"Rex Cats: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual," Anne Helgren

Pros: Lots of useful and fun information; fantastic photos
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 3/31/2001

This time when we move, my fiancee and I are bound and determined to get cats. Of course, somehow we have to juggle this around my cat allergies. Part of this will be the use of a good HEPA filter in a few key rooms of the house. Part will be regular grooming of the cats and lots of vacuuming. And part will be getting a Cornish Rex cat. Actually, contrary to rumor, the Cornish aren’t non-allergenic in any way. The allergens are all in the cat’s saliva and dander. However, with their short, soft, curly-haired coat and their lack of guard hairs, they’re much easier to clean, and they don’t shed much. This helps to minimize the spread of the allergens. (Not to mention that some people simply find they have less of a reaction to some breeds, and by a stroke of luck I don’t react all that much to the Cornish Rex.)

Some people think the Cornish are ugly. They have extraordinarily short fur, which is usually rather wavy (and feels like crushed velvet!). They have big radar-dish ears. They’re long and willowy, and have been compared to greyhounds in the way their bodies are formed. You’ll find all of this out in the book and more. You’ll learn about the three different kinds of fur that most cats have, and the fact that the Cornish Rex only have two of them. The Devon have all three kinds of fur, so their fur is slightly longer, and they have even bigger radar-dish ears. The Selkirk’s fur is even longer. The LaPerm looks like a Persian that got a perm.

You’ll also find out about the personalities of the four main Rex breeds. This is the other reason why we want a Rex – they’re incredibly people-oriented cats, very playful and inquisitive. Apparently Cornish Rex get into everything – they can learn to open doors, drawers, and cabinets, and make off with anything that isn’t nailed down; we consider this a plus. In addition, this book describes the history of each breed. The Rex breeds are the result of very recent breeding to save certain spontaneous mutations.

Before You Get Your Cat

This book provides all sorts of information to help you choose your cats, starting with a checklist of questions to ask yourself before you decide that you’re actually ready to have cats. It’ll give you a much better idea of the kind of responsibility you’re in for. It discusses the difference between “pet-quality” Rexes, breeder-quality, and show-quality. The pros and cons of getting a male vs. female cat, adult vs. kitten. It discusses the indoors/outdoors issue (hint: the playfulness, inquisitiveness, and activity level of Rexes makes them particularly vulnerable to outdoors dangers like cars).

There’s the issue of one cat or two (we’re getting two so they can keep each other company when we aren’t there!), choosing a kitten, and what typical breeder sales contracts require of you. There’s a full two-page spread on choosing a good breeder. Even better, the book will tell you how to prepare for your cat’s arrival. What equipment do you need? How do you cat-proof your home? (Did you know that a single Tylenol can kill a cat?!)

Bringing Your Cat Home

Then the book goes into what you need to do when you bring your cat home, issues of combining kittens and kids, handling your Rex, the importance of playing with your Rex, and bonding with your Rex. It even discusses the effects of aging on the cat, so you’ll know what to expect and how to handle it. There’s a surprisingly large section on food. You’ll learn about the various types of cat food, information on premium vs. economy brands, and feeding at different stages of life. There’s information on reading cat food labels, changing your cat’s diet, foods to avoid, and even handling obesity. Yes, obesity. Despite the Rex’s trademark greyhound look, Rexes do so love their food, and can end up quite pear-shaped if you aren’t careful!

Understanding Your Cat

One section that particularly impresses me is “Understanding Rex Cats.” The theory is that if you understand what your cat is doing and why, you’ll be able to interact with it better. So there’s information on how the cat interacts with its environment, what it means when your cat sprays the furniture, what various sorts of body and vocal language mean, and so on. It also goes into what causes scratching problems, the declawing issue, litter box problems, and so on.

Rex Health

In addition there’s plenty of information on grooming your cat, specific to the type of Rex cat you have since their coats are so unique. There are tips for washing your cat, clipping claws, and preventing hair balls. You’ll even find health information, which I expect to be invaluable. Not just how to choose a vet, but what you should be getting from that vet – vaccinations, checkups, spaying and neutering. It goes over the difference between “core” (essential) vaccines, and “non-core” vaccines, and tells you which is which. It explains how to do basic physical exams yourself, and explains what represents a serious sign of illness.

There’s even a chart of feline diseases, including symptoms, transmission details, and treatment. I do wish that the book went into more detail on the feline leukemia vaccination issue. I gather that there’s a fairly large controversy right now about whether it’s a good idea to give this vaccination to cats who aren’t likely to be at risk for the disease.

A Few Little Things

There’s a list in the back of cat associations, organizations and agencies, often with web page addresses, phones, addresses, and email. There are also listed some cat magazines, and books for additional reading. The photos are color, frequent, and absolutely priceless. If we hadn’t already fallen in love with the Cornish Rex, these pictures definitely would have done it for us.

What amazes me is the sheer amount of information in this book. It’s a small book, 93 pages, reasonably large print, lots of photos taking up space, and only 6.5×8″. It looks like it should be a very bare treatment of caring for your Rex, and yet it has such wonderful detail. I believe that if you’re thinking of getting a Rex as a pet, you couldn’t do better than this book.

Writing, Ease-of-Use, and Accuracy

Advice is provided in easy sidebars and checklists. Sections are well-labeled and divided up for easy reference and reading. The writing style is clear and easy-to-understand. The tips and information are useful, and cover pretty much everything. They also match up well with the independent research I’ve done at some breeders’ web-sites.

It’s also very clear that the author loves cats. She won’t recommend anything that a cat lover would find offensive, and she provides plenty of information on not just keeping your cat healthy, but also happy.

Cornish Rex–Gifts from Cafe Press

Posted in Cats

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