Cat Breeds 101: The Cornish Rex

Cornish RexCornish Rex hail from Cornwall, Britain, and are an easily recognizable breed of housecat. They are unique for their lack of guard hairs, presenting a fine and short curly coat.
Their coats may be one of the softest of any cat breed. Cornish Rex are built to be indoor cats, especially since their fine coats escape their little bodies very quickly. Here, we’re going to dive into the great breed that is the Cornish Rex and learn all about their history, behavior, looks, and health.

Where do Cornish Rex come from?

The Cornish Rex originates from a farm in Cornwall in the early 1950s. The first ever Cornish Rex was a male who had a cream-colored fine curly coat. This kitten was then mated with his mother to produce two curly-coated kittens. This method of breeding, called backcrossing, is a common technique in animal breeding practices. Eventually, a female Cornish Rex was brought to the U.S. and bred with a Siamese to produce the breeds long tail and large ears.

The name “Rex” comes from the latin word for king. Back in the early 1900s, King Albert I of Belgium attempted to enter a curly-haired rabbit into a rabbit show. The judges were afraid to insult the king’s illegal entry, so they decided to accept the entry but labeled the entry with “Rex” so that all would know why these silly curly-haired rabbits were allowed to participate.

Many mistake the Devon Rex with the Cornish Rex. The Devon Rex was discovered about ten years after the Cornish Rex, and since then it has been scientifically proven that the breeds are different. The Cornish Rex lacks all guard hairs, or outer layer of fur, while the Devon still occasionally has short guard hairs. The Devon Rex sheds, while the Cornish does not.

What do Cornish Rex look like?

Cornish Rex can come in a variety of colors, including black and white and colorpoint, as shown here

Cornish Rex can come in a variety of colors, including black and white and colorpoint, as shown here

The Cornish Rex are all born with a genetic mutation that causes the hair to be different than that of most cats. Their gene is recessive, so both parents must possess the gene in order for it to carry on. Cornish Rex can be any variety of colors that a cat can be, including white, colorpoint, tabby, blue, lilac, cream, etc. The Cornish Rex has an egg-shaped head with large ears atop their heads.

Their eyes are big in comparison to their heads, and their whiskers are long and curly. The breed standard calls for a Cornish Rex’s head to be ⅓ longer than it is wide. Their bodies are built for jumping, with extra long rabbit-like back legs. The Cornish Rex is considered a small cat breed, only weighing between 6-10lbs.

What do Cornish Rex act like?

The Cornish Rex is a smart and agile breed of cat, a prime candidate to learn fetch and other tricks. Since they are so intelligent, they are great for families with kids and other dogs. Their intelligence allows them to be more aware of their boundaries and levels of play tolerance, so you won’t usually see a Cornish Rex retaliate with a dangerous swipe when playing with kids or other pets.

Since the Cornish Rex lacks a layer of guard hairs, combined with the fact that their average body temperature is .5 degrees higher than that of a regular housecat, they are constantly seeking out warm places to hang out in. They love curling up under the covers, and are true lap cats. Affection and cuddles go hand in hand with a Cornish Rex.

As with any breed of cat, it is important that Cornish Rex’s are introduced to the human touch and attention at an early age. With any cat, the key to a good temperament is early exposure to people. Responsible and dedicated breeders will have already spent time with the kittens to prepare them to have social tendencies, so if you are looking to adopt, make sure that you discuss this with the breeder.

What is the health of a Cornish Rex like?

The first matter of health to address when looking into the Cornish Rex is their tendency towards hypothermia due to their peculiar coat of fur. Since they lack guard hairs, it is suggested that Cornish Rex be indoors-only cats. This is due to their susceptibility to the cold, and they may suffer health problems in chilly or wet temperatures. On the other end, Cornish Rex shouldn’t be left in too hot of environments, or environments that are too sunny. They could get overheated or even sunburnt.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is also common in Cornish Rexes, however, this is the leading heart problem in all cat breeds and is an issue to look out for with any cat breed. When undergoing surgery, it is important that the Cornish Rex receive only mild anesthetics due to concern with their liver. When receiving a blood transfusion, it is important that the cat’s blood type is identified, as Type B blood Cornish Rexes could have fatal results if they receive the wrong type of transfusion.

The other health difference in a Cornish Rex that may surprise new owners is their odor. It is important to regularly clean and bathe a Cornish Rex. Due to their lack of guard hairs, they tend to get greasy around their ears and paws, specifically around their paw scent glands. When grooming a Cornish Rex, gentle cleaning is required. Their delicate fur could be damaged with scrubbing or harsh rubbing.

If you are thinking about adopting a Cornish Rex, there are a few ways that you can go about doing so. There are several Cornish Rex rescues throughout the country that take care of abandoned and unwanted Cornish Rex cats and kittens. The cost of a Cornish Rex kitten ranges between $200-700, depending on the breed line. In order to find a reputable breeder, make sure to continue your research, and only adopt from an open and trustworthy breeder. Cornish Rex occasionally show up in animal shelters, so it may be worth it to hold out and continue looking for a Rex that truly needs a home.