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The Devon Rex is sometimes referred to as the 'ET' of the cat world with its large almost saucer-like eyes and huge ears, and sometimes as the 'poodle cat' because of its curly coat with a slightly wiry texture. They share many of the same characteristic traits as their Cornish Rex relations, including their intelligence and need to know exactly what's going on. They have long toes enabling them to use their paws like hands, which is often put to good use by completing their circuit round the room far more quickly! They make wonderful pets and love to share every aspect of their owners' lives, but are probably not for the faint-hearted as they can be very demanding and attention-seeking. Like the Cornish Rex, the Devons are not considered suitable for people with allergies to cats, because of the allergic reaction to the glycol-protein found in the skin, saliva and urine. Using the term 'Rex' to describe a coat that does not conform to the norm is said to have originated when the Belgian King Albert I (1875-1934) entered some unusual curly-coated rabbits in a show, and rather than offend him, the judges wrote 'Rex' (the Latin word for King) next to their names to explain the results!
The first Devon Rex was accidentally found by a Beryl Cox in a litter of non-pedigree 'normal' coated kittens born near an old tin mine in Devon in 1960, ten years after the first Cornish Rex had appeared. The sire was almost certainly a local black longhaired cat (with 'ringlets' in his tail), and the kitten, named Kirlee, was later shown to be a longhair carrier. Beryl Cox realised how rare this kitten was after reading a newspaper article about a forthcoming cat show, showing a photo of a kitten said to be the only curly-coated kitten in Britain who would be on exhibition at the show. She contacted the breeder of this kitten, and Kirlee was then identified to a wider audience as a rex-coated cat, although it was first assumed that he must be related to the earlier-discovered Cornish Rex. It was agreed that Kirlee could go to one of the early Cornish Rex to help increase the limited gene pool but it wasn't until he was mated with two Cornish Rex variants (Cornish Rex x Domestic Shorthair), and later a purebred Cornish Rex, that it was realised he was something completely different as these matings produced only 'normal', rather than curly, coated offspring. The two Rex varieties were then bred as separate programmes, although due to the very limited gene pool and the reluctance of many breeders to become involved, it became necessary to include Kirlee's 'variant' kittens in the original Devon Rex breeding. There is therefore a considerable amount of Cornish Rex ancestry in modern Devon Rex pedigrees, all of which can be linked back to the original Cornish Rex (named Kallibunker), although no other Rex variety has been found to be compatible with the Devon Rex.
The coat of the Devon Rex can be any recognised colour or pattern, with or without white, and eye colour varies according to the coat colour. As with other Rex breeds, it's the coat of the Devons that marks the main difference between them and other short coated breeds and as well as being short, soft, dense and luxuriant, there are neat even waves covering their bodies. This breed is very late in developing its full adult coat, and the coat looks at its best between eighteen months and three years old. Some newly born kittens are born almost bald, whilst others are covered in tiny little curls. The ears are large, set low (unlike those of the Cornish Rex which are more upright) and wide apart, and very wide at base, tapering to rounded tips and well covered with fine fur. The tail is long, fine and tapering, covered in very short fur. The eyes are large and wide, set slightly at a slant, giving them a playfully wicked expression.
The Devon Rex certainly lives up to its rather naughty facial expression, and can usually be found looking for mischief unless it's time to have a well-earned breather to restore some energy for another mad rush round the house. They love climbing and jumping, and make very affectionate companions, loving to drape themselves around their owner's shoulders or just generally to snuggle up. They always want to be part of everything that's going on, and are very intelligent with an easy-going nature. They are very demanding and strong-willed, and need a lot of entertaining, but are also happy to play with other pets and are good playmates for slightly older children.
The Devon Rex is generally a very healthy breed, and the majority live to a good age in the mid-teens. However, right from the beginning of Devon Rex breeding there have been serious health problems including Inherited Myopathy (Spasticity) because of the inbreeding caused by a very restricted gene pool, as all Devon Rex are descended from the original Kirlee. A reputable breeder will be very aware of any problems in their line, and will not sell a kitten known to have such health problems. As with all other breeds, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
This breed will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese, but not too many extra treats! Cows' milk may give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. The coat is easy to care for, and may be enhanced by brushing with a very soft-bristle brush, which the cat will probably treat as a game, and firm stroking will also emphasise the coat texture. The Devon Rex is more prone to the build-up of earwax than many other breeds, and this should be checked regularly and gently cleaned with a damp cloth if necessary.