Cat Breed Profile: Cornish Rex

Cornish Rex cats appear regal but remain playful well into their senior years. Read more in our breed profile of the Cornish Rex.   Read More

Cornish Rex cats look aristocratic but are really goofy and playful.


Cornish Rex

Physical Description

The Cornish Rex is a medium-sized and unique cat with a soft, short, very fine coat that has the feel of crushed velvet. The small head is flanked by large ears and features large eyes. The body is slim and muscular with long legs, a curved back and a long tail.

The overall appearance is elegant and sophisticated and resembles a whippet. Coat colors and patterns vary greatly in this agile and active cat. The average life span for the Cornish Rex is 10 to 15 years but one cat is believed to have lived to 37 years.


As the name suggests, the Cornish Rex originated in Cornwall, England. A litter of kittens was found in a barn in Cornwall in 1950 with one of the kittens different from the rest. The cat, a male named Kallibunker, was born with short, curly fur believed to be the result of a mutation caused by radiation from the local tin mines.

The cat was mated back to its mother to produce additional offspring. The Cornish Rex was brought into the United States in 1957. The breed obtained CFA championship status in 1964.

The Rex part of the name reportedly originated with King Albert I of Belgium. He entered curly-haired rabbits into a rabbit show that did not meet the breed standard, but the officials did not want to offend the king by rejecting his entry. They wrote “Rex” next to the breed name (Latin for “king”) and let him enter the show. The term Rex was later used to describe an animal with a short, curly coat.


Don’t let the sleek aristocratic appearance fool you; the Cornish Rex is one active and goofy cat.  These cats stay in kitten mode most of their lives and well into their senior years. The Cornish Rex is an active and playful cat that loves to play fetch, catch and throw small toys. They are extremely affectionate cats and love to be around people — so much that they can be demanding for attention and companionship.

Curiosity and intelligence are also characteristics of the Cornish Rex, as well as the ability to adapt quickly and make a great companion for children. Most Cornish Rex cats love having a playmate but some prefer to be the only cat. They can get along with other household animals.

View this video to see the Cornish Rex in action, then we’ll move on to exercise and grooming:

Exercise Needs

Cornish Rex cats do not have any special exercise needs. They are recommended as indoor-only cats and should not be allowed outdoors for long periods of time in variable weather; their short coats are insufficient protection from extreme temperatures.

Their physical activity should be similar to that of most cats (sleeping long hours, playing, running and jumping), although they are typically more active and playful than other cats. Contact your veterinarian if you notice a decrease in activity or mobility; this could be a sign of a health issue.

Grooming Requirements

The short coat of the Cornish Rex does not shed much and may seem to not shed at all. Despite the short coat, the cats are not hypoallergenic. They reportedly do not aggravate allergies as much as other breeds but may still cause symptoms. They need to bathed regularly since they do not have an outer coat to absorb natural oils.

The cat’s coat looks best when it reaches maturity between 2 to 3 years of age. Trim the cat’s nails as needed (usually once every week to two weeks) and clean the ears and teeth to promote good overall health. Pay special attention to the ears; Cornish Rex cats have large ears and can experience problems without proper grooming.

Common Health Problems

Cornish Rex cats are sensitive to certain anesthetics. Talk to your veterinarian before having any procedures done and discuss local anesthesia or other options to minimize risk. The cats are best suited for indoors since their short coats may not provide adequate protection from extreme temperatures.

Occasional heart and thyroid problems are possible. Cornish Rex cats have a tendency to overeat, so you may need to pay special attention to the amount of food provided to control their weight. Because of their short coats dermatological issues are possible.

Is the Cornish Rex the Right Cat for You?

The Cornish Rex cat is an active and curious animal that loves people and attention. They can be goofy at times and typically remain as playful as a kitten well into their senior years. They are best kept indoors with steady temperatures due to their short coats and need special consideration for any veterinarian procedures using anesthesia. They are suitable for children and can live a long life (one reportedly up to 37 years!) so be prepared for a long commitment with a playful and fun cat.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

If you consider getting a Cornish Rex for your next pet, please check adoption resources — even purebred animals end up in shelters. Try Pets Adviser’s own pet adoption page. (Select the “Cats” tab, and you can filter your results by breed and ZIP code.)

Additional Resources

Photo: PJLewis/Flickr


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