Breeds

German Rex Cat Breed Overview, History, Care & More

The elusive and rare German Rex cat is a sweet, smart, and loyal feline. These dainty, yet strong cats stand out for their curly coats, large ears and inquisitive eyes. Learn all about the German Rex in our breed overview.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: September 19, 2022 | 12 min read

Blue-eyed cat breed German Rex

The German Rex is a medium-sized, reasonably long-lived domestic kitty that comes from Germany. Because this breed is considered exceptionally rare, they are not one that many people know a lot about. These adorable kitties stand out for their wavy coats, big circular eyes, and large ears.

This breed is known for being incredibly smart and loyal. They have a very interesting history and are hard to find here in the United States. Despite their rarity, they make for exceptional pets.

Being informed is part of being a responsible purr parent. Anyone looking to adopt a new kitty should get to know the breed first. Learn more about the elusive German Rex, how this breed was discovered, and what kind of care they need in our breed overview.

German Rex Cat
    • weight iconWeight5 - 10 pounds
    • height iconHeight10 - 12 Inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan10 - 15 Years
    • color iconColorsBlack, Brown, Blue, White, Cream, Chocolate, Chestnut, Red, Fawn, Seal, Champagne, Platinum
    • color iconPatternsPoints, Shaded, Tabby, Ticked, Smoke, Calico, Tortoiseshell
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Exercise
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Kitten Costs

Rex Cats

A Rex cat is a kitty that has curly hair. These cats have no guard hairs or outer coats. They have distinctly curvy coats and long tails. Wavy hair is a result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation. The level of curliness varies, and nine breeds fall into the Rex category: Cornish, Devon, German, Ural, Oregon, Selkirk, Skookum, LaPerm, and Tasman Manx. Not all are recognized by major cat associations and registries.

Breed History

 German Rex cat face close up
As the name implies, this kitty comes from Germany.

The wavy-haired felines are a breed that developed naturally. They first appeared in Germany in the mid-1940s, though there were some reports of curly and wavy-haired cats before then. One, in particular, was named Munk and was around in the 1930s but is not considered part of the breed. It is believed that the first German Rex was a female feral cat. The black, wavy-haired kitty was rescued in 1951 by Dr. Rose Scheuer-Karpin, a doctor treating patients at an East Berlin hospital shortly after World War II. She found the little cat wandering in the garden and learned she had been seen for a couple of years. Dr. Scheuer-Karpin believed the unique wavy coat was a genetic mutation. She took in the kitty, naming her Lammchen, or little lamb.

Lammchen was bred with many other cats and produced several litters. Most of her kittens were straight-haired, but in the mid-1950s, she gave birth to two curly-haired babies that would become the basis for the modern German Rex breed. Lammchen was crossbred with one of her wavy-coated offspring, creating the first deliberately bred litter of German Rex cats.

Curly kitties started to appear in shows in the 1960s and started being seen in England and France. The breed was introduced in the United States in 1960 and began to be imported into the country, though the numbers were small. Two female cats and one male were the foundation of the breed in America. The breed has not been officially recognized by cat associations other than the Fédération Internationale Féline.

Another curly cat was found in the late 1950s in Berlin, a male that became involved in the breeding of the line. Though there is no documentation, it is believed he was a descendant of Lammchen. This is believed because she, her offspring, and the other cats they were bred with were allowed to roam freely about the neighborhood, so some unplanned, natural breeding also happened.

The German Rex is sometimes simply called Rex, but that can be very confusing, as it also refers to the other Rex breeds. They have been referred to in some places as the “Einsteins of the cat world” due to their smarts. You could say they are real “smarty cats”.

German Rex Vs. Cornish & Devon Rex

There is a bit of history between the German Rex and other Rex cats, like the Cornish and Devon Rex. The Cornish Rex was found in 1950 on a farm in the UK (Cornwall) and was bred to produce more. They are very similar to the German and when bred together, produce only curly-haired kittens due to both breeds carrying the recessive Rex gene. These two breeds are similar but not genetically identical and mix together well. Cornish is far more common. German Rexes are quite hard to find, even in their native Germany. The Devon Rex looks much different, with shorter, less curly hair, much larger, elven-looking ears, and pointed faces. Both Cornish and Devon Rex are far easier to find. In many places, the German is grouped in with the Cornish as the same breed.

Size & Appearance

The German Rex is a small to medium-sized feline with a muscular, athletic body. They reach between 5 and 10 pounds fully grown. Most are about eight pounds. Males and females are roughly the same sizes. They look larger due to their long limbs and big ears. Their bodies are finely boned, sleek, slim, and muscular. These kitties stand between 10 and 12 inches tall. They are petite but full of strength.

These kitties have round heads, large open ears, prominent cheeks, slightly beaked noses, and medium-sized round eyes. Eye color is often related to coat color and includes blue, gold, green, and hazel. Their whiskers are slightly curled. They are heavier than the genetically similar and more common Cornish Rex.

Personality/Temperament

This adorable big-eared kitty is a delightful companion. They are extremely intelligent, which is part of what makes them such desirable pets. These purr babies are very interested in their people and become quickly attached. They like to be involved and have no problem walking right in or over people to ensure they get a prominent spot on the couch right next to their favorite person. Loving, affectionate, and intelligent, these kitties can be highly dependent on human attention and will get lonely if left home alone for too long.

Because they are so smart these felines need a lot of interaction and entertainment. They are extremely high need in this department, as smart cats get bored quite quickly. They love all people and get along very well with children. This is a kitty that has no qualms about being spoiled. In fact, that is the way they like it. They also like other cats and pets, as long as they still get plenty of petting and cuddles. This is not a purr baby to shy away from strangers. They are simply a new opportunity for some highly sought-after attention.

These feline Einsteins are super playful and can be taught to play plenty of games, even tricks like jumping through hoops and acrobatic skills. They also can learn to walk on a leash and will enjoy some outside time. They love to climb and jump and are very agile.

Coat & Colors

Cat of breed German or Prussian rex looking up with toy
Coats can come in just about any color and pattern.

The German Rex has a unique coat in the feline world. It is silken, short, and curly, without guard hairs. These cats have a wooly look to them. Black, brown, blue, white, cream, chocolate, chestnut, red, fawn, seal, champagne, and platinum are all on the list. Patterns include solid colored, points, shaded, tabby, ticked, smoke, calico, tortoiseshell, and multicolored. Their coats feel incredibly smooth and silky to the touch.

Grooming

Grooming these purr babies is not the same as cats with more hair and double coats. Because this kitty has such a thin, soft coat, they need only once a week brushing. A bristle brush or fine-toothed comb works well. Because these kitties have such thin hair, they tend to be oily and will need more bathing than most other breeds. They can start to feel itchy and will look greasy. Regular bathing will be required. Expect to do this at least once or twice a month, if not more.

Make sure to clean out your kitty’s ears, trim her nails, and keep her teeth clean. Dental care is often overlooked and can cause serious issues later in life. Some veterinarians and groomers will offer this service.

Shedding / Hypoallergenic

Because they have such thin coats of soft hair are often assumed to be hypoallergenic, but there are differing opinions on that. They shed less than other felines with double coats. However, all cats shed. There is no such thing as a fully hypoallergenic or allergen-free cat. Human cat allergies are not caused by cat hair. Allergies are caused by a protein, Fel d 1, found in saliva and dander. This kitty is less likely to trigger allergies but Is not allergen-free. They will shed regularly and will have more shedding around seasonal temperature changes.

Heath/Lifespan

There are no major health concerns associated with this breed, though it is at risk for developing alopecia. This condition causes hair loss. Alopecia is usually a reaction to another illness and will need medical attention. This breed can be susceptible to common ailments that cats will encounter during their lifetime, especially in their older years. The German Rex has an expected lifespan of about 10 to 15 years. Every cat regardless of the breed, should have regular checkups with the vet. These visits help monitor a cat’s health and development, as well as provide an opportunity for preventative care. Owners should always be on the lookout for signs and symptoms that their cat may not be feeling well.

Cat insurance may be something that pet owners want to investigate. There are many plans available that will help cover the cost of both emergency and preventative medical care. As cats start to experience more health concerns as they age, this may be something to look into with this breed when they reach adulthood.

Care & Exercise

Because they are smaller in size, it may seem like the German Rex may not need a lot of physical exercise. This is a misconception. These purr babies are full of energy and love playing. These cats will spend hours running about and are very good at climbing. Investing in a cat tree or steps on the wall to create a climbing space may be a good idea.

This breed becomes attached to their humans very quickly and does not like being left alone for a very long time. Separation anxiety can be a concern. They need owners that are around and heavily involved in their day-to-day activities. Because this kitty does not do so well when left home alone, they are not a good breed to have as an only pet for owners that spend long hours at the office.

These purr babies will need a home with plenty of room to play, lots of places to hide, and a nice comfy private space where they can sleep. Because this breed loves their humans so much, they will cuddle just about anywhere and are small enough that they can share human beds without taking up much room. They will also need plenty of toys and entertainment. Because of their incredible smarts, they will need a diverse mix of toys. Owners can rotate toys in and out to keep the variety going.

They will need daily exercise. This will involve highly active physical play. Owners can take them for walks on leashes, teach them how to play fetch in the backyard, or spend time inside with them chasing a laser pointer. Highly intelligent animals like this feline Einstien get bored very easily, and physical activity helps keep them stimulated and provides a healthy outlet for excess energy.

Nutrition

There are no specific nutritional needs for this cat breed. However, all felines are obligate carnivores and need diets based on high-quality animal proteins. Cats need the amino acid taurine, which they get from animal proteins. Cats should not be fed a diet that does not contain meat. A high-quality protein source should be listed as the first ingredient in any cat food owners choose. Cats can eat dry food, wet food, fresh fruit, or freeze-dried food. Some owners may choose a raw diet, which should only be done under the close supervision of their veterinarian.

Meat like beef and lamb, poultry such as chicken or turkey, and fish like salmon and whitefish are all excellent sources of these high-quality proteins felines need. A feline’s nutritional needs will differ from kittenhood to their senior years, and many recipes are formulated around these different phases of life. Owners should make sure to always read the labels and ingredients on cat food to make sure they buy something complete and balanced. Owners can review the guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and look for labels that meet these guidelines.

Meat or meat meal should always be listed as the first ingredient. Healthy carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables and good fats are also necessary parts of a feline diet. Owners also need to make sure that cats are getting enough moisture. Dehydration can happen easily as it is hard to monitor how much cats actually drink. For this reason, feeding cats a blend of dry kibble and wet or fresh foods is beneficial. Wet and fresh foods contain much more moisture than dry kibble.

Training

This breed is exceptionally smart and very easy to train. Unlike some other highly intelligent felines, they do not tend to have a stubborn streak. Because these cats love to play and interact with their humans so much, they enjoy training. They respond very well to positive reinforcement like verbal praise, cuddles, and treats. This purr baby loves being held and petted, so a physical reward is sometimes more enticing than that tasty treat. Positive reinforcement and patience are essential. However, training this breed is less challenging than expected.

Common training for cats

All cats should be trained in some common behaviors and boundaries so that they can peacefully coexist with humans and other animals at home. These include:

  1. Proper feeding routines
  2. Litter box training
  3. No biting or scratching people or other pets
  4. Do not scratch furniture
  5. Not to spray carpet or furniture
  6. Standard commands like no, sit, stay, jump, roll over, etc.
  7. Games like fetch and leash training
  8. Not to eat non-edible items like plastic, toys, or household items
  9. How to tolerate bathing, grooming, dental care, and nail clipping

As Family Pets

The German Rex makes an excellent feline companion. This is a perfect choice for a family pet in a home with someone around all the time. These can be great pets for apartments and smaller homes as long as they have room to play. They are affectionate, intelligent, loyal, and patient. These cats enjoy just being around their humans and are more than happy to curl up on the couch for as long as possible.

This breed is known for being incredibly patient. They enjoy people of all ages and life stages. They will happily play with young children or sit and reflect with grandma. Known for their loyalty, this breed will quickly become a hugely impactful family member, despite their small size. For parents who want an affectionate kitty, this kitty is a perfect choice.

Price & Breeders

Finding a German Rex kitten is quite a challenge. There are no known breeders currently operating in the United States. Someone looking for this breed will have to spend time to find them and will likely have to arrange for travel. Because of the rarity, these kitties are very expensive. It is not unusual to pay $1,000 or more if one can be found. The price tag can get relatively high depending on availability and demand. And considering that an owner will have to travel internationally or arrange for international travel for the kitten to be brought to the United States, this can be a very pricey investment.

Rescues

It is very unlikely that a purebred German Rex would be found in a shelter, especially in the United States. This is indeed a rare breed and one of the hardest felines to find in the entire world. Owners interested in adopting a shelter cat can look to their local shelter and rescue groups as well as larger ones. There are plenty of cats of all sorts of different breeds that need good homes.

If an owner is lucky enough to get their hands on one of these kitties after the initial investment, they will not need any kind of specialized care. Because of their intelligence, owners may want to look into professional training. Additionally, as this breed is very attached to their humans, they do not like to be left home alone. Some owners who need to leave home for a while may choose to look into cat daycare or a pet sitter to come and check in on their kitty. Just as there are professional dog walkers, there are walkers willing to walk cats professionally.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there German Rex mixes?

It is possible that there are mixes with the genetics of this breed. This kitty is known to be bred with the Cornish Rex to produce more curly-haired kittens. Mixes may be hard to find due to the rarity of the parent breed.

How much will a German Rex cost to adopt?

A purebred kitten will cost at least $1000 to adopt, likely more. Because of their rarity, they can have a very high price tag. They do not cost more than any other cat to maintain or keep healthy, but the initial investment is significantly higher.

Are all Rex cats the same breed?

All Rex cats are not the same breed. There are several distinctly different breeds. Some are similar genetically, like the German and Cornish, but others like the Skookum, Selkirk, and Tasman Manx are much different. All Rex breeds have wavy to curly hair.

Final Thoughts

The German Rex is an elusive and rare cat with a thin wool-like coat. They are incredibly smart, very personable, and loyal. These kitties make the perfect companion as they are always happy to do whatever their owners are. They are on the smaller side but athletic and full of energy. These cats are one of the hardest kitties worldwide to find, so they can be very pricey. Anyone lucky enough to have one of these sweet, fluffy, curly-haired purr babies is one fortunate pet parent.

Purr parents should never forget that regardless of breed, owning a kitty is a huge privilege and responsibility. These little fur balls bring so much love and joy to us. We must work hard to ensure they are healthy, fed right, and have everything they need to live long, happy lives.

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