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The sparse coat of the Devon Rex breed stems from a recessive gene (the whiskers and eyebrows also curl). The Devon Rex can be any coat colour or pattern and is said to be an active cat.
Health and welfare of cats with rex or wire coats
Cats with a ‘rex’ or wire coat have hairs which are crimped, hooked or bent. This crimping usually also affects the whiskers. Often the hair is fragile and breaks easily, even with gentle brushing. There are various different breeds with such hair (probably caused by different genetic mutations), which may be very sparse in some cases. One website referred to a wire haired breed as ‘easily greasy’ and this is perhaps accidentally a good description of one of the issues which owners and cats must deal with. In cats with normal coats, the oil required for maintaining healthy skin and hair is spread along the shaft of hairs – if there is a lack of hair the oil collects on the skin and can make it feel greasy, mark furniture or collect in nail beds. The skin may be sensitive and itchy and it may be prone to yeast infections. Cats may need regular bathing and the coat and skin need special care. Ears too may be prone to waxy deposits and require regular cleaning. Cats with paler coat colours may require sun block on the ears in the summer months.
Health and welfare issues – other
The limited gene pool in the past lead to the development of an inherited muscle disease called Devon Rex myopathy or spasticity. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) has also been identified in the breed and patellar luxation appears to be more common in Devon Rex than other breeds. This breed may also be predisposed to hip dysplasia.
We have limited the information about inherited disorders to those conditions that are known and proven to exist within a breed. For many breeders and many conditions, insufficient information may be available at this time to know whether any particular breed is necessarily free of any particular condition.
In general, pedigree breeds use a much smaller gene pool for breeding than domestic cats and therefore have a higher risk of developing inherited disorders. In addition, a number of ‘newer’ pedigree breeds are derived from matings between one or more ‘older’ breeds, and in these situations perpetuation of inherited problems that were seen in older breeds is likely within the newer breeds.