It’s completely possible for cats to have curly hair. Known as “Rex” cats, these curly kitties have genetic mutations that give their fur a curly or wavy appearance.
Due to their unique appearance, Rex cats are in demand. But before you decide to adopt a Rex cat, there are a few things you should learn about the breed, including their unique care requirements.
Types of Rex Cats
There are three types of Rex cats recognized by the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA): Devon Rex, Cornish Rex and Selkirk Rex. According to the CFA, the Devon Rex cats and Cornish Rex cats originated in the 1950s in Devonshire, England, when individual cats each gave birth to a curly-furred kitten.
Selkirk Rex cats, though, come from an entirely different line of curly kitties. This breed can be traced back to curly-coated kitty born to a Montana house cat in 1987.
Devon Rex and Cornish Rex cats have short fur, big eyes and big ears. They’re also bred to be slim and elegant. Selkirk Rex cats can have short or long curly fur, and their overall appearance is more robust, as they are bred to be larger and heavy-boned.
The Rex Cat Breed Personality
Rex cats are known for being talkative and very, very smart.
“Rex cats are super intelligent,” says Yody Blass, MA, a certified animal behaviorist at Companion Animal Behavior, which offers behavior solutions for dogs and cats in the Washington, DC, area.
“They’re also definitely more on the active side. If you’re getting a kitten, be prepared—they’re going to get into everything, and they’ll want to get up high. You’re going to want tall cat trees to keep them happy,” says Blass.
She adds that the combination of playfulness and intelligence makes Rex cats apt to learn tricks and even compete in agility events. “Tunnels and other agility-focused toys can keep these cats engaged.”
Cat toys can also help keep Rex kitties occupied and out of trouble.
Coat Care for Rex Cats
While Rex cats’ coats don’t look like they require much care, this is not necessarily the case, according to Dr. Carol Margolis, medical genetics resident at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia.
She explains that their fur grows from an abnormal hair follicle, which can lead to breakage, particularly with over-exuberant grooming.
Dr. Margolis adds that the abnormal hair follicles might be tied to other abnormal skin conditions. “Rex cats might be extra greasy and waxy and might also be more prone to yeast infections,” she explains. “Overall, they could need more husbandry care, whether it be ear cleanings to deal with excess wax or cleaning out the nail beds.”
Blass adds that Rex cats may need to be bathed from time to time “to get rid of excess oils or dander. Though, these cats aren’t known to be particularly hard to bathe.” Owners should stick with a mild cat shampoo to prevent skin irritation.
As far as brushing goes, Dr. Margolis says, “I'm not as inclined to be brushing these guys as I am for cats with long coats. You don't have to worry as much about the matting or anything like that.” However, longhair Selkirk Rex cats will require some routine, gentle combing to work out any tangles that develop.
Dr. Margolis advises that Rex owners stay away from rubber grooming gloves. “I would only use the furniture fabric side, and not the plastic/rubber side. There may be some varieties that do not have the rubber, but just fabric and velvet in the palm portion,” she says.
Potential Health Issues for Rex Cats
Like most purebreds, Rex cats are prone to certain health issues. Dr. Margolis notes that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle) is a concern with Rex cats, especially because you can’t see this condition on a radiograph (X-ray). “You would have to do an echocardiogram or sonogram to diagnose it,” she says.
Other potential health problems include coagulopathy (blood that doesn’t clot normally), muscle weakness, poor hair growth and urticaria pigmentosa (a type of itchy skin disease).
It’s also fairly common for Rex cats to have issues with their teeth. “People may not realize that there’s a relationship between skin and teeth, but there is. If something different is happening during the development of hair follicles, there might also be issues with the formation of proper dentition. So, maybe the cat doesn’t have enough teeth, or the teeth don’t have as many roots as they should, or the jawbone isn’t as substantial as it should be,” Dr. Margolis explains.
Do Your Due Diligence
Rex cats make wonderful, engaging pets, and if you’re looking to adopt one, both Dr. Margolis and Blass strongly recommend doing some research and vetting your breeder carefully.
“Do a lot of reading regarding what's involved in proper enrichment and general husbandry management, and then talk to a breeder,” Dr. Margolis says.
“If the breeder is open and willing to discuss any issues they’ve had with previous offspring and the types of health screenings that they’re currently performing, then you can be much more certain about the health of your kitten,” she says.
“The more we can demand from our breeders, the higher standards become, which leads to overall healthier pets,” says Dr. Margolis.
By: Kate Hughes
Featured Image: iStock.com/cunfek