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Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Devon Rex

Devon Rex

Ancestry: Random-bred domestic cats
Place of Origin: Buckfastleigh, Devon, England
Date of Origin: 1960
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)

 
Description

Fanciers say that to fully appreciate your first sighting of the Poodle Cat, you must put aside all preconceived notions of what a cat should look like. The Devon Rex’s large oval eyes, prominent cheekbones, huge, low-set ears and short, wavy fur create an unparalleled appearance. Like all the Rex breeds, the Devon’s wavy coat was created by Mother Nature’s magic wand—spontaneous mutation.

The Devon Rex has a medium fine frame and a hard, muscular body that’s lithe and of medium length. Broad in chest and medium fine in boning, the Devon has long, slim legs ending with small, oval paws. The body is carried high on the legs with the hind legs somewhat longer than the front, making the Devon a strong jumper. The tail is long, fine, tapering, and well covered with short fur. Males generally weigh 8 to 10 pounds; females weigh 5 to 8 pounds.

The head is a modified wedge shape, slightly longer than it is broad, set on a medium-long slender neck. The face has pronounced cheekbones, a short muzzle, prominent whisker pads and a whisker break. In profile, the nose has a strongly marked stop; the forehead curves back to a flat skull. Whiskers are short, curly, and sparse. The Devon Rex’s satellite dish ears are strikingly large, very wide at the base and set low so that the outside base of the ear extends beyond the line of the wedge. They taper to rounded tips and are well covered with fine fur.

The large, wide-set, oval eyes slope toward the outer edges of the ears. Any eye color is acceptable since no points are awarded for eye color. However, pointed pattern Devons usually have blue eyes and minks generally have aqua eyes.

Often confused with the Cornish Rex, the only real similarity between the two breeds is the rexed coat, and even that is different. While the Cornish Rex coat lacks guard hairs, the Devon Rex’s coat has all three hair types: guard, awn and down. However, the Devon’s guard hairs are fragile and stunted, and the whiskers are often shorter and sometimes missing altogether. All coat colors and patterns are accepted.

The Devon Rex’s coat is soft, fine, full-bodied and rexed; a rippled wave effect should be apparent when the coat is smoothed with the hand. The wave is most evident where the coat is the longest. The coat is short on the back, sides, upper legs and tail, and very short on the head, ears, neck, paws, chest and abdomen. The cat is well covered with fur, with the greatest density on the back, sides, tail, legs, face and ears. Slightly less density is allowed on the top of head, neck, chest and abdomen. Bare patches are faults in kittens and adult cats; extensive baldness is a disqualifying fault.

History

The Devon Rex breed can be traced back to a single cat. In 1960, a cat lover named Beryl Cox of Buckfastleigh, a small town in the large county of Devon in southwest England, noticed a curly-haired feral tom cat living in the deserted tin mine near her home. In due time, this curly transient fathered the kittens of a straight-coated calico female who delivered her renowned litter in Cox’s garden. One of the kittens took after his father, and had the same short, curly coat.

Cox, quite taken with the pixie-like kitten’s huge ears and deep brown curls, adopted him and named him Kirlee. Aware of the Cornish Rex, another curly-coated breed that 10 years earlier had been discovered in Cornwall (a county bordering Devon), Cox contacted the breeders and told them about Kirlee. After taking a look at Kirlee, they were overjoyed, since at that time the Cornish Rex was literally dying for breeding males. They encouraged Cox to allow Kirlee to join the breeding program, and she reluctantly parted with her beloved companion, selling him to Cornish Rex breeder Brian Sterling-Webb.

However, to the great disappointment of all concerned, it soon became apparent that Kirlee was not a Cornish Rex because matings between Kirlee and Cornish Rex queens produced nothing but litter after litter of straight-coated kittens. Kirlee clearly didn’t have the same genetic makeup as the Cornish Rex. Finally, Kirlee was bred to one of his straight-coated daughters, Broughton Golden Rain, and the resulting litter contained two straight-coated kittens and one curly blue-cream female. The breeders didn’t have a new Cornish Rex breeding male, they had an entirely new breed—the Devon Rex, named for the breed’s place of origin. (Later the genes responsible for the two coat types were discovered; the gene for the Cornish Rex’s coat was named rex gene I, while the gene for the coat of the Devon Rex was named rex gene II.)

They also realized that the gene for Kirlee’s curls was recessive, or else some of those early litters would have contained curly kittens, since only one copy of a dominant gene is needed for the trait to show up in the physical appearance. This made it likely that Kirlee’s parents were related, since a recessive gene must be acquired from both parents for the offspring to exhibit the trait. In 1967, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of Great Britain (GCCF) recognized the Devon Rex as a separate breed.

In 1968, Marion White of Texas masterminded the Devon Rex’s first North American breeding program by purchasing two breeding Devons from England. In 1969, Shirley Lambert of Texas imported two seal point Devons of her own, the first pointed pattern Devons in North America. White and Lambert imported several more Devons and worked together to promote and increase the breed. In 1972, ACFA became the first American association to recognize the Devon Rex for championship. Over the next 10 years, Devon Rex breeding programs started all over the United States and Canada as more people learned about these purring pixies.

The Cornish Rex had been accepted for championship status in CFA in 1964, and at first the registry balked at recognizing the Devon as a separate breed; it decreed that all curly-coated cats were to be registered under the blanket name of Rex. This didn’t please Cornish or Devon breeders, since the genetic incompatibility of the two breeds and the differences in type were well known. Devon breeders didn’t want to be forced to breed to fit the Cornish Rex breed standard and lose that elvish charm. After years of persuasion by breeders, CFA relented in 1979 and accepted the Devon for separate registration. That year, the Devon was also accepted for championship by the recently formed TICA. Finally, the Devon Rex achieved CFA championship status in 1983. Today, the Devon Rex is accepted by all North American cat associations.

Because the gene pool is still relatively small, Devons are outcrossed with other breeds to widen the gene pool and keep it healthy. Acceptable outcrosses vary depending upon the association. For example, in CFA, American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs are allowable outcrosses. However, kittens born on or after May 1, 2028, can have only Devon Rex parents in that association. In TICA, in addition to the American Shorthair and British Shorthair, European Shorthair, Burmese, Bombay, Sphynx, and Siamese are also allowable outcrosses, although few breeders use most of these breeds. No cutoff date has yet been set. In CCA, the American Shorthair and British Shorthair are currently allowed outcrosses. Since the purpose of outcrossing is to provide new bloodlines and widen the gene pool while keeping the traits for which the Devon Rex is celebrated, breeders carefully choose prospective partners for their Devons. Usually, they are not looking for outstanding examples of the outcross breeds, but rather those that have desirable Devon characteristics. Outcrossing with, say, a grand champion Extreme Siamese would cause a considerable change in head and body type of the Devon. Fanciers say that today’s Devons look very much as they did 30 years ago because breeders are dedicated to maintaining the original characteristics of the breed.

Since the beginning, Devons have been a hit among the cat-loving public because of their loving personalities and pixie appearance. Popularity and demand have grown, and breed numbers along with them. According to CFA’s 2012 registration totals, the Devon Rex ranks seventh most popular shorthair, and tenth most popular breed overall, edging out the Cornish Rex, which ranks ninth most popular shorthair, and twelfth overall.

Notes

One thing the Devon is not, however, is hypoallergenic. The Devon Rex and its country cousin, the Cornish Rex, do shed less than cats with ordinary coats, which is great for keeping cat hair off your couch. However, it’s not cat hair that causes the allergic reaction in humans, it’s an allergenic protein called Fel d1 that’s present in the cat’s saliva and is secreted from the sebaceous glands. This protein is spread onto the fur during grooming. Devons groom their fur and produce just as much of this protein as any other breed; they just don’t deposit as much allergen-laced hair all over the place and can be more easily bathed to remove some of the offending allergens. This may help those who are allergic to cats—or it may not. If you are allergic, plan to spend some time with the breed before deciding to bring one home. Keep in mind that a cat may not develop her full allotment of Fel d1 until she matures. Too, the amount of Fel d1 can vary from cat to cat, sometimes a great deal, so once you settle on the Devon of your dreams, be sure you spend a lot of time with her to see how you react to her allergens.

The Devon Rex is usually a very healthy breed. However, some lines are prone to the inherited heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a progressive heart condition. The disease can develop at any age, but is more common in older cats—cats who have already had the opportunity to pass the disease along to offspring. The symptoms of this life-threatening disease can be so subtle that the first visible symptom is often sudden death at a relatively young age. HCM is the most common feline heart disease, and is known in other breeds and in random-bred cats as well. However, in pedigreed cats negative traits can become more concentrated through line-breeding. A number of veterinary schools such as UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, California and organizations such as the Winn Feline Foundation are working to find ways to test, treat, and cure the disease. No cure is currently available, but medication can slow its progression.

Some lines are also prone to an inherited disease that causes progressive muscle dysfunction. Called "spasticity" by some fanciers, this disorder is correctly termed hereditary myopathy or muscular dystrophy. Symptoms usually develop between four and seven weeks, though some kittens show no symptoms until 14 weeks; it’s wise not to buy a Rex younger than that age. Affected kittens hold their shoulder blades high and their neck arched downwards. The arched neck interferes with feeding and drinking. Diminished or slow movement, decreased or no movement, and muscular contractions of the esophagus may also develop. The symptoms worsen as the Rex ages. No known treatment exists, but there is a test for the condition that helps breeders eliminate the disease from their bloodlines.

Hereditary patellar luxation (kneecap dislocation) is also found in this breed. The kneecap occasionally pops out of its track when the joint is moved and can cause limping, pain, and lameness, particularly if the track in which the kneecap rests is malformed or is too shallow. On rare occasions the kneecap will dislocate permanently. This condition can lead to osteoarthritis. In addition, inherited hip dysplasia affects some lines, which can cause pain and dysfunction, and often crippling arthritis as the cat ages.

Also, like the Cornish Rex, British Shorthair, and other pedigreed breeds, both A and B blood types exist in Devon Rex bloodlines, which is only a problem if you plan to breed your Devon. Queens with type B blood, when bred to toms with type A blood, can produce both type B and type A kittens. Any kittens with type A blood from such matings are born apparently healthy but then fade rapidly and die 24 to 72 hours after birth. This is sometimes called "fading kitten syndrome," and is due to the antibodies that type B cats produce against type A blood. The Devon Rex breed has approximately 41 percent type B blood, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania. Fortunately, Dr. Leslie Lyons at the University of California, Davis, has recently found the gene and mutation associated with the B blood group. A DNA test has been developed, and cats can be tested at an early age, so they can be bred to cats with the same blood type. Because giving type A blood to a type B cat can result in a fatal reaction, it’s wise to have your cat blood typed in case your cat requires a blood transfusion, particularly in an emergency. UC Davis provides this type of blood testing – visit their website at www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/abblood.php. This test is now available for all domestic cat breeds.

This is not to say your Devon Rex will develop all or any of these conditions and diseases. However, it’s wise to ask your potential breeder how carefully she screens her breeding stock. Reputable breeders screen their breeding cats for known inheritable diseases and serious conditions. Be sure to talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns, and buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.

Did you know?

Devon Rexes wag their tails when they’re happy. This and their curly coats have led to the nickname "Poodles who purr."

Personality

This breed has a special personality all its own, say owners of the playful Poodle puss. If you’re looking for the mythical aloof, independent cat, don’t get a Devon Rex. Active but not hyperactive, Devons want to be with you every moment of every day, taking part in every activity, huge ears cocked in curiosity, large eyes glistening with love, agile paws reaching to tap you if you aren’t paying them full attention. When they’re in a playful or affectionate mood (which is most of their waking hours), they wag their tails with delight. For highly active, inquisitive cats, however, they tend to be even-tempered and adaptable.

In a household of these pixies, you’ll find that the Devons stick together but will readily cuddle with other cats if no other Devons are present. Devons tend to get along well with cats, cat-friendly dogs, and even parrots, say fanciers, as long as the proper introductions are made. They also usually get along well with gentle children and make wonderful family pets. Extraordinarily social and people-oriented, Devons don’t do well if left alone; at least one other cat or other sociable animal companion is needed for those times you can't be with them. But their favorite playmates are humans. Devons are not content to sit by your side or on your lap; they sit on your shoulders or drape themselves around your neck like curly-coated scarves. Some fanciers say Devons believe they are human. They love to play fetch or participate in just about any activity that can be performed with their preferred people.

Devons will keep you laughing. Highly intelligent and keen observers of human nature, Devons are known for getting into adorable mischief. Because of their curiosity and ability to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, no shelf or cupboard is safe from the inquiring mind and agile paws of the Devon Rex.

Devons are not overly vocal, which is a plus; if they spoke their minds the way some breeds do, they might be a bit too obtrusive. But that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate when they have something to say. Their meows are distinctive chirps and twitters, and some are silent meowers—they open their mouths to comment but nothing audible comes out, in the range of human hearing, anyway.

Devons are also known for their insatiable appetites—after all, it takes a lot of energy to race around the house without touching the floor. Unless you want your Devon Rex clinging to your leg like a huge, wavy-haired tick, you’d better be on time with the cat food. They also have peculiar appetites and will snack on uncatlike foods such as pasta, corn, cantaloupe, and even bananas. Eager to sample whatever you’re having, they’ll steal food off your plate, your fork, and sometimes even out of your mouth. In their older years, they can become portly poodle pusses, and may need your help to keep their slender figures.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Small to medium.
Coat Length(s):Short hair.
Body Type:Slender.
Grooming Requirement:Little grooming needed.
Talkativeness:Quiet.
Activity Level:High.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Adults (18-65), seniors, and children (6+).
Time Alone:0 to 4 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Moderately docile.