Devon Rex: Breed Profile, Health, and History


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The Devon Rex cat is a super friendly, obscure little furball with a lot of love to give. Their big, elfin ears give them an alien-like appearance that’s surprisingly endearing. Because of their curly fair and the fact that they’re known to wag their tails, they’re also sometimes called the Poodle that purrs. One of many things in their bag of cat tricks!

There’s a lot that makes the Devon Rex so charming. Let’s look at what they love and hate, their history and their personality.

A beautiful ginger Devon Rex cat staring into the camera. This is a smart breed that's able to do cat tricks

Where it all began for the Devon Rex cat

All Devon Rexes originate from a single cat called Kirlee, circa 1960s England. Here’s the history.

A woman named Beryl Cox was living in Buckfastleigh, Devon, near an old abandoned tin mine. She’d noticed a tomcat with curly hair roaming around the mine, but no one had ever been able to catch it. A cat lover herself, Beryl had given shelter to a feral tortoiseshell and white female cat behind her house.

The curly haired Tom and feral queen cat mated and a litter was born. Beryl noticed that one of them was a unique, brownish-black male with lots of curls, which ran in ringlets down his tail. Beryl kept the kitten and named him Kirlee. He would become famous as the beginning of the breed known as the Devon Rex cat. 

Interestingly, another curly-haired kitten called Kallibunker had been found ten years earlier in Cornwall. Breeders had worked hard to propagate Kallibunker’s curly gene to create an entire breed of “rexed” cats (cats with curly hair). Through inbreeding, Kallibunker eventually sired another curly haired kitten. Called Du-Bu Lambtex, he was featured in London’s Daily Mirror and touted as the only curly-haired kitten in England.

The Daily Mail newspaper article featuring Lambtex - thought to be England's only curly-haired kitten. This is a smart breed that's able to do cat tricks

Beryl saw the article, and quickly wrote in to let them know that, in fact, she owned a curly haired kitten, too!

Though breeders initially thought that Kirlee and Lambtex may be from the same genetic pool, they were in fact two totally unrelated cats. Breeders eventually defined Lambtex as a Cornish Rex, and Kirlee as a Devon Rex. They’re now established as two distinct breeds with their own physical characteristics.

Devon Rex cat physical appearance

These cute, curly felines actually don’t have fur. Instead, they have short, wavy hair that comes in almost every colour you could dream of. You can find them in black, blue, chocolate, cinnamon, lilac, and white. Devon Rex cats can also have tortoiseshell, calico, tabby, pointed, and shaded patterns, among others.

Because their coat is actually made of hair, many think they’re hypoallergenic. No cat is 100% allergy friendly. However, the Devon Rex cat breed carries fewer allergens than others. Here’s a list of some other so-called hypoallergenic cat breeds.

In terms of their facial features, they have low set, pointed ears and big, dreamy eyes. Their other rather obvious traits are high cheekbones and a long neck. No wonder they’re sometimes referred to as the Pixie or the Cat Fancy.

A ginger Devon Rex cat standing by a glass of water. This is a smart breed that's able to do cat tricks

Its attention-grabbing pawsonality

Devon Rex cats are intelligent, friendly and very social. These kitties love to be the centre of attention and they’re not afraid to let you know when they want it. Fans of the breed love the Devon for their clowning around antics and energetic nature.

The Devon Rex loves to jump, and having perches and play areas for them will save your lampshades, couches and curtains.

That being said, while their personality is loud and out there, they’re actually a rather silent breed. Even with all their cat tricks, they won’t meow often, and when they do it won’t be loud.

Are Devon Rex cats affectionate?

Unlike some of their feline friends, they love the company of both human and other cats.

They’re great with children, assuming the kids play well with animals. If you’re looking for a feline friend who’ll be spending a lot of time alone, this isn’t the one for you. Like the Exotic Shorthair, the Devon requires company and cuddles to thrive, as they’re prone to separation anxiety.

So, are Devon Rex cats affectionate? Definitely!

What about their health?

Known to be a pretty hardy breed, the Devon rex cat isn’t known for many health problems. Their skin can be prone to yeast infections due to the lack of fur, so it’s often recommended to give them a wash every few weeks. Also, they’re more likely to get hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease and hereditary myopathy, which affects muscle function.

How long do Devon rex cats live? About 10-15 years, which is about average for a cat. If you’re planning on getting yourself a Devon kitty, here are all the cat health care milestones you need to know about in their first year.

Also, they looove to eat, so be sure to carefully control their diet as pet obesity isn’t fun for your cat. Check out our piece on average cat weight to see how your Devon Rex cat stacks up.

A beautiful Devon Rex cat laying on the floor. This is a smart breed that's able to do cat tricks

Cat tricks and the Devon Rex cat

Due to their intelligent and playful nature, the Devon Rex cat is known to be very trainable. They’re eager to please, love socialising and adore stimulation – all the traits that help in cat training. You can teach your Devon tricks like jumping, sitting, turning around, waving, dancing and many other nifty actions.

Devons can be rather stubborn and wilful, so make sure to coax them with plenty of treats and encouragement. Check out this Devon in action for some training inspiration:

Oh, and speaking of cat tricks, did you know you can teach your cat to use a human toilet?

Kitties love cat insurance!

Devon Rex cat or Donskoy, cat insurance plans help keep them healthy and safe. As all cat-parents know, felines are independent creatures and unlike dogs they won’t always tell you when they’re hurt. That means your cat might need emergency medical assistance by the time you discover something’s wrong.

PD Insurance is an award-winning brand that will help you pay those bills and reduce your costs. So you can keep your focus on what’s important – on your pet and not your pocket.

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