Monday, September 2, 2013

Cat Breeds: Devon Rex

The origin of the Devon Rex cat can be traced to Buckfastleigh, Devon in 1960. There was a feral tom living in an abandoned mine there, one with a curly coat. A woman named Beryl Cox adopted a stray tortie and white female. These two cats inevitably mated, and one of the kittens, a male, had a curly coat just like his father's. This kitten was named Kirlee.

At first it was thought his traits could contribute to the emerging Cornish Rex, but Kirlee's genes were just different enough. Kirlee's whiskers, for example, were stubby, sometimes entirely missing. The Cornish Rex exhibited curled whiskers. Kirlee's hair was tightly curled and not at all uniform. The Cornish Rex had a uniform coat. Kirlee had large eyes, a short nose, and low-set ears. The Cornish Rex did not.

Clearly the genes controlling the two mutations were different. To distinguish them, the Cornish gene was labeled Gene 1 while the Devon gene was labeled Gene 2. Every Devon Rex that has appeared since 1960 carries Gene 2 and can trace its lineage back to Kirlee.

The Appearance of the Devon Rex Cat

At first glance the Devon Rex can seem a little strange. This breed is on the smaller side, generally weighing no more than nine pounds. Like most breeds, females are smaller than males. They are all athletic and have strong muscles. The hind legs are a little longer than the forelegs, giving the cat a slightly lopsided appearance. The ears are huge and the face is shaped like a wedge. In the right light, the Devon Rex almost looks like a rogue pixie. The whiskers and eyebrows of this cat are short and curly, or even missing entirely.

Though the preferred coat is as even as possible and full of loose curls, coats actually vary greatly. Some cats have thick coats, others have sparse coats, and some even have bald patches all over their bodies. This doesn't indicate illness of any kind. It is simply the way Gene 2 expresses itself in different cats.

The coat also changes appearance over the course of the lifetime of each individual cat. Devon Rex cats molt occasionally, causing the coat to break off. They can appear to have a short coat with no curls, or even no coat at all, until the curly coat grows back. Molting is not a fault; it is simply the way these cats are.

When compared to most cats, the body of the Devon Rex is extremely hot to the touch. Some people think this is indicative of illness at first, but it's entirely natural. The coat is so short that it does nothing to keep the body heat next to the body. Because of this trait, these cats get cold easily. They often search for warm places to sleep and can be found stretched out on a radiator or curled up in the sunniest spot in the house.

Grooming the Devon Rex is quite simple since this cat breed doesn't shed much. A quick brush with a grooming mitt once a week is usually all that is required. Because of the short coat, an actual brush is not recommended. The oversized ears can collect grease and dust, so they should be cleaned with a soft cotton ball dipped in baby oil.

The Personality of the Devon Rex Cat

The Devon Rex is playful, intelligent, and loving. This is a highly active breed that likes to climb and run. They have a powerful need to be with people and don't like being left alone. In fact, this cat breed can be destructive when left alone for long periods of time. If you tend to be away for more than four or five hours at a time, a companion cat is a good idea. With a friend, your Devon Rex may be less inclined to destruction and more content to wait for you to arrive home.

This cat is good with children, other pets, and random visitors who might drop in for tea. In fact, the busier your household is, the happier your Devon Rex will be. They love to be the center of attention, so expect your cat to be around whenever there's a crowd. They're not as talkative as the Siamese, but they do make soft chirping sounds if they feel they're being ignored.

Known Health Issues of the Devon Rex

Like many specialty breeds, the Devon Rex suffered from inbreeding in its early years. This has led to some common health problems including coagulopathy (a clotting disorder), luxating patella (slipping kneecaps), and inherited spasticity (spasms). Genetic testing and limited outcrossing are both being used to help reduce the occurrences of these problems.

If you're looking for a cat who has a sweet nature and a slightly different appearance, the Devon Rex might be for you.