Cornish Rex cat breed: playfulness and fun wrapped in a curly coat

László Enikő

2023. October 10 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The Cornish Rex is an affectionate, people-oriented and active cat whose antics last a lifetime. It is the perfect pet for owners who want a lively cat for the family.


The Cornish Rex is a special breed of cat due to its many characteristics. The first noticeable feature is its curly, extremely soft and fine fur, which consists only of undercoat. In addition, it has a very playful and cheerful nature, and it will keep these qualities until the end of its life. Due to its slender body structure, this kitty is also nicknamed the rabbit or greyhound of the cat world.


One of the most unusual and interesting cat breeds was created in Cornwall, Great Britain: the Cornish Rex. In 1950, a curly-haired kitten was born to a short-haired, tortoiseshell cat named Serena, who belonged to Nina Ennismore and Winifred Macalister. The other four kittens in the litter were smooth-haired, so Kallibunker, as he was named, stood out with his strange coat, the result of a spontaneous natural mutation. The father of the litter was unknown, although Ginger, a short-haired red tabby, was suspected to be Serena’s littermate.

After receiving advice on how to develop the new trait, Ennismore tried to breed more kittens, crossing them with each other and with other shorthair cats. The plan proved partially successful, among others she bred a cat named Poldhu and his daughter LaMorna Cove, both of whom contributed to the later development of the breed. It was called the Cornish Greyhound after its birthplace and similar coat structure. (The name rex was previously used for curly-haired rabbits.) Another kittens, however, became inbred, so more and more failures befell Ennismore, who soon stopped breeding.

LaMorna Cove was exported to the United States and her kittens helped establish the breed there. Due to the lack of breeding animals in the United States, cats were also crossed with Siamese. Poldhu’s son, Sham Pain Chas was the father of a litter in Britain in 1960, keeping the breed alive in its homeland. Also contributing to the survival was the birth of two curly-haired kittens in East Germany who were found to have a similar mutation compatible with the Cornish Rex.

The Cornish Rex was recognized by the American Cat Fanciers Association and the Canadian Cat Association in 1963, followed by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1964.

Breed standard

The Cornish Rex is a graceful, medium-sized, fine-boned but muscular cat. Its body weight is about 3-4 kg. Its head is wedge-shaped and elongated. The ears are large, set high on the top of its head; their ends are rounded. Its eyes are medium-sized, oval. Its legs are long, thin and straight, the paws are small and oval. The tail is long and thin, tapering towards the end. Its coat is smooth and curly; the touch is soft and silky. All colors and patterns are allowed for the breed. Its expected lifespan is 12-15 years.


The Cornish Rex is a highly active breed, its muscular hind legs allow it to run very fast and jump high. However, even one of the most playful cat breeds can behave calmly. Its nature is very dual. Once the Cornish Rey played enough, it is a calm, quiet and gentle companion.

It likes to communicate with its owner, which is not shown in neccesarily vocalizations, but in a nice cuddling. It seems gentle and sophisticated, but sometimes this charming and highly intelligent cat’s sense of humor and love of attention takes over. The Cornish Rex is a confident cat who loves people and follows them around, waiting for every opportunity to sit on a lap or be petted, and of course to be the center of attention.

Ideal environment

A fun breed that needs a lot of space (also vertically) to clown around and play. It likes to jump up and down, fetch and fool around. It retains this quality throughout its life. Its long toes allow it to handle objects with dexterity and to open doors and cupboards with ease. Make sure to securely lock anything you don’t want it to find.

It is a great companion for families, it loves children, and they love the rex, because it is playful like them. The presence of other cats and dogs is not a problem for the breed. Since it doesn’t like to be alone, it’s worth keeping it with a companion.


The breed’s short coat is soft and silky, without overcoat. The coat lies in tight waves close to the skin and is particularly short and wavy on the chest and belly. When it comes to rex fur, the less grooming the better. The hairs are sensitive, brushing or combing can damage them. Ears and paws can get greasy, so clean them regularly. The only additional care it needs is an occasional claw trim and an occasional eye and ear cleaning. If the ears look dirty, wipe them with a moistened cotton pad.

Common health problems

The Cornish Rex is generally healthy, but its coat offers little protection from the sun, so don’t let it bask outside. In winter, the animal must be protected against the cold. It may also be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and patellar luxation, a condition where one or both kneecaps can slip out of place, causing difficulty walking.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It causes thickening of the heart muscle. Echocardiography can confirm whether a cat has HCM. Cornish Rexes to be bred should be screened for HCM and cats identified with HCM should be removed from breeding programs.

(Literature: János Szinák – István Veress: Cat Guide, Laura Aceti – Viola Autieri: Our Best Friend the Cat)

breed description cornish rex curly haired cat rex short-haired cat

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