The Devon Rex
By Susan Shoring, Secretary of Gold Coast Cat Club
The Devon Rex first appeared in Devonshire, England, in 1960. Although this wasn’t far from where the Cornish Rex was discovered ten years earlier in Cornwall, and while both breeds resulted from spontaneous mutations, subsequent breeding experiments proved that the two breeds are definitely not related.
A Miss Beryl Cox lived near a tin mine and noticed a feral tom with a strange curly coat living at the disused mine. He mated with a stray tortoiseshell and white moggy female that had previously befriended Miss Cox, and the moggy produced a litter of kittens that Miss Cox eventually managed to take a close look at. One of the kittens had the same curly coat as the father, so she took the kitten and reared him carefully in her home, naming him Kirlee. He was to become the founding father of the Devon Rex breed.
Once an adult, Kirlee was mated to Cornish Rex females, but to everyone’s astonishment, the resulting kittens were all straight-haired! Several additional attempts yielded the very same outcome with not one single curly-haired kitten, so it became apparent that the Cornish and Devons were completely separate genetic variations, despite their geographical closeness, and they therefore became established as independent breeds.
Kirlee lived a long and productive life, until he was sadly killed in a road accident in 1970.
Imported into Australia in 1971, the Devon Rex quickly gained popularity for its low-allergenic coat: people with cat hair allergies are far less likely to suffer when in close contact with this breed than with most others. As an additional bonus, this kitty version of the Poodle produces very few moulted hairs.
The wavy coat of this breed is largely made up of down hairs, with only a few guard hairs, so that what is visible is essentially the cat’s undercoat. Some Devons suffer from bare patches.
All coat colours and markings are accepted in the Devon Rex, including solids, smokes, shaded, tabby, tortoiseshell and colourpointed – with eye colours matching the coat.
The elfin Devon Rex has a frail appearance but is remarkably healthy and hardy. It has prominent cheek bones and full cheeks in a short wedge-shaped head, with a short muzzle and flat skull. Its eyes are large, well set apart, and oval shaped. Its distinctive huge ears are set exceptionally low and are very wide at the base, tapering to rounded tips. It has a long slender neck, a hard muscular body, teamed with a broad chest, and long slim legs, which have a slightly bandy appearance at the front. This puss has small oval feet, and a long, fine, tapering tail. The hallmark of this ‘Pixie Cat’ is its distinctive curly whiskers and eyebrows, which are often extremely short when compared with other cats.
Due to its thin coat, the Devon Rex cannot tolerate the cold, and a warm indoor environment is essential. It craves warmth so will quickly seek out the warmest place in the house and can be exceptionally difficult to find once curled up somewhere comfortable! As a result of its body heat losses, it has a huge appetite and high fat requirements. It does have a tendency to overeat so it can easily ruin its streamlined figure; owners need to vigilantly be on the lookout for weight gain.
Characteristically the coat feels warm to the touch because the hair is so fine and short, and Devons will feel pleasantly warm on a person’s lap – it has the same body temperature as other cats, but having the less insulating fur causes the cat to feel like a hot water bottle to the touch. In fact, people not used to this breed are always very surprised by how very warm – almost hot – a Devon is when held!
It is a small to medium breed, weighing between 2.5 and 4.5 kg, and is not particularly vocal. Sometimes referred to as ‘a monkey in cat’s clothing’, it has exceptional climbing abilities so a tall scratching post covered in good quality carpet and with plenty of shelved levels will be much appreciated and well used.
An extremely sociable cat, the Devon Rex is a home-loving creature that needs lots of attention from its owner and craves company. Endearingly impish, this feline comedian is a particularly playful feline with a devilish sense of mischief; an intelligent and enterprising cat. Some owners say that this clown of the cat world is either on the go full speed or fast asleep! It is renowned for displaying great affection, and is a very friendly extrovert that loves to play, climb and leap. It adores laps, is outgoing and inquisitive, energetic, and always looking out for new adventures. Ideal for anyone seeking an indoor pet that will participate in every aspect of home life, the Devon Rex gets along well with everyone: all breeds of cats, dogs, other pets, adults and children.