Breed: Devon Rex
Temperament: active and playful
Cost: $350 – $500
Lifespan: 12 years
Recommended for: families and apartments
The Devon Rex is a young breed, only some 30 years old. It derives its name from the town in which it was first developed, namely Devon in southwest England. ‘Rex’ is a term used to indicate a mutation in the coat; rather than being straight and soft, the coat of a rex cat is curly, or wavy. Reports suggest that in 1960 a kitten was born with a rex mutation. This kitten subsequently grew up, produced another rex kitten, and further in-breeding and breeding with other short-haired cats soon created the ‘Devon Rex’.
The first Devon Rex arrived in Australia in 1971. Its playful temperament and attractive appearance has since endeared it to many cat lovers.
Appearance and temperament
There are two well known rex cats in Australia. The Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex. Devons are a fine-boned, small to medium cat; females weighing around three kilograms and males about four to five kilograms. The Devon’s most distinctive feature is its short curly coat, which takes on a rippling appearance. The Cornish Rexs’ coat is actually wavy rather than curly in appearance.
With full cheeks and a well-defined chin, the head of the Devon Rex appears wedge-shaped. This, combined with the large wide ears, set wide on the head and tapering to a rounded tip, gives the Devon a distinct ‘elfin’ or ‘pixie’ appearance.
Regarded by many breeders as a dependant cat, the Devon Rex prefers company rather than leading a solitary life. Devons love human contact and the companionship of other animals. Although not as demanding or vocal as a Siamese, the Devon Rex will follow its master everywhere, and may get under ones feet. The Devon Rex’s desire for contact extends to its sleeping routines and it usually prefers to rest with a companion, quite often human.
In recent times, progressive cat control groups have permitted breeders to introduce other cat breeds into the Devon Rex line, which otherwise has a relatively small gene pool. The use of these other breeds, such as Burmese, Tonkinese, Abyssinian and domestic shorthair, has broadened the gene pool and improved the breed’s health and hybrid vigour.
The first generation of these matings are all straight haired cats. This is because the kittens only possess one of the required two recessive genes. Once mature, some of these hybrids are then mated back to Devons, resulting in a litter roughly half curly-coated and half straightcoated. These straight-coated types are registered simply as a Devon hybrid and may be used for further hybrid breeding or sold at a cheaper fee. Depending on the type of cat used in the hybrid program, longhaired kittens may sometimes occur.
Cornish Rex are seldom used in these hybrid programs because the gene responsible for coat shape is very different in each breed. Early matings of Devon Rex to Cornish Rex were once tried in order to ‘fix’ the coat type. These matings were expected to produce more curly-coated kittens, however simply resulted in litters of entirely straight-haired babies. This outcome actually demonstrated that the gene responsible for the curly coat in each of these animals is unique to the individual breed.
These recent hybrid programs have also given the prospective owner a wide variety of coat patterns and colours to choose from. White, black and bi-colours (a combination of two colours) are most popular.
Health and cost
Hybrid breeding programs have come a long way in eliminating health problems which once afflicted this breed. The Devon Rex is regarded as a generally sound and healthy animal; free from kidney disease and heart defects which trouble so many cat breeds. However, dental problems often occur which could be a side-effect of the Rex gene, but in any case these problems are made worse by a poorly balanced diet and a lack of raw bones for the cat to chew.
Healthy Devons usually lead a long life, averaging around 12 years, and range in price for a desexed cat from $350-$500.
The Devon is a great family cat, ideally suited to households where someone is home often. Devon Rex also make ideal apartment cats, preferring to spend life indoors, especially at night and when it’s cold outside. Although an indoor cat, they are active, and ideally should be part of an active family. Their strong desire for companionship suggests that if someone isn’t able to be home regularly, a second Devon or companion animal should be considered. In terms of grooming, they’re pretty low maintenance. The coat sheds little and a simple stroke with your hand will usually suffice. The large ears do need careful cleaning with a cotton bud once monthly.
This road test was filmed in Engadine, NSW with Devon Rex breeder Tonia Marsh. For more information on the Devon Rex, Tonia can be contacted on (02) 9520 4163.
For recommended breeders in your area contact your state’s Feline Authority.
New South Wales: Waratah National Cat Alliance Inc.
Phone: (02) 9527 3695
Queensland: Queensland Feline Association Inc.
Phone: (07) 3260 6575
South Australia: Governing Council of the Cat Fancy of South Australia Inc.
Phone: (08) 8449 5880
Victoria: Cat Authority of Victoria Inc.
Phone: (03) 5986 1119
Western Australia: Feline Control Council of Western Australia
Phone: (08) 9493 5228
Tasmania: Cat Association of Tasmania Inc.
Phone: (03) 6261 4432
Northern Territory: Cat Association of the Northern Territory
Phone: (08) 8927 3865