Cornish Rex: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Cornish Rex cat laying down on a plush rug

rozmarina / Getty Images

Strikingly unusual and surprisingly playful, the Cornish Rex cat is a curly-coated cat breed with a reputation for being an active, sociable member of the family. These cats are the result of a natural mutation in the 1950s in Cornwall, England. Today, they are popular in the United States.

Unforgettable in appearance, these unique cats are delightful companions that prove to be easy-going in today's fast-paced households.

Breed Overview

Personality: Sociable, interactive, playful, affectionate

Weight: Up to 10 pounds

Length: 18 inches

Coat Length: Short hair, curly hair

Coat Colors: Black, blue, lilac, brown, chocolate, red, and cream, smoke

Coat Patterns: Bicolor, calico, tabby, spotted, colorpoint

Eye Color: Gold, green, blue

Lifespan: Up to 20 years

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: England

Bi-color Cornish Rex
 Okssi68 / Getty Images
White Cornish Rex with green eyes looking at camera
 Aliven / Getty Images
Side profile of tabby Cornish Rex cat
Tara Gregg / Getty Images

Cornish Rex Characteristics

The Cornish Rex's svelte physique and willowy limbs seem to exemplify elegance, but it doesn't take long to realize that this cat has a playful personality and can act silly as a kitten—even when fully grown (over one year of age).

The Rex has an easygoing temperament and loves being part of a family; it's ready to interact and play whenever anyone else is game. Lap naps and petting are also perfectly acceptable, which is a good thing because its soft, curly coat makes snuggling a Cornish Rex practically irresistible.

Some Cornish Rex cats are vocal communicators, probably due to their Siamese heritage. These cats are especially adaptable and do well in a variety of environments—which has even led to their use in therapy work.

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

History of the Cornish Rex

Hailing from England in the 1950s, this cat breed takes its name from the Cornwall region. The earliest ancestor to the Cornish Rex appeared when a genetic mutation caused a kitten to be born with an unusually curly coat and unique long-limbed body structure that quickly caught attention. The cat’s mother was a British shorthair, while the identity of the father was never discovered.

The kitten’s owner, Nina Ennismore, consulted with a geneticist and decided to breed the kitten—who became known as Kallibunker—back to his mother once he matured. The result was a litter of three kittens; two carried the recessive gene responsible for the curly coat. These early forerunners of the Cornish Rex were bred to Siamese, Burmese, and British shorthair cats to widen the genetic pool and develop the breed further.

In 1957, while the breed was still in development, a pair of Cornish Rex cats were imported to the United States. This proved to be fortunate since Kallibunker's offspring nearly disappeared from England in the late 1950s.

Additional crossbreeding in the United States with American shorthair, Havana brown, and other cats helped to preserve the breed that today has become popular for its appearance, sociable personality, and adorable antics. In 1964, the Cornish Rex received official breed recognition from the Cat Fanciers' Association.

Cornish Rex Care


Cornish Rex cats love to explore and play. They appreciate cat trees, faux mice and feather toys, and treat puzzles. Most of all, though, they love interactive play with people (including kids) and other pets. These cats have been taught to do tricks, including waving, shaking, sitting, and more. Many even love to play fetch and have been known to use their paws to pick up items. They are particularly responsive to positive reinforcement training techniques and will gladly take a treat for a job well done!


The curly coat is one of the most notable features of the Cornish Rex, but it requires relatively little care. Like all cats, the Cornish Rex is an avid self-groomer. However, this breed completely lacks guard hairs—meaning that the coat can sometimes become oily, especially around the chin and paws. If this is the case for your Cornish Rex, you may need to bathe your cat regularly to keep them from feeling greasy to the touch. Brush your Rex's hair gently to avoid damaging the tight curls.

Without the protection of guard hairs or the insulation of a soft, downy undercoat, the Cornish Rex often feels warm to the touch but is sensitive to either hot or cold temperature extremes. For the happiest, healthiest cat, keep yours indoors with adequate heating or air conditioning.

Common Health Problems

Thanks to its diverse heritage, the Cornish Rex isn’t particularly susceptible to many diseases and disorders found in other purebred cats. The breed benefits from crossbreeding between several different cats, including Siamese, Burmese, British shorthair, American shorthair, and Havana brown breeds. As a result, they often live long, healthy lives. Many Cornish Rex cats are reported to live into their late teens, with some surpassing the age of 20.

One genetic disorder that affects some Devon Rexes is called congenital hypotrichosis. It causes thinning of the fur along the torso and head and may lead to baldness in these areas. This condition isn't painful but it may necessitate skin care measures to prevent excessive dryness or sunburn, per your vet's guidance. There is no cure for hypotrichosis, and because it is a genetic disorder, affected cats should not be bred.


At first glance, you’ll likely notice the large, wide-set ears and egg-shaped face of this breed before taking in the unusually arched back, narrow waist, and long limbs that make this cat the so-called greyhound of the feline family. Adding to the almost whimsical look of the Cornish Rex is its trademark curly fur, arranged in tight rows along its svelte body.

Diet and Nutrition

The active Cornish Rex typically has an appetite to match. But don’t let this frisky feline fool you into thinking it needs its food bowl replenished on demand. These cats are not dainty eaters, and if not monitored, they can easily become overweight. Whether or not you free-feed your cat may depend on your lifestyle and your cat’s appetite. Scheduled meals make weight management much easier.

While these cats will benefit from high-quality cat food, they also appreciate the occasional treat of fruits and veggies with veterinary approval. You can offer these as treats or tasty additions to their regular mealtimes.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Cornish Rex

Is the Cornish Rex the right cat for you? Learn more about this unique breed from across the pond. You will find that quality breeders, Cornish Rex rescue groups, and breed interest clubs are often happy to share insights, tips, and funny stories about these comedic creatures.

Because of their unique and coveted appearance, unwanted Rex cats rarely end up in shelters; instead, they are often re-homed through breeder networks.

Cornish Rex Overview

The breed is known for getting along well with children and other pets, as long as they are treated with respect. While other breeds, like the Devon Rex, are especially keen on having other animal companions, the Cornish Rex is agreeable but mostly indifferent—as long as it receives enough one-on-one time with human family members.

Despite its slender frame and elegant appearance, the Cornish Rex is an athletic feline with an affectionate personality. Like all cats, this breed requires daily attention and plenty of owner interaction, and it thrives on mentally stimulating games, training, and puzzles.

If you decide to add this friendly feline to your home, you’ll be rewarded with a pet that is both amusing and elegant. Just be prepared to have a serious cuddle buddy, since Cornish Rex cats will actively seek the attention and affection of their owners.

  • Beautiful and unusual curly coat

  • Affectionate and sociable

  • Generally healthy and long-lived

  • Needy and demanding of attention

  • May be prone to a genetic skin and coat disorder

  • Large appetite may lead to obesity if overfed

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.

  • How much does a Cornish Rex cost?

    A Cornish Rex kitten can cost between $800 and $1,200, depending on the quality of the lineage (pet or breeding quality cats).

  • Do Cornish Rex cats have health problems?

    They are hearty and healthy cats due to the varied genetics of their ancestry, but Cornish Rex cats can be afflicted with a congenital skin and coat disorder called hypotrichosis that causes hair loss.

  • Are Cornish Rex cats friendly?

    They are very friendly and sociable with people. They love to play, interact, and cuddle.

Article Sources
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  1. Devon Rex. Parkwood Animal Hospital.