More and more people are becoming pixilated. This pleasurable state is achieved when one cohabits with a Devon Rex, the pixie of the cat species.
CFA records indicate that 592 Devon entries were made in Championship classes in 1991-1992, compared to 173 in 1988-1989, an increase of
340%. In the same period, membership in the Devon Rex Breed Club went from 25 to 61. What is it about these delightful creatures that would
cause such phenomenal growth in popularity?
The breed seems to have been created to fit perfectly into our modern style of life.
Imagine an animal with a little voice; that mostly speaks only when spoken to; that
sheds almost unnoticeably; whose chief joy is to be around people and, therefore,
doesn't need large amounts of territory; and that is happy to doze near the greatest
heat source until its people return; and you will understand why the Devon Rex
makes an unexcelled pet for busy city dwellers.
People really are the main focus of this breed. Visitors unfamiliar with Devons are
amazed at the greeting committee which converges on the entryway for every arrival
and surrounds the visitor to escort him to his seat--and of course to share it. The
Devon owner, on the other hand, will readily recognize the following nightly scene:
the owner settled on the sofa, a neuter relaxed and purring in her arms in baby
position, one paw on her neck, while a female perches on the back of the sofa and
runs her carefully trimmed claws dreamily through the person's hair. Meanwhile, a
kitten drags his kill--an old electric blanket--off a chair and across the room to drop it
at his owner's feet.
The people-fixation begins very early in life. Even three-week-old kittens will toddle
across the box and lift their faces in anticipation of a kindly touch when they sense
the familiar approach of the person in their lives. Trouser-climbing is one of the
earliest learned skills.
From the time they can follow you around, Devons will try to be close, to "help" with every task, from reading to bathing, and to converse with you
about it in a quiet but incredibly varied commentary. Their very favorite activity is, of course, meal preparation, with clean-up of the dishes a close
second. But when activities are over, cuddle time is always welcome.
Because Devons are so social, they are eager to please. And because they are intelligent, they learn a number of English words--the command
"down!" is probably the first acquisition--and obey, at least temporarily! A squirt bottle is a useful training adjunct. Of course, the odd Devon does
overcome his fear of this, like the one who would wrap paws around the bottle in trying himself to make it squirt, and who would have used it as his
only source of drinking water if only he could have found someone to squirt it on his every demand.
When it comes to lounging, Devons are heat-seekers. Acting as a heat-source is one of the most productive functions to which a person may be
put, in a Devon's view, but in a pinch, even hugging a warm coffee pot will do.
The Devon Look
The Devon look comes straight from the founder, Kirlee.
He was endowed with large, low-set ears that stood away from his head like the handles on a jug. His prominent cheekbones, strong muzzle on a
rather short head, and slender neck accented his ears to create an overall elfin appearance quite in keeping with his winsome personality.
Overall, the Devon head is a complex and subtle combination of curves and planes. For example, the top skull is flat, but the forehead curves back
to it. From the front, the underlying shape is a wedge bounded by straight lines, but projecting beyond the wedge are three sets of curves: whisker
pads, cheekbones, and earlobes.
Of course, the loosely waved coat was the original feature that caused cat breeders to set Devons apart. It is like no other rex coat, being caused by
a unique mutation. But as several mutations have been recorded, and as three rex breeds are now recognized by CFA, it is to the head that we turn
to see the true uniqueness of the Devon Rex. In the truly typey Devon, the look is visible from across the room.
As for color, think of a rainbow. Devons are recognized in all colors and patterns (except for non-tabby agouti and sable), the only breed with this
The Devon Breeding Program
In general, Devons are easy keepers. Their appetites are, to say the least, unfinicky. Daily grooming is straightforward consisting mostly of heavy
petting. This last task is hardly onerous to either petter or petted! Show bathing is usually quick, with towel- and air-drying the norm.
There is only occasionally a territorial problem in catteries, because Devons are as social with each other as they are with people. Devons in groups
are normally found lounging in shoals and heaps. Even whole males can often live together.
Most litters deliver easily. Induced labor and cesarean section are the exception rather than the rule. Litter size is on average three to four. Devon
queens are usually tolerant and loving. Queens in a non-cage situation will often get together to organize a creche for their litters, whereafter
mothering by committee becomes the approach to kitten rearing. Even many adult males will join in, happily letting older kittens suckle on them after
the queens have weaned them.
The breed does present one challenge in breeding: one arising from the presence in cats of
two blood types, A being genetically dominant to B. In most breeds, A's far outnumber B's.
Devon Rex and some other breeds show a significant percentage of B's: Persian, Abyssinian,
Somali, Scottish Fold, Birman, British Shorthair, and Cornish Rex. These last two and Devon
Rex show the highest percentage to date, although the case of Devons, at least, it is not clear
that a good geographical cross section has been sampled, and the percentage varies
considerably among catteries.
In any case, the art of raising kittens in mixed-blood-type catteries is very advanced among
Devon breeders. The only problem in these cases is when type A kittens are born from the
mating of a type A tom to a type B queen, whose colostrum could cause fading kitten
syndrome. The kittens may be placed on another queen for 48 hours, until their intestines
"close," and no longer will pass the offending antibody, after which their mother will readily
welcome them back. If this is not feasible, the babies may be hand fed for the two days, while
their body-stockinged mother happily cares for them. The success rate over the past several
years in rearing such kittens is nearly 100%. Of course, in catteries whose owners select their
breeding stock with the goal of maintaining a single blood type, the problem is very rarely
seen. But then half the Devon gene pool is closed to such breeders.
When the tin miners in the west of England abandoned their mines, little did they realize the
strange function one of these mines would eventually serve. Over 100 years later, in 1960, one of these mines near Buckfastleigh, Devon, gave
shelter to an unusual animal: a slender tom cat with ringlets of fur all over his body. This beautiful cat was never caught, but he must have stayed
around for some time. He apparently had his way with his tortie-and-white daughter. (At least, she must have been related to him in some way, for
the gene producing his coat was later shown to be a simple recessive.) She produced, after adoption into the home of Miss Beryl Cox, a litter of
kittens of which one male had the same coat as the "tin mine" tom. Miss Cox dubbed him Kirlee.
He proved to be quite a character, learning tricks such as walking a tightrope and fetching toys. He was the joy of her life, but Miss Cox knew of the
struggling Rex breeding program being supervised by Brian Stirling-Webb. She saw a greater good in letting Kirlee enter this program, as it seemed
obvious he must be of that mutation. He wasn't! Matings with (Cornish) Rex queens resulted in normal-coated kittens. Kirlee was then mated to his
mother and to his daughters by various females, with curly kittens resulting. The incompatibility of the two different rex mutations led to the
recognition in 1967 in GCCF (Great Britain) of two separate breeds with no further cross-breeding.
The Devon Rex Before CFA
In 1968, Mrs. Marion White and her daughter Anita started Anglo-Tex, the first Devon Rex cattery in North America, having gotten to know the breed
during a military posting to England. Mrs. Alison Ashford, one of the first breeders of both Cornish and Devon in the U.K., chose the cats for them to
bring: Annelida Aubretia and Wigmel Black Witch. In the course of the next several years, ten breeding programs were begun in the U.S. and
Canada. At about this time, I returned from four years in England. Having fallen in love with the breed there, I bought my first breeding Devon from
Alison Ashford in 1977. Like all the breeders before me, I was very concerned to learn that CFA registered all rex-coated cats as "Rex," requiring
them all to be shown as one breed, and countenancing the cross-breeding of the two
rex mutations. One Board member explained that we did not necessarily have to
cross-breed; if we would selectively breed our Devons, we could make them look like
Cornish. Not one Devon breeder thought that changing the elfin look was a
worthwhile goal, so most stayed away from CFA as the only alternative.
While other associations had, one-by-one, recognized Devon Rex (the earliest being
ACFA in 1972) as distinct from the earlier-established Cornish Rex, CFA continued to
consider them one breed. Letters from the Whites in the mid-70's to change this
situation went unanswered. Finally, in 1978, hints were dropped that a renewed,
expanded approach might be better received. With Anita White providing most of the
experience and background in the beginning, and with me as the voice, CFA granted
the Devon registration as a separate breed in 1979. I kept on going to Board
meetings and to Annuals, because it takes a constant visible presence to get a breed
advanced, and I was the one interested in doing it. In 1981, the breed advanced to
Provisional status. This was three years ahead of schedule according to the rules,
but I argued successfully that, since we had unwillingly been part of the "Rex" breed
for over a decade, we had, in fact, fulfilled the five-year registration rule! Many
Devon breeders who had stayed away from CFA in order to preserve their breed
began showing and registering in CFA; without this participation, advancement
would not have been possible. Thank goodness, many breeders also insisted that
their novice breeder buyers support the effort, so the numbers would be there.
In 1983, the breed achieved Championship status in CFA, the last organization in the
world to take this action.
The Devon Rex in CFA
There is no doubt that the Devon situation in CFA has changed since those bleak early days. Though relatively flat (or even declining for a short
period) until about five years ago, registrations and show success have lately increased rapidly, paralleling the growth, mentioned above, of
numbers of show entries and Devon fanciers. The graphs are presented below. The 1992 registration total, 557 cats, is an increase of 37% from
1991 and places the breed as the 16th most popular. The numbers tell the story, bespeaking a breed on the move. Look for a growing presence of
Devons on the scene, as this delightful breed bewitches more and more people.
Giger, Urs, et al., "Geographical Variation of the Feline Blood Type Frequencies in the United States." Feline Practice 19: 21-27, Nov/Dec 1991.
Gibney, A, "Why There Are Two: The Story of the Cornish Rex and the Devon Rex," CFA Yearbook, 1986, p.624-631, and extensive references cited
Made with Xara
This article was written by Ann Gibney, PhD (Scattergold Devon Rex) and appeared in the October 1993 issue of the CFA Almanac.