The playful, affectionate Cornish Rex is a small to medium-size cat with an extraordinary appearance, from his egg-shaped head and curly whiskers to his short coat with bent hairs. The unusual wavy coat comes in many colors and patterns, including bicolor (one color and white) and tortoiseshell.
The Cornish Rex isn’t the victim of a hair stylist experimenting with permanent wave solution. His soft, short, wavy coat is the product of a spontaneous natural mutation, a not uncommon occurrence in the world of cats. The first known Cornish Rex, named for his coat’s resemblance to that of a rex rabbit, made his appearance in Cornwall in 1950. It’s not only his coat that distinguishes the Cornish Rex. He has an egg-shaped head topped with large ears, big eyes, curly whiskers, and unusually long hind legs.
You just know that a cat who looks like this has a sense of humor, and you can expect that he will exercise it at your expense. The Cornish Rex is a highly intelligent, highly active cat who loves to be involved in everything you’re doing: he will climb to the highest point in the house to survey his domain, steal food to fuel his antics, and play fetch — anything, really, that will bring him attention and applause. He can learn just about anything you can teach, although you may find that he is a better trainer of you than you are of him. He’s always on the go, so don’t think that you are acquiring a sweet, quiet lap sitter when you bring the Rex home. This is a cat who speaks his mind. He might not speak English, but he definitely knows how to get his point across with a glance, gesture, or vocal riposte.
With his playful, outgoing nature, the Cornish Rex is a good choice for families with children, other pets, or frequent guests. He is a good traveler and makes an excellent therapy cat.
You may hear that the Cornish 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 Cornish 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.
Other Quick Facts
- The Cornish Rex looks sleek, but when you pick him up he is surprisingly heavy.
- His body temperature is the same as that of any other cat, but because of his light coat, he feels especially warm to the touch.
- The Cornish Rex has a head that is about one-third longer than it is wide.
The History of the Cornish Rex
The first known Cornish Rex, named for his coat’s resemblance to that of a Rex rabbit, made his appearance in Cornwall in 1950. As so often happens with unusual breeds, a nondescript barn cat gave birth to a litter that included one kitten who was a little different from the others. He was born with a natural mutation that caused him to have a curly coat. When he matured, he was mated with his mother on the recommendation of a geneticist, resulting in a litter with two more of the curly coated kittens.
It was discovered in 1960 that the Rex type was caused by a recessive gene, which means that both parents must carry the gene. When that first kitten, who was named Kallibunker, was bred with Siamese, Burmese, and British Shorthair cats, the kittens had normal coats, but they carried the recessive gene. When they, in turn, were bred to what had become known as the Cornish Rex, or to each other, they usually produced curly coated kittens. Other breeds with which the Rex was crossed were Russian Blues, American Shorthairs, and Havana Browns. These outcrosses increased and strengthened the breed’s tiny gene pool and brought in additional colors and patterns.
The Cornish Rex was first exported to the United States in 1957. The Cat Fanciers Association recognized the Cornish Rex in 1964. The Cornish Rex is also recognized by other cat registries, including The International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers Association, and today the attention-loving breed is a popular show cat.
Cornish Rex Temperament and Personality
You just know that a cat who looks like this has a sense of humor, and you can expect that he will exercise it at your expense. The Cornish Rex is a highly intelligent, highly active cat who loves to be involved in everything you’re doing, climb to the highest point in the house to survey his domain, steal food to fuel his antics, and play fetch — really, anything that will bring him attention and applause.
He’s a quick learner, although you may find that he is a better trainer of you than you are of him. He’s always on the go, so don’t think that you are acquiring a sweet, quiet lap sitter when you bring the Rex home. This is a cat who speaks his mind. He might not speak English, but he definitely knows how to get his point across with a glance, gesture, or vocal riposte.
With his playful, outgoing nature, the Cornish Rex is a good choice for families with children, other pets, or frequent guests. He is a good traveler and makes an excellent therapy cat, thanks to the pleasure he takes in being touched and held.
The Cornish Rex 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 find out if they have nice temperaments.
What You Need to Know About Cornish Rex Health
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 either lying or is not knowledgeable 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 Cornish Rex is generally healthy, but his coat offers little protection from the sun’s rays, so don’t let him bask outdoors. He may also be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and patellar luxation, a condition in which one or both kneecaps may slide out of place, and cause difficulty walking.
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. Cornish 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. It is always wise to buy from a breeder who provides 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 most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Cornish Rex at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier cat for life.
The Basics of Cornish Rex Grooming
The Cornish Rex has a short coat that is soft and silky with no harsh guard hairs. The fur lies in tight waves close to the skin and tends to be especially short and wavy on the chest and belly.
When it comes to the Rex coat, the less grooming the better. The hairs are delicate, and brushing or combing can damage it. Ears and paws may develop a greasy feel, so clean them regularly.
The only other care he needs is weekly nail trimming and occasional ear cleaning. Brush his teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Look and sniff inside his big ears to make sure there’s no redness or bad odor that could indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a gentle cleanser recommended by your veterinarian.
Choosing a Cornish Rex Breeder
You want your cat 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 Cornish Rex, or to find breeders, 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 socialize 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 Cornish 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.
Adopting a Cat from a Cornish Rex Rescue or Shelter
The Cornish Rex is an 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 Cornish 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 Cornish Rexs available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Some 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 Cornish 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. Most people who love Cornish Rexes love all Cornish 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 Cornish 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:
- What is his energy level?
- How is he around other animals?
- How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
- What is his personality like?
- How old is he?
- Is he litterbox trained?
- Has he ever bitten or scratched anyone that they know of?
- Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Cornish 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 Cornish 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.