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What is a Cornish Rex?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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The Cornish Rex is a domestic cat breed which is famous for its extremely unusual coat. Cornish Rex cats are highly prized by their owners for their intelligence and affectionate attitudes, and they are widely bred throughout Europe and the United States. Many cat shows feature a Cornish Rex division, for people who are interested in seeing cats which represent the finest of the breed standard.

The defining feature of the Cornish Rex is its coat. Unlike other cats, Cornish Rexes only have the down layer of their coats, and as a result they are covered with extremely soft, curly hair without any of the stiff and more coarse guard hairs grown by most cat breeds. In purebred Cornish Rexes, the guard hairs typically form waves which run down the cat's body, looking rather like an extravagant permanent wave, and the cats come in all colors, from white to tortoiseshell.

This breed of cat is the result of a single mutation in a litter of barn cats found in Cornwall, England in 1950. Recognizing that a male kitten named Kallibunker was unique, breeders attempted to refine the breed and create a breed standard for the Cornish Rex. In addition to its curly coat, the Cornish Rex is also distinguished by having extremely large ears set on a small head with very high cheekbones, and a long, sleek body which has led some people to refer to the Cornish Rex as the “greyhound of cats.”

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Because the Cornish Rex lacks a full coat of hair, these cats are highly susceptible to cold. In the home, many Rex cats favor the warmest possible spots, and if they are allowed outdoors in cold weather, they can develop hypothermia. For this reason, many breeders recommend that people view their Cornish Rexes as indoor only cats.

Many people find the personality traits of the Cornish Rex quite charming. These cats are known for being extremely intelligent and very curious, and they are excellent problem solvers. They are also very playful; Cornish Rexes never seem to fully outgrow their kitten stage, and the cats love playing both with people and other animals. The Rex is also known for being extremely outgoing and affectionate.

Contrary to popular belief, the Cornish Rex is not a hypoallergenic cat. Rexes do shed, although in a much lower volume than other cat breeds, and, more importantly, they secrete the same proteins in their saliva which other cat breeds do. Since these proteins are responsible for most cat allergies, people who are allergic to cats will experience allergy symptoms around Cornish Rex cats.

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