Devon Rex: A Curly-Haired Delight

Close-up image of A Devon Rex cat at home
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Fluffy cats are really attractive, aren’t they? The combination of that chubby body and thick, silky hair never fails to impress. But long-haired cats can be difficult to care for. If you’re not one to sit around for hours on end just to groom your cat and detangle their mats, you might want to consider a breed that’s short-haired, easy to care for, and just as fast on their feet as you are: the Devon Rex.

A fairly new breed, the Devon Rex quickly became famous amongst cat fanciers thanks to their unique appearance and loving personality. Their distinctively wide head with uncharacteristically large ears, big eyes, and a slightly upturned nose are the reasons why they are also called the “pixie cats.” The Devon Rex is a social, playful, and fun breed that can be described as dog-like. When they aren’t following their owner’s every step, they can usually be found on the highest perching spot available in the house.

A Devon Rex cat sitting on a chair

In this article, we will tell you more about the origins of this breed and their special features. You will also learn all the necessary information about care, grooming, personality traits, and potential health problems.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Above Average, but prone to several health conditions

  • All Around Friendliness: High

  • Exercise Needs: Above Average Needs

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Natural Breed
Weight8 - 10 pounds
Lifespan10 - 15 years

In the year 1959 in Devon, England, a curly-haired kitten was born to a litter of a feral tortoiseshell cat and a male tomcat. Ms. Cox, the woman who took care of the feral female cat, decided to keep a curly-haired kitten—whom she named Kirlee. Originally it was thought that Kirlee was somehow linked to the Cornish Rex breed, but tests disputed that theory. All of today’s Devon Rex cats descended from Kirlee.

Devon Rex is a medium-sized cat with a small but wide head which is accentuated with big, widely-set eyes, enormous ears, a short and slightly upturn muzzle, and high cheekbones. The large eyes are oval and slightly tilted towards the ears that are set low on the head. Their whisker pads are prominent, but the whiskers themselves are short and prone to breaking.

Besides their unusual appearance, this breed is also famous for their coat. The “Rexing” effect causes the hairs to grow in silky curls and ruffles—which give this breed their signature look. What is unusual with the Devon Rex’s coat is that the outer layer is wiry, short, and prone to breaking.

devon-rex-cat looking at his owner

The Devon Rex likes high perches and will make themselves comfortable on their owner’s shoulder. When they aren’t hanging there, they will seek the refuge of even higher places, like wardrobes and bookshelves. These are playful and mischievous cats that like to be involved in everyday activities but will find ways to entertain themselves when you’re not at home.

The Devon Rex is a highly intelligent cat that likes to play with any toy, and when there isn’t any, they are capable of inventing their own games to keep themselves entertained. This is a loving and devoted cat with strong social skills. The Devon Rex will provide affection and companionship to their owner, but will also expect the same amount of devotion back.

Studio picture of a devon-rex-cat

This breed is known to be a frisky eater. You would often see them circling the dining table—waiting for the opportunity to taste something that you are eating. Chances are, if you leave some leftovers on the kitchen counter, your cat will find them and have a small feast. Bearing that in mind, it is important not to allow your Devon Rex cat to eat food that you eat because it isn’t healthy and it can lead to obesity.

This breed is generally healthy, but they are prone to some conditions. To keep your Devon Rex healthy and strong, it is important that you take them to regular vet appointments, get them vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and dewormed. If it’s possible, keep your Devon Rex as an indoors-only cat. Their coat is light, and they can easily be cold outside.

Main Highlights

  • In 1959, a curly-haired kitten was born to a feral tortoiseshell female and a curly tomcat. Given the name Kirlee, the kitten would later become the first Devon Rex cat.

  • These are medium-sized cats with a muscular body, long legs, and unusually large toes.

  • Their appearance is accentuated with a small but wide head, pronounced cheekbones, very large ears, and large oval eyes.

  • Their whisker pads are outstanding, but their whiskers are short and prone to breaking. That doesn’t affect the appearance of this breed, though. If they are broken, they will grow again.

  • The most amazing feature of this breed is their coat. It is curly, silky, and gives this breed a unique look.

  • Their fur is soft and very easy to maintain. It isn’t prone to matting and sheds minimally.

  • The outer layer of the Devon Rex’s coat is prone to breaking and tends to be short. Due to their thin coat, this breed loves spending time lounging in warm places.

  • This breed loves heights. They like spending time on their owner’s shoulders and on top of bookshelves and wardrobes.

  • The Devon Rex is a fun and playful breed that enjoys all types of toy. When there isn’t any, they will find ways to entertain themselves.

  • Although they can entertain themselves, they are highly social cats that enjoy interacting with their owner, children, and other pets.

  • The Devon Rex will make an affectionate and loving pet, but they also need the same amount of devotion from their owner.

  • The Devon is famous for their appetite. They will eat anything, and will often try to trick you into giving them their share of your meal.

  • This breed is prone to some health conditions, but with a good, preventative health plan, they can live for 15 years.

Breed History

When a curly-haired kitten was born in Devon, England—in 1959—in the litter of a feral female and a curly-haired tomcat, his owner, Ms. Cox, thought that he shared some genetic links with the Cornish Rex. That kitten was named Kirlee because of his curly fur. At that time, there was only one Cornish Rex left, and Ms. Cox decided to sell Kirlee to the breeders so he could contribute to the rebuilding of this breed.

devon-rex-kitten in a persons hands

But as it turned out, Kirlee didn’t have the same type of the genetic mutation as the Cornish Rex. The breeders weren’t able to produce a curly litter. One of the breeders took one of Kirlee’s straight-haired offspring and bred her with Kirlee again. Half of that litter was born with curly hair.

This was the beginning of the Devon Rex breed as we know it today, and all of today’s cats from this breed are directly descended from Kirlee. In 1968, a Devon Rex was brought to America. In 1979, the Cat Fanciers Association recognized this breed.


The Devon Rex is a medium-sized cat. They have a muscular body, thick bones, and are quite heavy for their size. Males are larger than females and can weigh from 8 to 10 pounds. Females are considerably smaller compared to the males and weigh from 5 to 8 pounds.

Personality and Character

The Devon Rex can be described as having a dog-like personality. They like to follow their owner everywhere and to be involved in household responsibilities. They are not loud cats, but they will vocalize their opinion with a quiet voice.

They like to be a part of the activities and love all the attention they receive from people. They enjoy playing with a variety of toys—especially puzzle toys and interactive toys—and they will even play fetch. Although they are intelligent enough to entertain themselves, they enjoy playing with their owner.

devon-rex-cat in a car looking at the camera

The Devon Rex is an affectionate, loving, and devoted cat. They will spend plenty of time on their owner’s lap. They like to be cuddled and enjoy company. If you live with a Devon, you can be sure that you will never again sleep alone. Because of their short coat, this breed loves to curl up in warm places, and there is no place better than under the bed covers.

Health and Potential Problems

The Devon Rex is usually a healthy breed that can live for up to 15 years without any serious health problems. But like all pedigreed cats, this breed has a higher chance of developing some conditions. It is best to get acquainted with the symptoms beforehand so you can proceed with a preventative health care plan.

  • Congenital Hypotrichosis is a condition in which a kitten is born hairless or with a fluffy coat that will fall off during the first few weeks of their life. This condition affects both male and female kittens. There is no cure, but affected cats can be treated with a special shampoo that will help improve the quality of their skin.

  • Malassezia pachydermatis is a type of yeast that is commonly found in the skin of cats. The growth of this yeast can cause dermatitis. The exact cause of this disease is unknown, but it’s linked to allergies, seborrhea, and hormonal or congenital factors. Symptoms include skin irritation, loss of hair, greasiness, scaly skin, and redness. When presented with the symptoms, your vet will conduct a physical exam, take blood and urine tests, and run a cytology test. The treatment can vary and often include medications for the skin and antibacterial shampoos.

  • Devon Rex Myopathy is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. Symptoms can become apparent in kittens ranging from 3 weeks to 6 months old. This condition is characterized by muscle weakness. Affected cats are unable to walk normally; they tire easily, have muscle tremors, and low exercise tolerance. These symptoms can become worse with stress, illnesses, excitement, and cold temperature. Some cats have trouble swallowing, and there is a constant danger of choking. There is no cure for this disease. It is recommended that you conduct a DNA test on kittens before you adopt them from breeders to see if they have a genetic predisposition for this condition.

  • Hip Dysplasia is not as commonly seen in cats as it is in dogs, but some breeds are highly affected. This is a painful and degenerative disease that causes abnormal development of the hip joint. Female cats are more commonly affected by this condition, and the first signs of this disease can be seen in cats of 4 to 12 months of age. Your vet will run blood and urine tests and take an X-ray of your cat’s hips. There is no cure for this condition, but surgical and non-surgical treatments can be undertaken to help the affected cat lead a normal life with minimal pain.

  • Urticaria Pigmentosa is a relatively common genetic disease often seen in the Devon Rex breed. It is thought to be caused by nutritional deficiency. This disease causes the development of crusty sores on the cat’s abdomen that resemble greasy seborrhea. This condition can be treated with prednisolone and essential fatty acids supplements. In severe cases, it is treated with cyclosporin.

Like with any other cats, regular vet appointments, vaccination, spaying/neutering, deworming, and proper dental care play a big role in prolonging your Devon Rex’s lifespan.

Care Features

The Devon Rex is a playful breed that loves heights, so it is advisable that you invest in lots of environment-enriching toys and a cat tree. This is a moderately active breed, but they require daily play interactions with their owner. Because they are highly intelligent and enjoy playing with puzzle toys, they are easy to train.

Start brushing your cat’s teeth from a young age to prevent the development of periodontal disease. If your cat isn’t accustomed to this routine, use dental wipes or rinses to keep their teeth healthy and clean.

A devon rex cat lying down on the side

Because their ears are very large, they tend to get dirty in no time. Use a mixture of half warm water with half cider vinegar once a week to keep your Devon’s ears clean.

The coat of the Devon Rex is soft and thin. It provides poor insulation, so it is best to keep this breed as an indoors-only cat. Inside, they will find warm places on top of the television set or a radiator. You can also buy a few cat sweaters to keep your cat always warm.

Feeding Schedule

Like with all other cat breeds, the Devon Rex’s diet should consist of lots of animal protein, fatty acids, and vitamins. This breed is considered a frisky eater so you should have no problem finding the type of food they like. Because of that, they are more likely to become obese compared to other breeds.

A devon rex kitten sitting with her head up

An adult Devon Rex should eat once a day, but you can distribute their food into two smaller meals. This breed is famous for their love of eating human food, and they will often try everything in order to get a bite of your meal. It is important to not succumb to their pleading eyes because our diet isn’t appropriate for cats. Also, always be sure to allow your cat unlimited access to fresh water.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The Devon’s “rexed” coat is soft, fine, and cropped close to their body. Cats, in general, have three different types of hair: guard, ash, and down. The Devon’s coat is a little bit different from the coat of other breeds because their guard hairs that form the outer layer of the coat are wiry, short, and prone to breaking. Thanks to their hair’s fragility, sometimes you may notice that certain patches of their fur are less dense—but that hair will grow back eventually.

Some Devon Rex cats have loose, brushy curls, while others have a coat that is thinner and more suede-like. The coat on their head, neck, chest, and abdomen can seem fluffy compared to the rest of their body. The coat comes in a combination of patterns and colors which include solid white, black, blue, cinnamon, chocolate, lavender, and red. They typically have a white underside with a touch of specific color.

devon-rex cat sitting in a cat tree

Due to a lack of undercoat, their hair doesn’t mat and is easy to maintain. To keep your cat’s coat clean, you can smooth it out with your hand, or use a cloth to remove the excess hairs and to distribute skin oils throughout the coat. You don’t need to bathe them frequently, but you do need to trim your cat’s nails once every two weeks.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Devon Rex is a highly social and friendly breed that gets along well with any member of the household. They particularly enjoy the company of children who are always willing to play with them. This is also a dog-friendly breed, but always make sure that first introductions are conducted in a safe environment.

Wrap Up

The Devon Rex is a friendly, playful, affectionate, and loving breed that will make a devoted companion for any household. Their unique “pixy” look combined with a curly fur makes this cat one of the most eye-catching breeds of all. Although they are prone to some hereditary conditions, this is a long-living breed that will supply love and comfort to their owner throughout their long life.

three devon_rex_kittens sitting

Do you think you’ve found the cat of your dreams in a Devon Rex? If you don’t think you can keep up with a Devon Rex’s youthful energy, we would like to suggest another breed that’s no less striking appearance-wise but is less jumpy overall. If you have more information that will benefit any current and future owners of this breed, please share it with us in the comment section below.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.