The Cornish Rex has no hair except for down. Most cats have three types of hair in their coats: the outer fur or “guard hairs”, which is about 5 cm long in shorthairs and 10cm+ long in longhairs; a middle layer called the “awn hair”; and the down hair or undercoat, which is very fine and about 1 cm long. Cornish Rexes only have the undercoat and thus only lose a few of very fine hairs at a time like humans and does not shed like other cats.
The coat of a Cornish Rex is very fine and is the softest of any cat breed. However, their light coat means that they are best suited for indoor living in warm and dry conditions. Consequently, these cats tend to hang around light bulbs, the tops of computer monitors, and other warm places. Some Cornish Rexes also have a mild cheesy smell peculiar to the breed; this odour comes from scent glands in the paws.
The breed is often referred to as the Greyhound of the cats, because of their appearance and the galloping run characteristic of the breed. Some Cornish rexes like to play fetch, race other pets, or do acrobatic jumps. The Cornish Rex is an adventurous cat and is very intelligent. It can readily adapt to new situations and will explore wherever it can go, jumping into fridges, examining washing machines, etc. Some humans consider its antics to be deliberately mischievous. The Rex is extremely curious, seeks out the company of people and is friendly towards other companion animals. It is a suitable pet for timid children.
The Cornish Rex is a genetic mutation that originated from a litter of kittens born in the 1950s on a farm in Cornwall, UK; hence the first part of the breed’s name. One of the kittens, a cream-colored male named Kallibunker, had an extremely unusual, fine and curly coat; he was the first Cornish Rex. The owner then bred Kallibunker back to his mother to produce other curly-coated kittens. Cornish Rexes were later brought to America and crossed with Siamese, giving them their long whippy tails and big ears.
The Devon Rex looks similar in appearance to the Cornish Rex, but has guard hairs and sheds. The Devon Rex mutation is different than the Cornish Rex mutation in that the Devon has shortened guard hairs, while the Cornish Rex lacks guard hairs altogether. Crosses between Devon and Cornish Rexes are not permitted in pedigrees and matings between them will not produce a cat with short wavy fur. Another hair-deficient breed is the Sphynx cat, which has no hair but may have a very light coat of fuzz.
Despite some belief to the contrary, the Cornish Rex’s short hair does not make it non or hypo-allergenic. Most people who have cat allergies are allergic to cat dander and cat saliva. Since Cornish Rex cats groom as much as or even more than ordinary cats, a Cornish Rex cat will still produce a reaction in people who are allergic to cats. However, because of the fine, light fur that is shed from these cats, people with only mild allergies may experience fewer symptoms with a Rex.
Using the word “Rex” to imply short or otherwise unusual fur originates from an occasion when King Albert I of Belgium 1875-1934 entered some short-haired rabbits in a rabbit show. They did not meet the breed standard, but the show’s officials did not wish to risk offending the king by rejecting them. Instead, they accepted them but wrote “Rex” Latin for “king” beside their names. Stimpson J. Cat, of Ren and Stimpy fame, was probably a Cornish Rex.
Although the original curly-coated kittens were British Shorthair type as they were produced from British farm stock, a more stream lined ‘Foreign’ type is now preferred on the show bench; the cat should be fine-boned and elegant with a longer wedge-shaped face and a long whip tail.
The curly coat, which gives this agile breed its distinctive appearance, arose as a mutation.
- Coat. Short, thin hair, but dense, plush and close-lying. No guard hairs. The hair should curl, wave or ripple, especially on the back and tail, but preferably all over, even on the paws. Whiskers and eyebrows should also be curly. Too short or shaggy a coat or hairless patches are faults.
- Body. Hard, muscular, medium in size but slender, not cobby, standing high on long, straight legs. Back arched. Paws small, dainty and oval.
- Tail. Long, thin and tapering.
- Head. Modified Foreign type with medium length wedge, flat skull and straight profile with no nose break.
- Ears large, set high on the head, wide at the base, rounded at the tips, covered in fine short fur.
- Eyes. Oval and medium in size.