Origin: United Kingdom
Size: Small to medium
Coat Length: Short hair
Body Type: Slender
Appearance: Cornish Rex are small to medium-sized cats with athletic and lean bodies. Adult males weigh from 2.5 to 4kg and females 23kg. They have fine and often curly (wire-like) coats in various colours and patterns. The solids include white, black, chocolate, orange and blues,; tabby, bi-colour and bi-colour “tuxedo” are also commonly seen. Cornish Rex have large ears and oval-shaped eyes, the colour of which depends on the colour of the coat.
Grooming Requirement: Not a lot grooming needed
Activity Level: Very high
Affection: Very affectionate
Time Alone: 0 to 4 hours a day
Attention: Needs a lot of attention
Temperament: Cornish Rex are smart and highly active cats. They are playful and interactive and many of them love to play fetch. Catnip, teaser or puzzle toys are great ways to keep them busy. You’ll need to hide or secure everything of value or breakable, as the Cornish Rex is quite bright enough to figure out how to open a fridge or a cabinet.
Interesting Facts: Because of their fine coat. in cold weather Cornish Rex cats may actually get hypothermia. The distinct wavy hairs came from a genetic mutation back in the 1950s.
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Children: Like most cats, Cornish Rex are nice to you if you’re nice to them! They get along well with other cats and well-behaved dogs or children.
Common Health Problems: Cornish Rex are generally a healthy breed but some of the following health issues may occur; umbilical hernia, congestinal hypotrichosis and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Some cats may be overly sensitive to anaesthetics.
Lifespan: Average 11 to 15 years.
The breed originated in Cornwall, southwest England, as a result of a genetic mutation. In 1950, a tortoiseshell farm cat named Serena, owned by Mrs. Nina Ennismore, gave birth to a litter of five kittens, among which a cream coloured male kitten stood out. The kitten named Kallibunker (Kalli) had an unusual coat of tight rows of tiny curls and was to become the founder of the Cornish Rex breed. Kallibunker was the first registered Cornish Rex and was later bred back to his mother in order to reproduce the gene mutation pattern. Two of the three kittens in that litter had the same soft curly coat as their father. The male kitten from the litter, called Poldhu, and Kallibunker went on to sire further litters. One of Poldhu’s daughters was exported to the US in the late 1950s where she was bred to Siamese which gave the Cornish Rex breed its exotic oriental type.
In the UK, Cornish Rexes were bred to British Shorthairs, Oriental lilac, Havana, and Burmese cats in order to enlarge and improve the gene pool, as close in-breeding in the early stages of selective breeding had led to problems in the development of the breed, including weakness and ill-health. The slender type of the Cornish was almost lost due to the heavy outcrossing, which resulted in a more stocky cat type. A great-great-great grandson of Kallibunker was imported from Canada and allowed breeders to bring back the Cornish Rex to its original svelte type.
Following a 1960 publication in the Daily Mirror which claimed that there was only one curly coated kitten in Britain, a reader contacted the newspaper claiming she too had a kitten with a curly coat. It was arranged for the kitten to be transported to Cornwall and be involved in the Cornish breeding programme. After a few straight-coated litters were produced, it was concluded that his mutation was different from the one of the Cornish Rex and a distinction between the two recessive genes was made. Gene 1 was established as the Cornish Rex, and Gene 2 – as the Devon Rex.
The breed takes its name from its birthplace and its coat type, similar in texture to a coat type seen in Rex rabbits. The breed was accepted into the Cat Fanciers Association in 1962 and is also recognised by The International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers Association.
Cornish Rex cats’ physical activity is similar to that of most cats – long hours of sleep (may come up to 16 hours a day), interactive games and brain stimulating activities. They love jumping and climbing, so some cat trees and perches would suit their exercise needs well. They are typically very active and playful cats, and owners are advised to seek veterinary assistance in case there is a sudden or unusual decrease in mobility, as this could signal a health issue. The breed is prone to hypothermia if left outside in variable weather for prolonged periods, so it is best that they be kept as indoor pets only.
A Cornish Rex’s diet should be balanced on dry and wet food with some cod liver or another source of omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement. Feeding wet food reduces the risk of Feline Urinary Syndrome (FUS) – a bladder/urinary tract infection which can be fatal if not recognised and treated. Chronic skin problems, such as dandruff, hair falling out, and rashes are almost always caused by dietary deficiencies. To prevent them, a preservative-free diet, rich in fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin C is necessary. Whether feeding prepared or home-cooked food, wheat and wheat products have to be avoided.
The shedding of the breed is minimal and may seem like none at all, as the hairs are so fine that they are hardly noticeable on furniture and clothes. Grooming a Cornish Rex can be as easy as brushing a hand over the coat. Some queens, however, blow their coats when in heat and/or during pregnancy and some individuals have a longer or woollier coat, which may require brushing with a soft bristle brush or fine-tooth comb. Brushing has to be done very carefully and gently to prevent the delicate hairs from breaking. Although largely considered hypoallergenic, Cornish Rex cats can still cause symptoms, even if they don’t aggravate allergies the way other breeds do. Regular bathing is necessary due to the lack of an outer coat which would normally absorb natural oils.
Special care has to be paid to the large ears of the Cornish. They have to be checked weekly for signs of infections and wiped with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 1:1 solution of cider vinegar and warm water, without poking the ear canal.
The corners of the eyes have to be cleaned daily with a soft cloth or pet wipes, using different ends of the cloth and separate wipes to remove the discharge from each eye and prevent the risk of spreading an infection.
Teeth should be brushed regularly – at least once a week (daily at best), and the nails need trimming every couple of weeks.
Common Health Problems
Cornish Rex cats may experience occasional heart and thyroid problems, as well as dermatological issues due to their short coats, namely familial hypotrichosis and a form of dermatitis caused by the yeast microorganism Malassezia. The breed is known to have shown sensitivity to certain anaesthetics, and veterinarians usually choose local anaesthesia or other options to minimise the risk during invasive procedures. These cats need to have their weight controlled as they have a tendency to overeat. Males of the blue-cream smoke colour variation are uncommon and almost always are sterile.