The Devon Rex cat has its beginning brought to pass by a string of unassuming events in a small market town of Devon called Buckfastleigh in England. Its progenitor was a large, wavy-haired feral tom cat that lived in an abandoned tin mine during the late 1950s. Time and events had brought it together with a white, tortoiseshell female cat owned by Miss Cox, a woman living in the same county. The two cats produced a litter of kittens that stood out with the unusual appearance of a brownish-black male, who inherited the same curly coat as his father. It then acquired the name Kirlee.
During the same period, Kallibunker, a Cornish Rex, was the first and only other cat that had a curly coat, and breeders had been working to preserve the distinctive gene type. Suspecting that Kirlee’s gene might be related to that of Kallibunker, Miss Cox got in touch with Brian Sterling-Webb, a breeder who was working on the breeding program for Cornish Rex. Unexpectedly, the kittens that were produced through the crossing of Kirlee and Kallibunker all had straight coat. This then revealed that the genes that had produced the curly coat on each of the two breeds were recessive and distinctive of each other. The terms, Gene 1 and Gene 2 was given to Cornish Rex and Devon Rex respectively in order to differentiate and identify the genes.
Concerted efforts were made to establish both Cornish Rex and Devon Rex as unique breeds. This has seen Kirlee being crossed with a straight coated female cat once again. This time a litter of three kittens was delivered with one female wearing a curly coat like Kirlee. The foundation of the Devon Rex breed has thus been established, providing the platform where all Devon Rexes can trace its origin back to Kirlee.
The first importation of a Devon Rex to the United States was in 1968. Full recognition of the Devon Rex breed was granted by the Cat Fanciers Association in 1979 with many other cat associations following suit. With all its extraordinary features, the winsome Devon Rex is one of the few breeds that is of a natural mutation.
Physical appearance and attributes
Devon Rex is a breed of medium fine frame and that weighs an average of between 4 – 7 pounds for females and 7 – 9 pounds for males. It has a broad chest, and even though it is comparatively petite in size in the world of cats, its agility and sturdiness is competitive with any other bigger cats. Its head it supported by a slender neck of medium length. Devon Rex has long legs, and though they are fairly fine, it is well-developed in muscles and strength. Its hind legs are longer than the front and they walk on small, oval paws. It has a whip-like tail that is long, fine and tapering, usually covered with short fur.
With a number of characteristic features, Devon Rex is one of the few unmistakable cat breeds that has earned itself a few nicknames such as the elf cat and the alien cat. Its cheeks are full and pronounced in its small, moderately wedge-shaped head that narrows to a strong and well-developed chin. The muzzle is considerably shorter and the top of its forehead curves backwards to a distinctively flat skull. Devon Rex has a pair of strikingly large ears that are wide at the base and tapers into faintly rounded tips. They are set low on the head such that the outer corners of the ear base seem to extend beyond its head. Viewed from the front, this outer edge of the ears, its cheekbones and whisker pads delineate a narrowing series of convex curves on its wedge-shaped head.
The large eyes of Devon Rex are slightly oval and significantly well-spaced. They reflect the clarity and brilliance of glass marbles and can come in luminous gold, hazel or green. Devon Rex with white coat would however have blue or odd (one blue and one gold) eye color. The blue would be deeper for pointed pattern coat; while the tonkinese pattern coat typically comes with clear, intense blue green eyes.
Its wavy coat is what makes it unmistakably a Devon Rex. The rexing nature of the coat is revealed in the characteristic of the three different hair types, namely, guard, awn and down. Its awn and down hairs are dense and lie close to the body. However, the guard hairs which serve as its outer coat are wiry, short and sparse, and also considerably lighter than other cat breeds. Depending on individual cats, the hair curls can either be fairly loose or compact, thus, breaking the smoothness of the entire coat into the appearance of billowing clouds or undulating sand dunes.
The body of Devon Rex feels particularly warmer than other cat breeds as the light and sparse guard hair provides less insulation and allows more heat to be emitted from its body. The trait of the guard coat is also evident in its wiry whiskers, which are prone to breakage.
Devon Rex can come in several genetically possible colors, patterns and a combination of both. Solid coat color boasts of black, blue, chocolate, cinnamon, lavender, red and white. Patterned coat includes calico, pointed, tabby, tortoiseshell and smoke.
Personality and temperament
Complementing its comical and charming appearance is a personality of especial affection, playfulness and liveliness. The Devon Rex seeks to be all things to all people, adopting the nature and temperament of a court jester, sensitive soul mate and endearing companion. Possessing a great level of activeness, this breed takes an interest and involves itself in everything around the house.
Eager to please, love and to seek for attention, Devon Rex is known to follow its owner around the house and would respond excitedly to its name. It would extend its love, uninvited, by snuggling together with you in bed, cuddling in your lap or draping itself across your shoulders. Devon Rex has been described as one cat breed that possesses dog-like qualities and you can expect it to welcome you home enthusiastically. Its high level of activeness and curiosity is spent on interactive play as well as exploring every possible item and corner around the home.
A sociable, friendly and non-discriminating breed, the Devon Rex is an easy and fun companion to children, other pets and frequent guests in the house. It carries its kitten-like and playful nature well into its senior years and has proven itself to be a tireless playmate. Remarkably alert and intelligent, this breed has the capability to manipulate puzzle toys and takes delight in challenging tricks.
This little heat-seeking missile loves to bask in the rays of warm sunlight or any other spots - such as under bed covers, or near heater vents - that will provide it with certain warmth. Devon Rex has an adventurous palette and robust appetite; though it rarely overeats, promoting a well-balanced cat diet would encourage a hearty growth.
Care and health issues
Grooming the Devon Rex is considerably effortless. However, care must be taken over its short, curly whiskers that are brittle, and might be snapped off while grooming and bathing it. Thus, weekly combing would need to be gentle. Usually using the hand to comb through its coat would suffice to keep it healthy.
There is a higher propensity for bacteria to build up in its over-sized ears, thus, effort should be undertaken to clean it with a vet-approved cleanser once a week. Basic grooming and hygiene care over its nails, teeth and litter box should also be carried out frequently for cats that are particular about cleanliness.
A few health issues that might be of concerns include problems that are most commonly found in small dogs, such as slipping knee caps and hip dysplasia. However, a healthy Devon Rex has a promising life span of between 10 – 15 years. Even though Devon Rex feels warm to the touch, it experiences cold temperatures in the same degree as any other humans. Thus, a sweater during cold weather should be considered to help it retain its heat.
Purchasing the breed from qualified breeders who would have performed the necessary tests for genetic diseases would ensure that the cat is in its pink of health.
The ideal home
This cat breed is not suited to live in homes where it will be left alone for the bulk of the time. A sociable and playful cat, the Devon Rex would thrive in any lively families with members, or other pets being willing and loving companions. Even though it is suited for indoor or apartment living, it would be ideal to build the Devon Rex an outdoor enclosure with high perches and interactive toys where it can jump and explore safely. This winsome, affectionate and involving breed is sure to create countless amusing, sweet and treasured experiences for any homes that would shelter it with love and attention.