Devon Rex: Cat Breed Profile

A curly-coated breed with a giant personality and ears to match

Person petting Devon Rex cat under chin

 Cunfek / Getty Images

The Devon Rex will capture your attention with its wide-set eyes and triangular ears, but it will steal your heart with its playful antics and sociable nature. Aside from their striking facial features, these petite felines feature a thin, wavy coat that comes in a wide range of colors and patterns. Springing from a natural mutation in the early 1960’s, these cats have been described as out-of-this-world for both their looks and antics. 

Breed Overview

Length: 18 inches long

Weight: 6 to 9 pounds

Coat: Short and wavy coat with a fine texture

Coat Color: Wide range of colors including solid, tabby, and shaded varieties

Eye Color: Varies widely from amber, aqua, blue, copper, green, gold, hazel, odd-eyed

Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years

Tabby Devon Rex on gray background
Devon Rex with Tabby Markings.  Volchanskiy/Getty Images
Calico Devon Rex standing against wood wall
Devon Rex with Calico Markings.  Olenalyzun/Getty Images
White Devon Rax on Cat Perch
White Devon Rex.  Insonnia/Getty Images

Characteristics of the Devon Rex

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Devon Rex

It’s widely accepted that this breed of cat has its origins in the Devonshire region of England in 1960. A female domestic short-haired cat mated with a stray tom cat with a peculiar curl to his coat. The resulting litter produced one curly-coated kitten that was immediately noticed for his unique fur and named Kirlee.

Believing that the cat shared a common curly coat gene with the Cornish Rex breed of cats, Kirlee was bred to female Cornish Rex cats in an effort to produce kittens sharing the same coat qualities of the Cornish Rex breed. However, the litters only produced kittens with straight coats. It was later discovered that another gene mutation is responsible for the unique wavy coat and low-set triangular ears making the Devon Rex a breed all its own.

A more successful breeding program was developed to preserve the natural mutation carried by Kirlee. In 1968, the first Devon Rex cat was imported to the United States and by 1979 the breed received official recognition from the Cat Fanciers Association.

The Devon Rex has even made an impact on pop culture. Rumor has it that director Steven Spielberg was inspired to create out of this world movie characters like E.T. and Yoda based on his personal pet, a Devon Rex cat.

Today, the Devon Rex is available from reputable breeders throughout the country. However, the breed is still unusual enough to turn heads and is a unique choice for a feline family member.

Devon Rex Care

Be prepared to give this cat some love. The Devon Rex is a sociable cat that is happiest in the company of humans or other animals. While not as vocal as some breeds, these cats are definitely going to be seen and heard with an active personality and vocal behavior to gain your attention—and maybe a treat.

Their outgoing personalities make them adept at learning tricks, but their somewhat rambunctious nature can make it hard to channel their energy. Patience and persistence are required, but the payoff is a well-trained cat capable of performing entertaining tricks. Try clicker training to teach your cat to come, sit, shake, and more. This training can strengthen the bond between you and your cat, while providing much-needed mental stimulation for this intelligent breed.

Provide plenty of toys and appropriate perches and climbing posts for your cat to enjoy. This breed is especially known for seeking out lofty spots during playtime or for rest time, so take this into consideration when preparing your home for a Devon Rex.

With a thin, nearly bare coat at times, these cats appreciate snuggling up with you or another feline friend. They’re particularly social with other animals, so when properly introduced and socialized, it’s no surprise to see them get cozy with other household pets including dogs. Whether you have other pets or not, be sure to provide a soft bed where your Devon Rex can find a comfortable spot to stay warm.

The Devon Rex requires minimal human-assisted grooming. Since the breed’s coat only has sparse guard hairs that are prone to breakage, it’s best that you avoid brushing your cat at all. Instead, you can gently wipe your cat’s fur with a damp cloth on a weekly basis. Excessive grooming by you—or your cat—can lead to bald patches.

However, don't think that these cats are too fragile. Instead, you'll find that a healthy Devon Rex has a lean, muscular body with long athletic legs. The short coat and prominent features make the neck and chest appear bony, but this cat is a powerful jumper and will keep you on your toes.

One thing to keep an eye on is an accumulation of ear wax. You may need to regularly clean inside your cat’s ears to ensure that a build-up of wax doesn’t become impacted or begin to harbor dirt and bacteria.

Common Health Problems

While this breed isn’t known for excessive health ailments, there are several conditions you need to be on alert for. The Devon Rex sometimes suffers from patellar luxation (slipped kneecaps) and hip dysplasia.

Other genetic conditions also include Devon Rex Myopathy. This is an inherited condition that usually produces symptoms between 3 weeks and 6 months of age. It involves muscle weakness, often affecting head and neck muscles. A genetic test has been developed to identify whether a cat carries the genetic defect responsible for the disease.

Due to the breed’s short fur and thin coat, the Devon Rex is more easily affected by extremes in weather. Take care to minimize your cat’s exposure to direct sunlight to avoid sunburn. These cats also need to be protected from cold temperatures. For these reasons, Devon Rex cats thrive best when kept as indoor pets.

Diet and Nutrition

Many owners of a Devon Rex will tell you that these cats are food enthusiasts. Don’t let human food become the staple of your feline’s diet. Instead, ensure that you feed a quality cat food for effective weight management and continued health.

It’s very important that you don’t overfeed your cat. The Devon Rex is known to go to great lengths to swipe a sandwich from the counter or hound you for a bite of your dinner, similar to the begging behavior exhibited by many dogs. Avoid giving into the cat’s persistent efforts and only offer treats in moderation.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide to add a Devon Rex to your fur family, be sure to thoroughly research the breed. Reputable breeders can give you excellent insight into whether this cat is the right feline for you.

You might also be interested in learning more about these similar cat breeds: