Calico green-eyed Cornish Rex cat sitting on a brown piece of furniture, looking up

Cornish Rex Cat Care and Personality | What You Need to Know If You’re Thinking of Getting a Cornish Rex Cat

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Last Updated: April 28, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The Cornish Rex cat is the result of a natural genetic mutation.
  • It is a small-to-medium-sized cat breed.
  • Its most distinctive feature is its curly coat.
  • Cornish Rexes are lively and outgoing, yet affectionate cats.
  • They have robust health and can live up to 15 years on average.

Are you looking for an energetic cat that won’t leave a lot of flying dander in your home? Enter the world of the Cornish Rex cat – the epitome of playful elegance in the feline kingdom. With their unique curly coats and boundless energy, these cats offer a delightful blend of charm and vivacity that cat enthusiasts adore. From their fascinating history to their affectionate personalities, there’s much to uncover about these captivating companions.

Join me, as together, we dive into the world of Cornish Rex cats, exploring their care needs, distinctive traits, and why they might just be the perfect addition to your feline-loving family.

Brief History

 The Cornish Rex cat breed is the product of a natural genetic mutation that occurred in the 1950s in Cornwall, England. A barn cat by the name of Serena gave birth to five kittens, one of which had a curly, red-and-white coat and a slender, long-limbed body.

The kitten, later named Kallibunker (nicknamed Kalli), was the first Cornish Rex. Nina Ennismore, his owner, consulted with a geneticist and decided to breed Kalli back to his mother to produce more curly-coated kittens. Two of the three kittens from the second litter inherited the recessive gene responsible for the curly coat.

Ennismore and other breeders then crossed Kalli and his offspring with Siamese, Burmese, and British shorthair cats to expand the gene pool and develop the breed further. The goal was to create a cat with the elegant body and vocal traits of the Siamese, but with a wider range of coat colors and patterns. They also aimed to improve the breed’s overall health and characteristics.

The breed was named Cornish Rex after its place of origin and its resemblance to the Rex rabbit, which also has a curly coat.

Black mini Rex rabbit lying in a cage
Rex Rabbit
Image Credit: Sean / Flickr

The Cornish Rex cat was first recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 1964 and by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 1967. The breed soon gained popularity in the United States and other parts of the world. Today, the Cornish Rex is renowned for its unique appearance, playful personality, and affectionate temperament.

Physical Features

The Cornish Rex cat is small to medium in size, weighing between 6 and 10 pounds and up to 18 inches in length. They have a long, graceful neck, a narrow head, large bat-like ears, and almond-shaped eyes that can be any color.

Unlike most felines, Cornish Rex cats lack the traditional guard hairs, leaving behind a downy undercoat that resembles velvet. This coat, famously, ripples and waves, appearing almost wet even when perfectly dry. The lack of guard hairs also makes it exceptionally soft and warm to the touch.

In addition, although their coat comes in a vast array of colors and patterns, including white, black, brown, and tabby, most shades appear somewhat muted due to the absence of a reflective guard hair layer.

The Cornish Rex has a long, muscular body that curves upward from the chest to the rump, giving them a tuck-up appearance. Additionally, they have long, slender legs, small, oval paws, and a long, flexible tail.

This cat breed is often considered to be hypoallergenic, as they shed very little and produce less dander than other breeds. However, no cat is truly hypoallergenic, and some people may still be allergic to this cat breed’s saliva or skin oils. As such, spending time with a Cornish Rex before committing can help you gauge your individual response.

White and grey Cornish Rex cat standing
Image Credit: Alexandre Gonçalves / Wikimedia Commons


Cornish Rex cats are renowned for their high energy levels and playful disposition. Think zoomies across the living room, enthusiastic climbs up curtains (beware!), and endless games of fetch.

This breed thrives on mental and physical stimulation, so be ready to engage them with toys, puzzles, and interactive exercises. Remember, a tired Cornish Rex is a content Cornish Rex, and neglecting their playful needs can lead to boredom and mischief.

However, despite their independent spirit, these cats crave human companionship. They’ll happily follow you from room to room, seeking attention and affection. Expect purrs, head bumps, and playful nudges, as they shower you with their unique brand of feline love. In addition, their intelligence and trainability make them eager to learn tricks and participate in interactive activities, further deepening their bond with their humans.

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Cornish Rex cats also generally adapt well to other pets, as long as introductions are gradual and respectful. Their playful nature can make them good companions for dog-friendly cats or older, gentle canines. However, their energetic antics might overwhelm smaller animals, so careful supervision is key.

Likewise, these adaptable felines can thrive in families with older, respectful children. Their playful spirit can provide endless entertainment, but young children might need guidance to interact gently with these energetic cats. Remember, supervision is essential to ensure the safety and comfort of both the cat and the child.

White and grey Cornish Rex cat lounging on the bed
Image Credit: Lisa / Flickr

Health Issues & Lifespan

While generally healthy and robust, Cornish Rex cats, like any breed, have certain predispositions and potential health concerns to be aware of. Understanding these potential issues can help you provide your feline friend with optimal care throughout their life.

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). This thickening of the heart muscle can lead to heart failure. As such, early detection and management are crucial.
  • Patellar Luxation. This knee dislocation, though treatable, can cause pain and lameness. In this regard, regular veterinary checkups can help monitor signs and address any concerns promptly.
  • Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (AD-PKD). This inherited condition causes cysts to develop on the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure. Genetic testing is available, and responsible breeding practices are essential to minimize the risk.
  • Skin disorders. These are common in Cornish Rex cats due to their lack of guard hair and oily skin. They can suffer from acne, dermatitis, fungal infections, or allergies. They may also develop sunburn or skin cancer if exposed to too much sunlight. Regular bathing, grooming, and ear cleaning can help prevent skin problems, as well as using cat-safe sunscreen and avoiding temperature extremes.

With proper care and attention, Cornish Rex cats can enjoy a lifespan of 12-15 years, although they can live up to 20 with proper care. Regular veterinary checkups, a balanced diet, and an enriching environment are key to promoting their long-term health and happiness.

Special Care Needs

While generally low maintenance compared to longhaired breeds, Cornish Rex cats do have specific needs that differ from your average feline friend. Understanding these requirements ensures they thrive and remain their playful, vibrant selves.


Unlike their fluffy counterparts, Cornish Rexes require minimal brushing. Their lack of guard hairs means harsh bristles can irritate their delicate skin. As such, opt for a soft mitt or damp cloth to remove loose fur and promote natural oils. In addition, the coat needs occasional bathing, especially if it becomes dull or oily, although be careful not to bathe them too much as water can dry their skin.

It is also crucial to clean their ears regularly, as their large ears can trap dirt and wax.

Exercise and Play

Don’t underestimate the boundless energy of a Cornish Rex! These athletic felines crave playtime and exercise. As such, engage them with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and climbing structures to keep their minds and bodies stimulated. In addition, consider clicker training to channel their intelligence and strengthen your bond.


The Cornish Rex is very sociable and affectionate and needs a lot of attention and companionship. They are not suitable for people who are away from home for long periods of time, as they can become lonely and depressed.

This cat will follow you around the house, communicate with their loud and musical voice, and cuddle with you on the couch or bed. You should give your Cornish Rex plenty of love and affection and make them feel like a part of your family.


Discuss your Cornish Rex’s specific dietary needs with your veterinarian. Opt for high-quality, protein-rich food to fuel their active lifestyle. Their high metabolism might require more frequent, smaller meals compared to other breeds.

Special Care

The Cornish Rex cat’s unique coat, which is devoid of guard hairs, leaves them vulnerable to sunburn. As such, limit their direct sun exposure, especially during peak hours, and provide shaded areas for outdoor adventures. Also, consider using a cat-safe sunscreen specifically formulated for their delicate skin.

Likewise, their thin coat makes them sensitive to cold temperatures. In this regard, ensure a comfortable indoor environment with cozy bedding and perches. Additionally, their skin can dry out in low humidity, so consider using a humidifier, especially during winter months.

Fun Facts

The Cornish Rex cat is a unique and charming breed that has a lot of personality and appeal. Here are some fun facts about this breed that you may not know:

  • The Cornish Rex is named after its place of origin and its resemblance to the rex rabbit, which also has a curly coat. In particular, the rex rabbit is a term used for several domestic rabbit breeds that have a plush fur called rex fur, which is caused by a mutation that affects the length and texture of the hair.
  • This cat breed is the oldest of the three rex cat breeds recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the other two being the Devon Rex and the Selkirk Rex. The Cornish Rex was first discovered in 1950, the Devon Rex in 1960, and the Selkirk Rex in 1987.
  • Cornish Rexes are very adaptable and friendly and can get along well with children and other pets, especially if they are introduced at an early age. They will often join in the fun and mischief of its companions and will not shy away from strangers.
  • Like their Siamese cousins, Cornish Rex cats are very talkative. They possess a vast vocabulary of meows, chirps, and trills, using them to express their every desire, from playtime pleas to dinner demands.
  • Their large, bat-like ears aren’t just for show. They act as heat radiators, helping them regulate their body temperature in warm weather.
  • Their downy undercoat feels like the softest velvet, making them cuddle champions.
  • Don’t miss this adorable detail! Even their whiskers and eyelashes share the signature Cornish Rex wave, adding to their unique charm.
2 female Cornish Rex cats snuggling -- a black and white cat at the front; a brown and white one at the back. The curled eyelashes and whiskers of the cat in front are prominent.
Image Credit: Anna-Stina Takala from Stockholm, Sweden, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Because of their energetic personality and slim appearance, Cornish Rex cats have earned the nickname “Greyhounds of the cat fancy.”

Who is the Ideal Owner of the Cornish Rex Cat?

Choosing the purrfect feline friend requires considering both yours and the cat’s needs. Here’s a glimpse into the ideal owner profile for a Cornish Rex cat:

  • Energetic individuals or families. Enjoy an active companion who thrives on playful interactions, games, and exercise. Think interactive toys, climbing structures, and plenty of playtime to keep their boundless energy in check.
  • Apartment dwellers. While adaptable, consider providing vertical space (cat trees, shelves) to channel their climbing instincts even in smaller living quarters.
  • Homebodies or frequent home-dwellers. Cornish Rexes crave companionship and attention. If you’re away from home often, consider another breed or ensure alternative care is available.
  • Affectionate individuals or families. Prepare for purrs, head bumps, and cuddles! These cats thrive on human interaction and love to shower their humans with affection.
  • Patient and understanding owners. Cornish Rex cats’ playful nature sometimes leads to mischief. Positive reinforcement training and patience are key for navigating their energetic antics.
  • Research-oriented individuals. Familiarize yourself with their potential health concerns and specific care requirements (skincare, sun protection, and dietary needs) to ensure their well-being.
  • Families with respectful children. Older, responsible children who understand gentle handling can enjoy the playful energy of a Cornish Rex. Supervise interactions with younger children to prevent accidental injuries.

Final Thoughts

The Cornish Rex cat is more than just a breed – it’s a captivating combination of elegance, intelligence, and playfulness. From their origin story rooted in a natural genetic mutation to their playful antics and affectionate nature, Cornish Rex cats enchant cat enthusiasts worldwide.

While they may have specific care needs and potential health concerns, their vibrant personalities and unique charm make them a cherished companion for those willing to provide the love and attention they deserve.

Whether you’re a seasoned cat owner or considering your first feline friend, the Cornish Rex cat promises a journey filled with endless cuddles, playful adventures, and cherished memories for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Cornish Rex cat?

A Cornish Rex is a unique cat breed known for its short, curly coat and playful, energetic personality. They’re highly intelligent, affectionate, and require plenty of stimulation.

What does a Cornish Rex cat look like?

They have a slender build, large ears, and prominent eyes. Their most striking feature is their short, wavy coat, which comes in various colors and patterns.

How big do Cornish Rex cats get?

They’re a small to medium-sized breed, usually weighing between 6 and 10 pounds.

Are Cornish Rex cats hypoallergenic?

While they shed minimally and produce less dander, no cat is truly hypoallergenic. Individuals with allergies may still react to their saliva or other allergens, so testing is crucial.

Do Cornish Rex cats shed?

Yes, but due to their lack of guard hairs, they shed much less than most breeds. This makes them a potential choice for individuals with mild allergies, but remember, individual sensitivities vary.

How long do Cornish Rex cats live?

On average, they can live 12-15 years, and even up to 20 with proper care.

What is the Cornish Rex cat’s personality?

Cornish Rexes are playful, energetic, highly intelligent, and very affectionate. They crave attention and thrive on interaction.

Are Cornish Rex cats aggressive?

No, they are not typically aggressive. However, like any cat, proper socialization and training are essential to ensure good behavior.

Can Cornish Rex cats go outside?

They can, but with caution. Their lack of guard hair makes them sensitive to sun and cold. Supervised outdoor adventures with sun protection are essential.

How much are Cornish Rex cats?

Prices can vary depending on breeder, pedigree, and location, but typically range from $500 to $2,000 or more.

Featured Image Credit: Jiřina Choděrová, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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