevent the build-up of tartar. This can be achieved with a cat toothbrush and toothpaste and/or by feeding your Devon raw chicken necks or chunks of beef.
Your Devon Rex should receive three core vaccines as a kitten followed by a booster shot at 12 months. Updated vaccination guidelines recommend tri-annual vaccinations for low-risk cats, but speak to your own veterinarian as they may recommend a different vaccination schedule.
Active households. Devons thrive on company and can become destructive if left for long periods on their own. They get along with other family pets including dogs and are great with children. Because of their high activity levels, they are not recommended for people who want a quiet and docile cat.
In truth, a rex cat is no different from any other cat and produces allergen like all other cats. They are not hypoallergenic by any means, as claimed by some.
Then why do some people seem to have no allergic reaction to rex cats? There is no simple answer to this question at this time, and more research is required to get the answers needed. One possible hypothesis is that as rex cats have less hair to shed, they simply deposit less allergen-laced hair around the home. But, whatever the reasons some allergic people seem to tolerate them.
From personal studies and observations by Margaret Lawrence in the UK, she found that around 10% of people allergic to cats tolerate rex cats. Please, before you race out and look for a rex cat, remember you should always test your allergies by visiting home or catteries that only own rex cats, and test continuously over several weeks or months. As you don’t want the poor little kitten to be re-homed if you find out you are allergic to him or her. Don’t let your new cat become another statistic at a shelter.