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Alan Robinson, Animal Photography
With his high cheekbones, big eyes, long legs, slender body, and unusual hairstyle, the Devon Rex looks like the feline incarnation of waiflike model Kate Moss. Like his cousin, the Cornish Rex, the Devon has a wavy coat, but his has a looser curl than that of the Cornish.
The Devon Rex is said to resemble a pixie — both in physical features and in temperament. He is a mischievous and playful cat.
The Devon Rex is often said to resemble a pixie, and if you know anything about folklore, you know that pixies are mischievous little troublemakers. The Devon is highly intelligent and highly active. Expect him to be perched on your shoulder, at your side, or in your lap, avidly supervising everything you do. He is capable of jumping to great heights — think the top of your tallest bookshelf — and loves learning tricks, including playing the piano. With his playful, outgoing nature, the Devon Rex is a good choice for families with older children, other pets, or frequent guests. He is a good traveler and makes an excellent therapy cat.
You may hear that the Devon Rex coat is hypoallergenic because of its texture, but that is not correct. Allergies are not caused by a particular coat type but by dander, the dead skin cells that are shed by all cats (and people, for that matter). There is no scientific evidence that any breed or crossbreed is more or less allergenic than any other cat. Some people with allergies react less severely to particular cats, but no reputable breeder will guarantee that her cats are hypoallergenic.
The Devon Rex is well suited to any home with people who will love him, play with him, and give him the attention he seeks. Keep him indoors to protect him from sunburn, cars, diseases spread by other cats, and attacks from other animals.
Like his cousin, the Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex was a happy accident that eventually became a breed. His progenitor was a feral tom cat with a curly coat who lived in an abandoned tin mine in Buckfastleigh, Devon, in England. This tom had a fling with a tortoiseshell and white female owned by a lady named Beryl Cox. In the litter, born in 1960, was a brownish-black male who had the same curly coat as his father.
Miss Cox was familiar with the Cornish Rex and thought that this kitten, which she named Kirlee, might carry the same gene. To everyone’s surprise, a different gene was responsible for Kirlee’s coat. Instead of the tight, uniform waves of the Cornish Rex, Kirlee had a more tousled curly coat and whiskers that were stubby or missing altogether, instead of being bent and curled. He had large ears, but they were set low on his head, instead of high up like those of the Cornish Rex.
A breeding program was developed to preserve cats with what became known as Devon Gene 2. All Devon Rex cats have a family tree that goes back to Kirlee.
A Devon Rex was first imported to the United States in 1968. The Cat Fanciers Association recognized the breed in 1979, and it is now recognized by other cat associations as well.
The alert and active Devon takes a lively interest in everything going on around him. With his playful, outgoing nature, he is a good choice for families with older children, other pets, or frequent guests. The Devon Rex is a good traveler and makes an excellent therapy cat.
The Devon is highly intelligent. Challenge his brain by teaching him tricks and providing him with puzzle toys that will reward him with kibble or treats when he learns to manipulate them.
Always choose a kitten from a breeder who raises litters in her home and handles them from an early age. Meet at least one and ideally both of the parents to ensure that they have nice temperaments.
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is untruthful or unknowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
The Devon Rex is generally healthy, but problems that have been seen in the breed include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, patellar luxation and a condition called hereditary myopathy that affects muscle function.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It causes thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle. An echocardiogram can confirm whether a cat has HCM. Avoid breeders who claim to have HCM-free lines. No one can guarantee that their cats will never develop HCM. Devon Rexes that will be bred should be screened for HCM, and cats identified with HCM should be removed from breeding programs. Do not buy a kitten whose parents have not been tested for this disease.
Patellar luxation is a hereditary problem in which the kneecap occasionally pops out of place, causing the cat to limp or hop. Usually it pops back into place on its own, but in severe cases it can dislocate frequently or even permanently and may require surgical correction.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that a kitten’s parents have been screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and patellar luxation, and do not buy from a breeder who does not provide a written health guarantee.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new kitten into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Devon at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health.
The Devon has wavy fur that gives a rippled effect. The fur is thickest on the back and sides of the body, tail, legs, face, and ears. The coat may be shorter on the top of the head, neck, chest, and belly, but should never have bare patches. It has a distinctive texture: soft, fine, and full bodied.
When it comes to the Devon Rex coat, the more gentle the grooming the better. The hairs are delicate, and rough brushing or combing can damage them.
The skin of some Rex cats may develop a greasy feel, especially in folds or on the paws. If this is the case, bathe this wash-and-go cat every few weeks.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails every week or so and brush his teeth with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check his ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out using a cotton ball moistened with a gentle ear cleanser recommended by your veterinarian.
Make baths, brushing, nail trimming, and tooth brushing regular parts of kitten care, and your Devon won’t fight you on these matters when he’s older.
You want your Devon Rex to be happy and healthy so you can enjoy your time with him, so do your homework before you bring him home. For more information on the history, personality, and looks of the Devon Rex, or to find breeders and rescue resources, visit the websites of the Cat Fanciers Association, Cats Center Stage, the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, and The International Cat Association.
Put at least as much effort into researching your kitten as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
A reputable breeder will abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sales to pet stores and wholesalers and outlines the breeder’s responsibilities to their cats and to buyers. Choose a breeder who has performed the health certifications necessary to screen out genetic health problems to the extent that is possible, as well as one who raises kittens in her home. Kittens who are isolated can become fearful and skittish and may be difficult to socilialize later in life.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include kittens always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any kitten, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your feline friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and unhealthy catteries can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick kitten, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy kittens.
Be patient. Depending on what you are looking for, you may have to wait six months or more for the right kitten to become available. Many breeders won't release kittens to new homes until they are between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Before you buy a kitten, consider whether an adult Devon Rex might be a better choice for your lifestyle. Kittens are loads of fun, but they’re also a lot of work and can be destructive until they reach a somewhat more sedate adulthood. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult cat instead of a kitten, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show or breeding cat or if they know of an adult cat who needs a new home.
The Devon Rex is an unusual and uncommon breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Sometimes a pedigreed cat ends up at a shelter after losing his home to an owner’s death, divorce, or change in economic situation.
Here are some tips to help you find and adopt the right cat from a rescue group or shelter.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Devon Rex in your area in no time. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Devon Rexs available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a cat. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with pet pros in your area about your desire for a Devon Rex. That includes vets, cat sitters, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a cat, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a cat that may be the perfect companion for your family. And most people who love Devon Rexes love all Devon Rexes. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless cats. Start with the Fanciers Breeder Referral List. You can also search online for other Devon Rex rescues in your area.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a cat. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Devon Rex, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Devon Rex to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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